Scottish Independence and a New Zealand republic

The outcome of this week's referendum on Scottish independence is hard to predict but campaigners here in New Zealand will be watching the result closely. Irrespective of what Scottish voters decide there will be lessons to learn from how the Yes and No campaigns were run and what factors swayed voters to choose one option over the other.

At the same time the general election here in New Zealand will give republic campaigners a clearer picture of what the next three years will bring and how the incoming government's policies will affect the campaign for a New Zealand head of state.

Clearly, the Scottish referendum is far more complex then the debate over New Zealand's head of state. In Britain, Scotland and England are enmeshed economically, politically and socially. Independence is a huge issue with far reaching implications.  It will alter both countries forever. 

New Zealand is almost completely independent and the transition to a Kiwi head of state is a relatively straight-forward final step in the 175 year long journey from colony to sovereign nation. The British Monarch is head of state in name only. It is a symbolic throw-back to New Zealand's past. All of the actual work of the head of state is done by the Kiwi Governor-General.

Conjecture as to what the outcome in Scotland might mean for the head of state or flag debates in New Zealand is unnecessary this close to the actual result being announced. Friday night will provide the answer to a decision polling experts are saying is too close to call.

Two things are known. If voters vote Yes, Scotland will not become a republic in 2016. It will instead take its place alongside the other Commonwealth realms and keep the Monarch as Head of State. If voters reject the proposed change then further powers will be devolved to the Scottish parliament. In either case Scotland will have moved closer to being a fully independent nation-state.

The latest polls here in New Zealand are still showing a likely win for the centre-right but this last week of campaigning may see a swing to the left. Again, conjecture as to the final result is unnecessary. Far better to just wait and see what happens.

We know that both Labour and National have policies on a flag referendum. We know the Greens are supportive in principle even if they disagree on whether it is a priority. We know Labour and the Greens support a referendum on an independent and democratically selected head of state. We also know that both NZ First and the Conservative parties are opposed to both a flag and a head of state referendum.

We will know the result in Scotland by Friday night (NZ time) and we should know the result of the New Zealand election by late on Saturday night. The result of coalition negotiations won't be known until later.

Once both results are known the republic campaign will have a better sense of what is happening in Britain and in New Zealand. Armed with that knowledge we will improve our campaign structure and increase our effectiveness. New Zealanders deserve a better head of state and we are focused on making sure it happens regardless of which parties are in government.