I've been tardy (so what's new, I hear you ask), in bringing to people's attention the independence referendum consultation paper launched by the Scottish government. My thanks, as ever, to Cynical Highlander for reminding me.
In a way I'm glad I am late, because James has produced another corker of a set of answers to the questions, to which I can have the pleasure of directing you!
I think it's important that we complete this consultation, regardless of what side of the argument we are on, with the best answers we can give.
I have never made any secret of the fact that I thought that the consultation into our country's future, launched by David Cameron, was no more than 'an exercise in having a consultation', but I think that this one is likely to be a genuine attempt to find the mood of the country, particularly with regard to the "second question". Some have said that the possible inclusion of a 'devo max' option on the ballot paper is a cop out for the SNP.
But given that opinion poll after opinion poll shows that option to have massive support, it would surely be anti democratic to allow no official discussion of it (on the basis that we want to discover what the people of Scotland actually want, as opposed to what the leaders in Scotland or London prefer for them, or for their careers).
In the Tory referendum of last year about constitutional change in the UK (voting systems), it seemed to me that the choice that most people wanted was left off the ballot paper, possibly exactly because it was the choice that most people would have voted for. (Unscientific assertion there, based on my personal questioning of anyone and everyone I could ask, across a wide range of contacts.)
I think Cameron banked on the fact that, although many (most?) people didn't think much of the FPTP system, the only alternative offered was very much more complicated, not much better, likely to produce the same biased results, and had, only months before, been disparaged and ridiculed by its main supporter in the campaign, namely the UK's deputy prime minister.
It was a "devil you know" situation, as both options would allow some MPs to go on with their "jobs for life" on a minority of votes.
For us Scots this decision is vastly more important than how we elect our representatives. It's our whole entity, our way of life, our future in the world, which could be changed... in my opinion for the better; in the opinion of others for the worse.
I genuinely believe that the government will listen to what we have to say: how we feel about the actual question; whether there should be a second option; the design of the ballot; its clarity, possible bias (or lack thereof); what we feel about the extension of the electorate to include all adults in Scotland (rather than accept the English legal definition of adult), and the timetable allocated to the referendum by the government.
This consultation in and of itself is not the most important decision we will ever make, but it is part of a process that (apart from our very personal decisions) may well be.