Have you got some bit of equipment lying around the house you just don’t need any more? A Roll and Pour juice dispenser? A 1980s work-out abs-enhancer, lying dusty in the corner? Westminster is increasing looking like such a gadget, once full of good intentions and now just a waste of space.

In a three hour debate on devolved administrations and Brexit tonight Parliament heard from just two Scottish MP’s (one of them cut off), one Welsh MP and one MP from Northern Ireland. This counts as “all four corners of the UK” by Westminster standards. As Tommy Sheppard put it: “Less than four minutes per amendment, no limit on speeches, Tories talking for half an hour, votes not allowed – mother of parliaments!”

In the face of EVEL and with the Tories Mark Harper securing more time than everybody else from the devolved legislatures combined isn’t it time just to leave this farce?

We’ve touched on this before and George Gunn mentioned it in his column on Monday:

“As the days pass it becomes ever more apparent that Scotland has no representative purchase or political territory in the UK Parliament. What do the Scottish people gain from sending 59 MP’s to London, when English Votes for English Laws have made them second class members of the club? Now the determination of most English MP’s to “follow the rabbit down the hole”, as Ken Clarke put it, to activate Article 50 and which goes against the democratic wishes of the Scottish people, must surely reduce the relevance of the Scottish politicians there to zero? So, let us recall the SNP’s 56 to Edinburgh and set them to some useful task such as structuring a working constitutional apparatus for an independent Scottish nation. There is much work to be done to undo the “vices which have brought (us) to servitude” as Milton put it.”

The danger in staying is that we give credibility and credence to an institution that is not fit for purpose. By taking their seats at Westminster we are saying “this is a functioning democracy that has legitimacy”. Watching the pantomime of MPs barking at SNP members or the ancient boys club tactics of fillibustering, the contempt of scheduling (with debates happening late at night), you realise this is not a functioning contemporary seat of democracy.

Having taken their oaths and been sworn in they could still take their salaries. There’s no link between attendance and salary, as David Cameron and Gordon Brown will testify.

A mass withdrawal would have four immediate impacts:

1) It would cause unprecedented constitutional crisis.
2) It would allow MPs to work in their own constituencies.
3) It would delegitimise Westminster.
4) But most importantly it would create the opportunity for a dual power base. And there is precedent.

A constitutional advisor told us: “The Sinn Fein MPs elected in 1918 did not take their seats in Westminster, but met in Ireland and proclaimed themselves the ‘First Dail’. If the SNP really wanted to do something dramatic, the MPs should go to Edinburgh, declare themselves as a Constituent Assembly, and then submit a draft Constitution to the Scottish Parliament. No power can stop them from doing that. They wouldn’t be replacing the Scottish Parliament, they wouldn’t be usurping any power; they would simply be taking their popular mandate and transforming it into a constituent mandate.”

It would be a game-changer.

So we can waste our time being treated with contempt or we can have a constructive withdrawal and start creating a Scottish Constitution (the UK constitution is reserved, the Scottish constitution is not, because it doesn’t exist) and put it to the people.

I’m sure we can find a building, or better still tour the country in a process of mass participatory constitution building. Parliament without walls anyone?

 

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