No overall control in Scottish Parliament means a wider range of voices can be heard

Written by Willie Sullivan on 11 May 2016 in Comment

Willie Sullivan of the Electoral Reform Society Scotland suggests minority government provides an opportunity for more citizen involvement

The ‘no overall control’ make-up of the new parliament means that the wide range of voices and opinions held by Scots are more likely to be listened to by the new government.

The Scottish Parliament can now operate again more closely in line with the way its founders imagined: a place that not only hears but acts upon the arguments coming from most of Scotland.

The danger of too much power lying with one predominant party is that it tends to use that power to gather and concentrate even more power.

Now no one party can win every vote just by whipping its MSPs, that power is reasonably distributed across this parliament, providing it with a massive opportunity to share it even more widely.


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The new government should work with all the other parties to govern in the interests of the Scottish public but it should also seek to create or allow to grow many more democratic spaces where people can run things for themselves, things like food co-ops, community housing co-ops and community energy companies as well as local decision-making forums.

They should look at a second chamber made up of ordinary citizens like a jury and the establishment of a citizen-led convention on local democracy so people can have a say in how their local town or village is run.

The election still throws up big concerns: it again showed that representative democracy does not have the confidence of enough voters.

With turnout at only 55.6 per cent, over 1.8 million Scots who were registered to vote didn’t do so.

Previous work by the Electoral Reform Society with non-voters suggests this is because they feel that voting can have no effect on their lives.

We know these people are predominantly young and poor and often the people that need political representation the most.

Those that shout loudest often get most, whereas this is a group who are politically silent. Inequality of power means inequality of everything else. 

A big part of the SNP’s success has been popular disillusionment with what people see as the political establishment, be that Westminster or the Scottish Labour Party.

Their success must be seen as a mandate for a reboot of our democracy.

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