I was very saddened, the day after referendum voting, to come across about fifty “Yes” leaflets someone chucked all over the pavement, littering our bonny nation. Ironically, the SNP propaganda claimed only a vote for full-blown separation could ensure our future remained in our own hands, “forever”. To complete the effect, as you can see below, a young baby adorned the missive.
Of course, Scotland voted “nay” – or “wait and see”, as one “Yes” supporter aptly described the outcome to me. However, does this mean that we are now disenfranchised citizens and neutered activists for the common good? Absolutely not!
The battle goes on on so many different fronts and the people of Scotland are being called to get stuck in. Whether cleaning-up litter or mentoring less fortunate souls in their neighbourhoods, planting new community gardens or developing new business enterprises, we are (as always) desperately in need of citizens to step-up and take the lead. Where are the individuals who care less about safeguarding their rights and more about shouldering their responsibilities, pursue not only their own interests, but what benefits their fellow human beings?
How can a campaign which claims to be about making Scotland better degenerate into flinging ugly accusations on social media, or creating more mess on our already rubbish strewn streets?
Certainly, we must hold to account those politicians who promised so much and must now focus on delivering a more representative, fairer democracy for the United Kingdom (see this excellent petition for another to keep up the pressure). Nevertheless, I believe a much more comprehensive settlement is needed to sort out these issues for the foreseeable future and right the historic injustices that have evolved over the years of cobbling together different parts of these sceptred isles.
This constitutional change desperately needed to improve perceptions of how democracy works in our country and demonstrate that representatives serve the people who elect them, not narrow party or self-interest. I am astounded that the likes of Ed Balls – questioned closely on Radio 4’s “Today” – could not agree that the simple principle, English matters should only be decided by English MP, is fundamentally fair. There should be no hesitation for any political party to follow the SNP’s example and adopt – as constitutional convention – a policy of not voting where a decision does not affect their constituents, such as a MP for Blackburn in West Lothian influencing what happens in Blackburn, Northern England.
Clearly, this does not preclude further constitutional reform, but merely begins the process with what is possibly a temporary – but nevertheless essential – expedient. Establishing this principle would improve cross-border relations and reduce resentment towards Scottish MPs who could easily hold the balance of power in key votes that do not even concern them.
One of the best solutions to this challenge would, I believe, involve much closer collaboration between regional and national parliaments, merging Scottish MPs and MSPs. Scottish (as well as Welsh and Northern Irish) representatives could be sent to Westminster when there are matters under discussion pertaining to the whole of the UK (though cost-savings would be achievable if more use is made of appropriate ICT). Obviously, they would always be kept informed of developments through video conferencing and data sharing. This would mean that there is only one Member of Parliament for each constituency, which would deliver the following benefits:
Reducing voters’ current confusion as to what falls under which jurisdiction.
Enhancing the talent as only the best representatives are called upon to represent the people
Increasing the quality of debate at Holyrood as the best parliamentarians are no longer forced to choose between Scottish or UK government
Lowering costs as fewer salaries would be required, but maintaining an equal workload across all remaining Members of Parliament as they must all keep abreast of the same number of issues
Only English MPs would be gathered when there are debates and votes at Westminster on English issues, satisfying the demands of UKIP et al.
Personally, I would prefer the regional “party list” MSPs to be scrapped as they add little to democracy, but I could envisage a situation where they are integrated into the process, to add extra depth to the Scottish parliament.
This path to real change would be difficult for our politicians, who must make considerable sacrifices and see some of their own jobs disappearing, but this is exactly the process seen in our health, education and police services. For example, the BBC (since 2009) has reduced the senior manager bill by 35% (from £78.5m to £51.1m). Surely, they represent what is possible and what our representatives must aspire towards?