Smith Commission

by Elias Blum

We are faced with many challenges, which often seem to overwhelm us. It seems like the rich and rapacious few are gnawing ever-deeper into our social fabric. It’s important, in confronting this, to get to the root of it all: oligarchy. We are ruled by corrupt institutions that foster and protect greedy interests.

We can oppose policies – like fracking, privatisation, TTIP etc piecemeal – but we will always lose, because they – the oligarchs – have the power. The unifying objective must be democracy: the creation of a state that, because it is under the control of the people, serves the people, and not just the rich and powerful. In a sense, most our problems are ultimately constitutional, in so far as they are a product of the ill-distribution of power.

One of the great things about the independence movement was that it recognised the principle of popular sovereignty and offered a democratic constitutional alternative to the oligarchic UK-state. There seemed to be a window of opportunity for setting the Scottish state on a right foundation of the common good, as opposed to the private interests of a few.

That’s what makes the Scottish Government’s submission to the Smith Commission so disappointing. It’s all about powers, and says nothing about democracy:

“The Parliament should have control of its own affairs, including its electoral system and procedural rules – matters which are currently reserved to Westminster. The Scotland Act 2012 transferred some limited administrative responsibilities and regulation–making powers for Scottish Parliament elections. But this falls far short of full legislative responsibility for its own elections. The Westminster Parliament legislates about its franchise and procedures. The Scottish Parliament should do the same.” (From the Scottish Government’s submission to the Smith Commission).

That leaves me cold. No. No parliament should have that power. It’s then a law unto itself. It provides no guarantee. The fact that westminster can do that is part of what’s wrong with the UK. Last thing in the world we’d want to do is replicate it. It is a complete betrayal of the principle of popular sovereignty.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Even if independence is, for the time being, off the table, Scotland could still adopt a radically democratic constitutional charter that would help strengthen democracy. The Greens, in their submission to the Smith Commission, have even sketched out some initial ideas about how this might be done.