Some political leaders were pragmatic (possibly patronising in a different way?) enough to conclude that their electorates could not be expected to understand the complexities involved so went ahead without offering peoples chances to vote on the matter at all.
There are issues so fundamental to human life that they should not be decided simply by the will of the majority. Capital punishment is a good example . Revenge and retribution by killing killers may seem attractive to a majority of voters but should not such an issue be decided by informed leadership? The New Testament answer would be a resounding no to answering death by death so the Scottish decision re the Lockerbie killings, if truly made out of compassion, was a New Testament response albeit doubtless contrary to the majority opinion. Revenge however can seem sufficiently 'sweet' to many to yield a "yes" answer in a popular referendum on the issue. It is noteworthy in the Lockerbie context that Scotland's Cardinal O'Brien
was in the fore of those seeking to pressure world's leaders to take action about mankind's tragic actions in polluting the planet.
Major Green issues likewise require great and informed leadership to determine rather than simply relying on the majority view. How many car drivers for example would vote for making private car ownership almost if not actually impossible? Yet if the ability to own and drive private vehicles at will continues to go unchecked, we may all drive ourselves and the planet to destruction; likewise a few other aspects of personal lifestyles.
Calling for referenda on such issues may be truely democratic but alas such may also be the actions of truly weak leaders.
The Catholic Church here on the planet is full of weaknesses but its reliance on leadership rather than democratic/popular opinions, is one of its strengths. The Scottish Cardinal O'Brien's stance on green issues is a hallmark of a good leader. The BBC reported lst week:
Scotland's leading Roman Catholic has warned the international community that "political wrangling" over climate change is putting the poor at risk.