There have been too many scare stories, opinions, preferences and noises from all aspects of society to make anyone believe we don’t actually require a second house, although Holyrood’s political leaders are on record that one is not necessary.
Individuals, nationalist, unionist and those with no political opinion have all voiced concerns about the dominance of a single party. It seems to be fine at Westminster, or in France where Hollande’s socialists just swept all chambers, but not in Scotland. Odd that.
Perhaps the reality is that Scots are more finely tuned towards democracy, it’s an ages old tradition here. It wasn’t always effective but we used to have clan councils, clan heads, chiefs and others would get together and agree, our seven Ri, or sub kings, would elect our Ard-Ri, or high king. Our old parliament was constructed of three “estates”, all of whom had to be won to a cause. Arguably Scots had one of the best of old world democracies.
It is fair to make the argument that more than any other nation on earth democratic principle and individual sovereignty is in our heritage, our psyche, our blood.
What we don’t need in Scotland is two elected houses that operate in contradictory fashion, as the US often has with Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the house, this usually just ends in “horse trading” and more un-required money being spent on additional “bridges to nowhere”.
What we need in Scotland is a uniquely Scottish solution to our perceived issue. What we need is a second house which is funded by the taxpayer without requiring significant additional burdens to be borne by the taxpayer, better yet by reducing burdens we already have.
Proportionately we have somewhere around 150 “representatives” at Westminster, between commons and Lords. That’s approaching an all in bill, when they’re working for us 9-5 daily, of about £50 million a year for folk we “send south”. Simply transferring half that burden to a new second house of around 51 will create substantial savings of about 2/3 just by numbers alone, more when removing any need for a “London loading”.
How would a second house work, what would it do, and how would it interact at Holyrood are all excellent questions. Questions that are best answered individually over time, but suggestions might be that it would only review Holyrood’s proposed legislation for benefits to the Scottish people and affordability – is it properly costed or must other areas be reduced to accommodate the legislative proposals.
The second house might best work if it was remote from Holyrood, yet balanced with it geographically. Perhaps locating it in the old Highland capitol, Inverness might be an option. Placing it in a smaller building than Holyrood, perhaps a restoration or conversion of an existing historic site would be appropriate. If we choose this path and choose it well the budget could be small.
Meetings could be held in Inverness once each month; the principle office of each representative would be in their constituency.
These individuals could vote on the legislation by a simple majority, and it could be done either in Inverness or from their offices, all votes of each individual being subject to immediate publication. These individuals we elect could even be permitted to vote electronically – with today’s technology it would be simple. With the results public on such a small sample the opportunity for fraud would be almost nonexistent and if suspected could be quickly remedied.
It would also be important for the second house to be as devoid as possible of party politics. Only independents should sit there. The criteria for public campaign funding should be simple, comprehensive and elegant. Each candidate should have a set grant and be permitted no other funding. Private funding from any source to second house members, except perhaps from their pre-existing own business, should be illegal.
If our national leaders at Holyrood had the spirit to pass such legislation and enact such a second chamber it would stop much corruption in its tracks. It would advance cleanliness in Scottish politics by a considerable degree.
It would help arrest any potential of corruption, this second house, but it would also put the UK system to shame. It would be no toothless chamber, able to be ignored at whim, able to reform without a constitutional referendum. It would be a truly inclusive, geographically representational body for all Scots.
Orcadians would have five representatives, as would Glaswegians. There could be five more from the highlands, offset by another five from the borders. Each of our three largest cities could have five representatives. The Western Isles would have an equal voice to central Scotland. Such an inclusive chamber would go a substantial way to preventing or lessening feelings of disenfranchisement within our more remote communities.
Such an inclusive chamber could only serve to weld our nation together as one single polity. It will forever spike the Union guns about a situation in Scotland that might mirror the Irish, where some parts decided to found a new state allied and beholden to London.
It is time Holyrood started clarifying the choices that will be available to Scots after a yes vote. A second chamber should be a choice of all Scots, enhanced democracy and democratic safeguards are difficult for the establishment to argue against. But they will.
Holyrood, it’s up to you, you have the voice, the authority, the coverage to initiate and disseminate policies that will get us excited, make us enthused and weld a brave new path for a resurgent nation, or you can do nothing and watch the dreams sink in a sea of privilege and political correctness.