Friday, July 30, 2010

My back-of-the-envelope blueprint for an independent Scotland

On the previous thread, Ezio asked for my views on how the political system should be reformed in an independent Scotland. Thinking about it, I realised that I hadn't considered the subject in enough depth to fill a post of any great length, but in broad terms this is what I would favour -

STV for parliamentary elections. The Jenkins committee rejected the abolutism that regarded STV as the "Holy Grail" of electoral systems, noting that there was no such thing as a perfect system. That's quite true - STV is less proportional than a pure list system, for instance. It is, however, plenty proportional enough to be getting on with, and given that it maximises the power of the voter - and minimises the power of the party machines - it surely comes closer to ticking all the relevant boxes than any other electoral system yet devised.

Abolition of the monarchy. Not a huge priority for me, but in an ideal world I'd prefer a republic - mainly for straightforward democratic reasons, but also because it would seem far more becoming of a grown-up country to have a home-grown head of state. However, I can also see the power of the argument that retaining the monarchy would be symbolic of a continuing British "Social Union", and that such a prospect might help reassure sceptics that independence wouldn't be the end of the world.

A directly elected ceremonial president (ie. the Irish model). If the monarchy is abolished, I can't see a credible case for denying the public a direct say in choosing their head of state. The only reasonable concern is that a president with a personal mandate might challenge the legitimacy of the government, but as far as I'm aware that hasn't been the experience in Ireland.

I wouldn't, however, support the idea of a directly elected Prime Minister. It would be a kind of presidential 'cuckoo in the nest' of the parliamentary system, and create an obvious potential for instability if (as could very easily happen) the Prime Minister found it impossible to form a parliamentary majority. It would also exacerbate the already depressing tendency of politics being too personality and image-driven.

A presumption of parliamentary authority unless there are sound practical reasons. What I mean by that is as few equivalents to the Westminster "royal prerogative" as humanly possible.

Of course we would almost certainly have a written constitution, which should probably be ratified (or rejected) by referendum. Which leads me on to a point about which I'm genuinely unsure - whether referenda should be as frequent (and have so many automatic triggers) as in countries like Ireland or Switzerland.

So those are my very vague thoughts - I'm sure I've left out a great many important issues. What do others think?


A couple of little things while I'm thinking of them. Firstly, a few days ago I wrote a number of 'quiz' posts, which I've pre-scheduled to appear over the remainder of the summer, starting tomorrow. So apologies in advance if they're not everyone's cup of tea! Secondly, if you haven't voted in this year's Total Politics Blog Poll yet (hint, hint, cough, splutter, violent sneeze) you've still got just over a day to do it - details of how to vote can be found here.

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