Stormont Parliament building outside Belfast, ...

Image via Wikipedia

In a recent interview with the Daily Mail, the former Scottish Secretary for the Conservatives, Lord Forsyth, tried to raise fears about the Alternative Vote (AV) referendum being a threat, not only to First-Past-The-Post (FTPT) voting, but also to the union of the United Kingdom itself.

“It is entirely possible that we will have a no vote in England on a low turnout and a yes vote in Scotland on a high turnout.

“If that delivers an overall yes, that would be a disaster for the Union. People in England will say their voting system has been changed by votes north of the border, and that the entire referendum has been rigged so that it is held on a date when turnout would be higher in Scotland.”

This is supposedly due to the fact that the referendum will be held on the same day as local elections in non-English nations of the UK.

This is a pretty poor argument though. If English supporters of FPTP are so keen on the system, then they will get out and vote. If they do not, and the Celtic vote for yes carries the day, then on their heads be it. Apathy is not a reason not to progress in society.

It just riles be to constantly hear Unionists complaining about the Celtic nations. Either you want a Union, and everything that that entails – including perhaps having to accept that Britain may have elections decided by virtue of non-English votes – or you want independence for the states, and Celtic politicians need never again affect the system outside their own borders.

Perhaps, dare I say it, the Celtic nations’ votes should decide the switch to AV. Similar, non-FPTP, systems are already used in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is not the fear of the unknown that could hold people back in England. Voters in these countries seem perfectly able to cope with non-FPTP elections, so perhaps they should lead the way for our English friends, and give them the chance to see that AV is not all that confusing…

At this moment – I highly recommend an excellent article by Johann Hari, claiming that if you can understand the X-Factor…you can understand AV.

I am deeply in favour of a more proportional system… and indeed, one more proportional than AV. While I would prefer a more open referendum, asking if the people of Britain want a switch of system to a more proportional one, as opposed to solely to AV, I am starting to believe more and more that this is an opportunity we cannot pass up…