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Letters / The burden of voting

I was reading Shetland News again earlier on Wednesday, as I often do, and came across a response to Stuart Hill’s letter (SN, 19/03/14) Yes Shetland (SN; 11/03/14). It contained the following text:

“This is not intended as criticism against Stuart, as I say I do not pretend to have the political knowledge with regards to Shetland’s past. It is simply to point out the illogical path that his argument has taken.”

I feel I should point out that, reading between the lines of what Stuart did NOT say, the particular ballot paper should include is a third-option tickbox.

It would be aligned with text to the effect of ‘None of the candidates listed here are fit to represent me’, or (in more general terms) ‘This is a non-issue that’s not worthy of consideration, or of dignifying with a vote’.

A tickbox such as that would allow the would-be voter to avoid defacing his (or her) ballot paper in order for it to be counted as a vote and a non-vote both at the same time.

I was pondering on this matter later in the morning while working on a new piece of woodwork – that voting is an adult matter which depends on obtaining all available information, weighing it up calmly and thoroughly, and then voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending what your particular analysis of the facts dictates.

If you can’t do that, you should not be allowed to vote, because you are a liability who’d be inclined to ‘shoot from the hip’ with a 50 per cent chance of getting it completely wrong in a one-issue contest.

Allowing 16-year-olds isn’t necessarily a bad idea – as long as they’ve taken the time and trouble to look into all of the history and inform themselves properly before uttering pronouncements.

Otherwise, I see it as being akin to vote-rigging, or buying the vote – which they (as junior adults) will almost live long enough to regret bitterly, having been conned or sucked into by sly adults working with a hidden agenda.

And there’s the true burden of being able to vote, right there: that you have to make (and be able to make) an adult decision based on what you think from what you’ve read; vote accordingly on it; and then stand by your decision regardless of the consequences.

This might seem to be a bit extreme and unforgiving – but that’s only what people who are employed (or self-employed) out here in the real-world private sector do on a minute-by-minute basis.

If in doubt, consider the situation of an oil-rig worker, a trawlernman, a share-fisherman, a ferry skipper, or anyone who operates heavy machinery for a living: one single wrong decision at any given crucial moment, and they’re out of it – often permanently.

I’d also have to say that Stuart Hill has provided enough information on Shetland’s position over the years to inform anyone who cares to actively look for it and that there’s something here that’s just not right.

If you haven’t found it yet, that’s not Stuart’s fault, is it? ‘Ignorance of the law is no defence’ – and neither is any other kind – especially in these days of an abundance of information poured on us in a deluge from every source you care to name.

“I personally am currently undecided on which way to vote!”

This is probably because no-one who was involved in your care and nurture as you grew up – parents and teachers alike – have seen fit to advise you (when you turned sixteen, and technically at least, became an adult) on how to go about deciding who or what to vote for, or even how.

In the case of technical issues, that could be quite tricky; because such matters often call for a deep understanding of abstruse matters, which can take many years to absorb and master fully – but in the case of political issues, it comes down to whether you respect, like, trust, or even would hire or be hired by whoever’s asking for your vote.

If the answer to any one of those ‘face-fit gauge’ questions is ‘no’ – then either don’t vote, or use the ‘none of these candidates are fit to represent my interests’ checkbox on your ballot paper.

And if there isn’t one … you should ask for advice from your teachers and parents what to do about it; or refrain altogether from getting involved in something that you don’t yet understand (because you haven’t been around for long enough).

Philip Andrews