At Electoral Reform Society Scotland we are committed to campaigning for a better democracy. As we approach the independence referendum, we think it is vital that we take the opportunity to assess, and where necessary reform, our democracy. We have called this inquiry ‘Democracy Max’.
The process has included public events, roundtable discussions and publications. The final public event in this phase will be on Thursday August 8th at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Everyone is welcome to come along!
The first event of the Democracy Max inquiry brought together eighty people from across Scotland to spend a day at a ‘People’s Gathering’. They talked to each other and shared their ideas stimulated by the proposition: “It’s 2030, and Scotland is admired as a shining example of democracy and democratic participation. What three aspects of this future society please you most?”
Following the People’s Gathering, the findings have been discussed by roundtables of academics, commentators, campaigners and community activists. Those discussions have then been presented to a public audience for feedback.
Following the People’s Gathering, the findings have been discussed by roundtables of academics, commentators, campaigners and community activists. Those discussions have then been presented to a public audience for feedback. The findings of the People’s Gathering included:
- Concern at falling participation in democracy
- Disillusionment with party politics
- A desire for transparency and to remove big money from politics
- An accountable and open media
- Increased local democracy
- A commitment to a written constitution
Some of the ideas that have been proposed to try and address these suggestions include:
- Devolving more power to the local level
- A citizen’s chamber, selected by lot, to hold the Parliament to account
- A rejuvenated, publically funded media
- Increased open-ness and transparency, including a register of lobbyists
- Re-visiting the founding principles of the Scottish Parliament
We’re now discussing what technical and structural changes we might need to make some of these things happen and guarantee a good Scottish democracy. And, how do we ensure full citizen participation and ‘buy-in’ to the process. We want to ensure there are adequate checks and balances in our democracy so we’re asking ‘How do we write the rules?’
We’re more interested in structures that respect democratic participation and address the concerns expressed throughout the inquiry than we are in the detail of what the rules would be. We are keen to ensure that any decisions made in Scotland’s future will stand on solid democratic ground.
Some of the questions asked during the ‘How do we write the rules?’ phase of the inquiry include:
- As we enter the next phase of Scotland’s devolution journey, should we take stock of progress so far and ask if the Scottish Parliament is meeting the aspirations of 1999? Should this be a citizen led process?
- Whatever the result of the referendum should we consider some kind of participative consultation across Scotland to find out how Scotland should shape its democratic future? Is politics too important to be left to politicians?
- If we instigate such a deliberative and inclusive process, would it inevitably require some kind of written constitution type document to result?
- Should both the campaigns and all the parties be asked to sign up to key democratic principles which would be respected whatever the result of the referendum?
One of the key areas we are keen to address is how important people feel a written constitution would be to a good Scottish democracy. And if it is considered an important element, then how can we begin an inclusive process that reflects all viewpoints across Scotland, and what sort of process could or should that be within the devolved settlement. After all, if we believe that a constitution is an important building block for democracy, then the existence of a constitution should not be contingent upon a yes vote in the referendum.
If you are interested in discussing these issues, or have additional ideas or suggestions for how we might guarantee rights and responsibilities in a good Scottish democracy, please join us at an interactive conversation and discussion event on Thursday August 8th at the Graham Hills Building, George Street, Glasgow.
Register here: http://democracy-max.eventbrite.co.uk/
Contact [email protected] for more information