A)What is Direct Democracy? Direct democracy is a form of government that is by the people and for the people. It’s a form of government where decisions are made by the people instead of having representatives make them. This type of democracy is already in effect in some states in America and in Switzerland. Direct Democracy gives the power to the people and enables then to have an extent of control over their own lives. Some forms of Direct Democracy is referendums, an initiative, and a recall election. B)Why have referendums been held in the UK since 1975?
Major referendums in the UK have been rare, before Tony Blair’s government with labour in 1997, there had only been four major referendums all of which had been on constitutional issues. The first major referendum held that was UK wide was on the continued membership of the European Community, which was voted “yes”, and stayed the only UK wide referendum until the United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum in 2011. A major referendum was the Devolution of Scotland 1979, which was to decide whether there was sufficient support for a Scottish Assembly proposed in the Scotland Act 1978 within the electorate.
Scotland voted in favour of the devolution but it did not proceed as the threshold requirement that not less than 40 per cent of the total electorate had to vote “yes” for devolution was not met. But in 1997 there was a second referendum which resulted in the Scottish Parliament and government. Another referendum is the Good Friday Agreement 1998 which was a peace agreement between Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and Ireland which brought an end to the civil unrest, discrimination and violence that had been occurring.
Over 70% voted in favour of the agreement. C)Assess the arguments against the further use of referendums to settle important issues in the UK. There are many arguments for and against the use of the referendums. Arguments include that citizens lack the education and expertise to make an adequate decision and do not have the ability to make decisions in the areas that are complex (they would need knowledge of various areas e. g. economics, sociology etc. ) which would mean the turnout will be low and for an important issue it is vital that the turnout is high.
On the other hand referendums provide a useful and can have the capability to be a significant step forward for increased political participation for the people. Some argue that referendums will help increase voter and will give the people real power and influence on important issues. Although forecasting how long there needs to be before a vote starts and ends would prove difficult, because the people need time to gather information on the subject on which the referendum is about in order for the votes to be valid so the results are not distorted, which would require a lot of time for greater matters.
The time needed would differ from person to person, so this would cause a major problem. Technology is now in place for widespread use of referendums, national or local, so it would be easier for the people to be more involved in the important issues in the UK. Technology has made it possible for individuals to vote on the same decisions that our elected representatives currently vote on, so voting on bigger issue wouldn’t be a problem. However using referendums on a larger scale for more important issues in the UK has been more difficult due to its impracticality and inefficiency.
It would be hard to get to get valid and accurate across the whole of the UK and because of the sensitivity of the larger issues, it wouldn’t be practical to rely on referendums. On the contrary referendums may serve to revitalise local democracy, several councils are experimenting with the use of local referendums on issues such as education policy, this in turn could be the necessary steps for the government to make in order to have successful referendums in the UK on important issues.
There can be many problems with the validity of referendums, the media and the government can have an influence on the outcome of the votes also the phrasing of the question could be biased and make the people lean one way rather than the other likewise the question could be oversimplified so the people aren’t entirely aware of what they are voting for. Further any imbalance between the yes/no campaigns could impact the outcome.
Additionally the public would be more concerned with their own personal interest rather than the interest of their community, so the referendums would often favour the majority over the minority, which on a larger, more important issue could cause chaos and would have little fairness and the majority would rule, an argument against referendums as the disregard the minority.
To conclude, I think that referendums should be used in certain situations but the advantages and disadvantages should be weighed to see if the validity will outweigh the distortion. On issues that are important but not sensitive I think a referendum should be used to settle the issue.