Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reforming Devolution

Nine years ago, the people of Scotland and Wales voted in favour of Labour’s proposals to devolve power from Westminster to new elected national legislature bodies. The Celtic peoples voted in favour of these proposals based on promises from Labour that these new legislatures would give both the Scottish and Welsh populations a greater say in the affairs of their nations than they had enjoyed up to that point from London. Nine years on, it seems that far from giving greater power to the people, devolution has instead created another impersonal, even redundant tier of bureaucracy, increased financial waste and inefficiency.
Since no party is proposing to abolish these devolved bodies for democratic and political reasons, the devolution settlement must therefore be reformed. The most practical reform would be to introduce a system of what I would term ‘dual representation’ whereby Celtic MPs would also serve as AMs or MSPs. General Elections and Westminster By-elections would double-up as Scottish Parliamentary and Assembly Elections. It is ridiculous that thanks to devolution, there are now two elected positions for the same tasks, especially since some AMs and MSPs also sit in Westminster such as David T. C. Davies in Monmouthshire, Wales. It would also be wise to merge the Cabinet positions of Scottish and Welsh Secretaries along with their departments with the portfolio of the Leader of the House of Commons, who would then act as a liaison official between Westminster and the Hollyrood and Cardiff Bay legislatures.
Such reforms would not only make the devolution settlement work more efficiently for the Celtic peoples and strengthen the legitimacy of the devolved bodies without undermining the political supremacy of the Commons (due to General Elections enjoying higher voter turnouts than the devolved equivalents), it would also help to solve the West Lothian Question.

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