Voice of the people: Public participation and independence

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Public participation in the 2014 referendum was ground-breaking, not just because of the 85% turnout, but also because of the high quality of public deliberation in the two years before the ballot. Myriad conversations sprung up, up and down the country, from communities to institutions, from pubs to churches, from neighbourhoods to digital spaces, and from workplaces to kitchen tables. There was much to think about and therefore plenty to talk through.
‘Talk’ often gets a bad rap, as popular expressions go: ‘talk is cheap’, ‘talking shop’, ‘less talk more action’. But without certain forms of talk, including dialogue and deliberation, democracy cannot thrive. Talk without action may be pointless, but action without talk can be senseless.
When thinking about the possibility of a second referendum, a key lesson from the first one is that public participation must be central. There must be civic spaces where people can meet across differences, seek to understand diverse perspectives, and engage in productive conversations. These spaces are different from the partisan forums created by the Yes and No campaigns.
This chapter reflects on the characteristics of such civic spaces and the need to multiply them so that any future referendum conversations are not just shaped by partisan rhetoric and political marketing. Placing Scotland in international context, the chapter also argues that democratic innovation is crucial to counter the global democratic recession.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScotland’s new choice
Subtitle of host publicationIndependence after Brexit
EditorsEve Hepburn, Michael Keating, Nicola McEwen
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherCentre on Constitutional Change (CCC)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781838443313
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • independence
  • Scotland
  • participation
  • dialogue
  • deliberation
  • referendum


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