Paul Cairney, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling email@example.com
Dr Jim Johnston, Clerk Team Leader, Scottish Parliament James.Johnston@scottish.parliament.uk
for Scottish Parliamentary Review, 1, 2, 2014
What is the Role of the Scottish Parliament?
The article examines the intended, current and future role of the Scottish Parliament. First, it examines the intended role of the Scottish Parliament, as described initially by the Scottish Constitutional Convention (which put forward a vision for the Scottish political system), the UK Government (responsible for the White Paper on devolution and the Scotland Act 1998) and the Consultative Steering Group (which designed the Scottish Parliament’s principles and procedures). It suggests that the current operation of the Scottish Parliament has been influenced more by the UK Government’s design, which stresses the traditional role of parliament to provide scrutiny and accountability, even though the SCC set the agenda for the devolution movement in Scotland. Second, it emphasises that while the campaign for devolution sought to construct Holyrood in opposition to Westminster, the Scottish Parliament is in reality part of the ‘Westminster family’ (Mitchell, 2010) of parliaments. The main functions of Westminster parliaments are to make laws, hold the government to account and to represent the interests of the people. Third, it summarises the experience so far, identifying the interplay between high expectations for a new form of political practice in Scotland and the factors, common to the ‘Westminster family’, that limit such divergence (such as the important role of parties and the limited resources available to parliaments). Fourth, it compares briefly the Scottish experience with ‘Nordic’ experiences because the so called ‘consensus democracies’ were often an important reference point for political reformers in Scotland. It examines the extent to which the Scottish Parliament can, and should, emulate the Swedish experience, arguing that the adoption of Swedish practices may be inconsistent with the Scottish Parliament’s Westminster-family design. Finally, it considers the recent parliamentary reforms in both the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament and concludes that there is a willingness within both institutions to learn from each other.