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Evaluate the case for using referenda to decide important issues in the UK

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Evaluate the case for using referenda to decide important issues in the UK A referendum is a popular vote in which the people, rather than the elected representatives, resolve a political issue. Since the electorate is asked to vote directly on a particular issue, holding a referendum is a way of exercising direct democracy within a system of representative democracy. It is normally on one single issue with a straight yes or no answer on the implementation or continuance of a reform. There are a number of advantages to holding a referendum. They encourage political participation as people are actively asked to take an interest in one issue and vote for what they think is best. Referendums are often asked when parliament can not resolve an issue so by asking the electorate to vote they are provided, hopefully, with one clear answer. Referendums can effectively end a deadlock when discussing a political issue. They can increase the legitimacy of major reforms or measures that the government is planning to implement and are a good way of determining the public mood and can provide justification for introducing a certain reform. ...read more.


The referendum showed that 51.6% of voters wanted there to be devolution in Scotland. However the turnout was quite low so they did not get 40% of the electorate as a whole voting in favour of devolution. For this reason the referendum was indecisive. However it was more effective in Wales where there was a strong majority against devolution and the Act was repealed. A second referendum on the issue of devolution was taken in 1997. There was a strong vote in favour of devolution in Scotland and a much closer vote in favour in Wales. Devolution was adopted in both countries even though the turnout was low in Scotland and even then the majority was won by a very small margin. One disadvantage of referendums is that the UK is not a true democracy, but a representative democracy. By taking referendums too often there would be a loss of respect for the elected representatives. If the politicians that the people elect can not reach a decision and rely on holding referendums too often there will be a loss of confidence which would lead to the collapse of the UK's political system. ...read more.


With a representative democracy there is a certain hope that the government will try and protect the minorities in a country. However, referendums are effectively government by the majority. Referendums leave minorities defenceless instead of the normal political system in the UK which should take minorities into account. Referendums can be extremely useful especially if there is a deadlock in decision making and they are used by governments if there is an unpopular decision to be made. They are pretty essential if there is an important decision to be made in relation to the constitution. These decisions need to be legitimised by the people as they affect the way that the people are governed. Referendums also entrench constitutional changes and so protect them from future governments. In this way the only way to repeal these changes are by holding another referendum. In conclusion, in some circumstances referendums are essential in the UK's political system. However they must be used with caution in order to protect minorities and not undermine political sovereignty to a dangerous extent. For this reason referendums should only be used rarely and in order to make constitutional changes so that confidence is not lost in those that we elect to represent us. ...read more.

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Response to the question

Response to Question
The candidate has given a broad, but fairly shallow answer to the question. Many of the issues raised by the use referendums are discussed, demonstrating knowledge of the debate, but there is little or no development of ...

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Response to the question

Response to Question
The candidate has given a broad, but fairly shallow answer to the question. Many of the issues raised by the use referendums are discussed, demonstrating knowledge of the debate, but there is little or no development of the points the candidate makes, which is the flaw of this essay. Making fewer, more detailed points would improve the essay.

Level of analysis

Level of Analysis
The level of analysis in this essay is its Achille's heel; the 'argument for' paragraph, in particular, feels more like a list of bulletpoints in favour of the use of referendums. However, there is development in the 'against' paragraph (the discussion of extra-political influences on the electorate, for example). The paragraph of case studies, mostly using Scottish and Welsh devolution is a fairly detailed description, and does present some arguments for/against referendums, but I feel that it would be better to work these into the rest of the essay and use them to develop the points made. The conclusion shows some more development, and it is made clear why the candidate has come to his/her conclusions but overall, there is a lack of detail in the essay, or explanation of why the points made support or contest referendums.

Quality of writing

Quality of Writing
The candidate's spelling and grammar are excellent, and the quality of written communication of a high standard. I feel that some of the language used is too 'casual' for an academic purpose ('pretty essential', 'deadlock'), and this reduces the overall impression of the essay. However, this would almost certainly be overlooked at GCSE level.

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Reviewed by ecaudate 22/02/2012

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