What is the Scotland Bill?

Author:
Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 12th June 2015

The Scotland Bill was no surprise when it was announced in the Queens Speech. In the lead up to the Scottish independence referendum vote last September and following a particular cliff-edge poll, unionist parties became very worried that the pro-independence Yes campaign might just do it. Two days before the referendum, the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties joined forces on the front of the Daily Record where they made a vow that more powers would be given to Scotland if they voted to stay in the UK.  A cross-party commission under Lord Smith was quickly set up to look at further powers.

Many saw the irony that the unprecedented democratic debate that had grown out of the independence referendum, a debate way beyond parties and politicians, ended up in a number of small committee rooms in meetings composed only of politicians. Regardless, the Smith Commission reached agreement a few weeks later and the draft clauses were published in January. This week saw the second reading of the Bill born of that process.

On electoral matters relating to the Scottish Parliament, the Bill would see a significant transfer of powers. As far as electing and running the parliament itself within its own competencies – i.e. policy areas it is allowed to legislate on – it can be said to be fully devolved.

On other parts of the Bill, notably tax and welfare, there is serious disagreement between the Scottish Government and Westminster. The main argument seems to be the difference between David Cameron’s ‘intergovernmental agreement’ and Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘veto’. So Scottish ministers claim that the Smith Report has been watered down, while simultaneously making the case that, in voting for an SNP landslide at the General Elections, Scots were creating a mandate for the delivery of the SNP manifesto – a manifesto which obviously promised considerably more powers than are contained in the current Bill.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of these disagreements, if the new powers over elections are obtained it gives the chance for Scotland to continue leading the way on democrcatic reform. Scotland has already moved leaps and bounds beyond the rest of the UK by moving to electing its local councillors by the Single Transferable Vote, and now is moving further in a growing push for participative governance, part of an idea that has started to be termed ‘the Scottish Approach’.

The new powers could  mean improvements to the Scottish parliamentary electoral system, an opportunity to have fairer sized constituencies based on population numbers not registered voters, and to try out innovations such as weekend voting or same day electoral registration. All making the most of the opportunity to get as many Scots as possible involved in democracy, and perhaps showing the rest of the UK what is possible.

Read more posts...

We must end the link between safe seats and second jobs

The most revealing type of political scandal is not the one where rules have been broken, but the ones where they haven’t. Where crisis has erupted over conduct that sits very comfortable within current parliamentary...

Posted 26 Nov 2021

Almost all MPs with a majority of their income from 2nd jobs have majorities bigger than 17,000

COP26 shows we need to democratise to decarbonise

In the run up to the COP26 climate change conference, a coalition of leading democracy organisations joined together on a campaign to put strong democracy at the heart of any response. Its message was clear;...

Posted 26 Nov 2021

Democratise to Decarbonise Protest