Over the coming weeks the UK government will be debating more and more on the issues of the two referendums that will almost definitely take place within the next five years. The results of both largely affect the UK’s economic future, which in its current state could be risky. Given that, is it a good idea to be having a debate on both at the same time? An independent Scotland would have to re-apply for membership of the EU anyway, so surely it makes sense to get that over with first.
On the other hand, it is the mid-point of the coalition and although we don’t want to see a breakup of the government, voters need to know what they will be voting for in 2015. In Mr Cameron’s case our membership of the European Union will be something that will be a major issue. The current government have already indicated that they may opt out of some European laws, perhaps this is a sign of things to come.
Balancing up the economic arguments for and against being in the EU is becoming more complicated. The UK benefits from grants and funds from the EU but is increasingly being hit by the effects of the Eurozone crisis spilling over into the UK. In comparison, Scotland leaving the UK may be bad for its economy too. An independent Scotland may discourage investors if they don’t think the country to can go it alone. It is, however the right choice to give Scottish people a say in their future, giving more powers to Hollyrood may give future generations of Scots more say in what happens to them. That includes jobs, education and since the voting age for the referendum will be sixteen, maybe who has a say and who doesn’t.
Perhaps the Votes at 16 campaign will start to succeed in its aim to get the vote for all sixteen year olds in the UK, if this referendum decides that Scotland will be an independent nation. There will be lots of pressure on Hollyrood to keep the voting age at 16 but it won’t be a simple process. Just as something has to go through Parliament in London, the same will have to happen in Scotland. Luckily, I doubt there is much opposition to giving young people a say in issues that could affect them.
Getting back to the subject of a referendum on membership of the EU, many people 19 or under will never have known anything else apart from being in the EU. For these people, it needs to be clear what it would be mean for them and the UK. Whether it be economic factors or anything else, it’s still important to make a decision. Whatever form both these referendums take, it needs to be clear and left to the people. This isn’t an issue to play party politics over, even if Cameron and Miliband may think it’s something to mess about with. The Foreign Secretary has hinted that there are people in the UK who have strong opinions on the issue; therefore it would make sense to leave it to them. Unfortunately, for the government it will mean a long process if either or both decisions are to leave. That’s why I think they need to take it one step at a time and slow down.
By Robert Mooney