Calls have been made for a ‘super-majority’ to be imposed on the next Scottish independence referendum, which has been proposed this past week by Scottish First Minster, Nicola Sturgeon.
As the Scottish Government prepares for a second independence vote, Nigel Smith, former Chair of the 1997 ‘Yes/Yes’ campaign for the institution of a Scottish Parliament has called for additional requirements to be imposed on future referendums.
In a letter published in Herald Scotland on Sunday, 16 October, Smith stated that the threshold for securing Scottish independence in a second referendum should be raised from 50 per cent plus one to at least 55 per cent.
“The practical way to do that is to abandon a simple majority vote in favour of a super-majority in any future referendum; for example, 55 per cent of those voting instead of 50 per cent,” Smith told Herald Scotland.
“If Ms Sturgeon demands a premature referendum, Mrs May should counter with the condition that there is a super-majority.”
Smith, who is a referendum specialist, cited a lack of consensus amongst Scots as the primary reason for imposing a super-majority.
According to Smith, senior members of the Scottish National Party have stated that support for independence in the polls should be at least 60 per cent for a year before a second referendum can take place.
Smith however, argues that 60 per cent support would only indicate a start towards achieving consensus.
He also expressed his belief that Westminster should impose a higher threshold for victory in future referendums in order to ensure a sufficient level of national consensus and to protect the interests of the rest of the UK.
In his letter, Smith suggested that “Brexit has created a new excuse for another referendum; it has not yet created a consensus for independence.”
While polls following the Brexit referendum in June indicated a surge in support for Scottish independence more recent studies suggest that there has been no lasting change in opinion.
A YouGov poll, conducted in August 2016, demonstrated that only 46 per cent of Scots would vote in favour of independence if the referendum was held immediately. Research carried out by Ipsos Mori on behalf of STV News in September 2016 showed similar results.
While the 2014 Scottish independence referendum required a simple majority, super-majority requirements have been imposed on Scotland in the past.
In the 1979 vote on whether or not Scotland should have a Scottish Assembly, the Yes campaign failed, despite winning the majority of votes, due to super-majority regulations.
Victory required that 40 per cent of the electorate as a whole voted in favour of devolution.
Under Smith’s proposal, a lower barrier would be imposed on in the next independence referendum. Only 55 per cent of those voting would be required to vote in favour.
A draft bill on a second independence referendum was published by the Scottish government on Thursday, 21 October. Amongst other proposals, the eight-page document details the rules for governing the campaign and how votes will be counted, with no mention of a super-majority restriction as of yet.
Image: Leon Brocard