Daily Archives: June 19, 2013

The IndyRef and the Scottish Parliament

I have done a 3-minute podcast on this topic and it can be found here –

or go here: http://paulcairney.podbean.com/2013/06/19/the-indyref-and-the-scottish-parliament/

I hope to make it a bit more exciting soon, but this will have to do just now.

See also: http://paulcairney.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/testing-testing-podcast-on-independence.html

If you want to spoil the magic and just read the ‘script’, here it is:

A debate on constitutional change provides the main (or only) opportunity to discuss its constitution. A constitution can be a written document with bells and whistles or just an acknowledged set of relationships between governing organisations and “the people”.
Yet, we have not seen the same debate around independence as we did around devolution.
Remember all the hopes associated with the push for devolution:
  • In general, a new form of politics to get away from all that was wrong with Westminster
  • A new and more proportional electoral system
  • A new relationship between the government, the parliament and the people
  • A move away from top-down government policymaking
  • A rejection of adversarial and excessively partisan politics
  • An effective unicameral system
  • A chance for a wide range of (previously excluded) groups and individuals to have a routine say in policy
  • A chance for MSPs to spend quality time in their constituencies rather than sitting around being whipped in Parliament
  • A chance to redress ridiculous imbalances in representation, particularly for women
A lot of these aims proved to be unrealistic, but at least we talked about ideals rather than just getting bogged down in petty disputes.
In fact, now is the only time in which we can properly reassess devolution and ask ourselves if we want to simply keep and build on existing arrangements or seek to change them. Obvious examples include:
  • Should we keep the mixed member electoral system rather than STV?
  • Are we content with only one-third of MSPs being women?
The less visible question is:
  • What do we do about the Scottish Parliament?
  • The problem is that there is not a ‘power sharing’ relationship between government and parliament
  • The government makes policy and the parliament examines it
  • It does not have the resources to examine it well
  • There are too few MSPs and too few staff
  • So, the Parliament examines *some* policy, to some extent, and has to ignore most of it
  • This happened under all forms of government so far: coalition majority, single party minority, single party majority
  • So, if we simply add more powers or full powers onto the current system, its ability to scrutinise government will be much more limited
  • Now is the only time to discuss what we want to do about that
  • Whatever you think about independence debate, it may be the only event that allows us to re-examine the role of the Scottish Parliament and do something about it

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