ERS Scotland’s State of Scottish Democracy lecture draws crowd in Glasgow

Jonathon Shafi, ERS Scotland Campaigns Organiser

Posted on the 28th November 2022

Thank you to everyone who made it along to Govan’s Pearce Institute to hear Professor James Mitchell present the first-ever ERS Scotland State of Scottish Democracy lecture. The event was a real success.

We are pleased to publish a video of the lecture today, and hope you enjoy viewing it as much as we did on the night itself.

The ERS Scotland State of Scottish Democracy Lecture

The event set out to explore a number of questions. How well is Scottish democracy functioning at a local and national level? How can decision-making and debate be enhanced? How can we build the role of citizens in shaping Scottish politics? What’s the impact of the constitutional question and what is the future of Scottish democratic life? These, and more, were touched upon in what was a wide-ranging lecture scoping out where Scottish democracy has excelled, and where it might be improved. We also heard some thought-provoking questions and contributions from the audience.

This was a nuanced lecture, outlining a perspective based on opening up Scottish democracy further, with calls for a democratic audit of executive power as well as further devolution of decision-making to a local level. Professor Mitchell interweaves historic and contemporary developments in Scottish democratic life, alongside a theoretical framework that encourages us to think deeply about the nature and meaning of democracy.

As James said as part of his speech:

“The message is: we could do so much better. We’ve done a lot, we’ve moved forward, but we’ve got much further to go… democracy is a never-ending question. We should never sit back and think we’ve done it all, we’ve achieved it. It’s a process, we’ve got to be vigilante and we have got to use opportunities to push further the case for more democratic reforms.”

Professor Mitchell also wrote a column published in the Scotsman the following day, based on the content of the lecture:

“In looking at Scottish democracy, we need to focus not only on altering the executive/legislature balance, empowering local democracy, the health of our media, and the state of internal party democracy. This infrastructure is vital but, at its heart, democracy is a key element of civic equality. One person, one vote is its most obvious manifestation but is rendered meaningless when wealth is unevenly distributed, giving some interests inequable access to power. A more democratic society needs to be a more equal society. Fraser of Allander’s recent report on health inequalities can be read as a report on the state of democratic politics. That too should cause us concern.”

This is part of an ongoing discussion about the importance of democracy, and of the evolution of democratic institutions that can meet the challenges of the 21st century. In the Scottish context, there is much to be done to ensure we develop a thriving democracy now and into the future. We hope these lectures will make a contribution towards that discussion and debate.

Thank you, once again, for showing such an interest in this event. We plan to make this an annual fixture and look forward to bringing you more thoughtful voices to assess the state of Scottish democracy.

Join ERS Scotland

ERS members were eligible for half-price entry to the lecture – it was great to see so many there As momentum builds for electoral reform, your support is more important than ever. Members support our work in parliament, in the press and at events like this one – making the case, and backing it up – for how we can fix Westminster’s broken system.

Join the ERS today

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