Business for Scotland has compiled a list of defence facts, with references, as rebuttal to the latest patronising intervention by the UK defence minister. Since defence is well down my list of things to cover, and they have presented it neatly and concisely and done all the research already, they’ve saved me a job of work. Thanks!
Image credit: Stewart Bremner
Full transcript of Lord Robertson’s speech. Yes, he actually said this. This is a surprising new tactic from the No campaign, especially given how every single one of them is falling over themselves to say how much they are “proud, patriotic Scots”. Hmm yes, I can definitely see how denying your own culture and heritage makes you proud and patriotic, and not at all cringing.
Robertson has form for making accurate predictions though, as captured perfectly by the excellent National Collective. He also made a series of predictions in 2012, which are looking pretty good at this stage.
Posted by Euan Bennet on 09/10/2013
Work and real life took over for a couple of weeks there so I haven’t had a chance to update. This is a follow-up to the piece on democracy, since to put that post into context it is useful to have some meaningful comparisons to look at. This post came about as a result of a conversation with a fellow Yes campaigner who wondered if we would expand the size of the Scottish Parliament after independence to better cope with the legislative workload of having the full powers of a normal parliament.
All of this data is from the relevant Wikipedia page for each Parliament, which can be found in this list. Interestingly, the UK is the only state on the list of UN member states which has a larger “upper house” of unelected members than corresponding “lower house” of elected members.
So where do Scotland and the UK currently lie in relative democratic terms with comparable nations? Let’s start by looking at the usual suspects for comparison to Scotland – Western nations with population fewer than 10 million. Most of these are unicameral Parliaments like Scotland, i.e. there is no so-called “revising chamber” like the House of Lords in Westminster. To avoid confusion I’m describing “number of MPs” even though it should be noted that most countries call their representatives by other descriptors.
|Country||Population||Number of MPs||Population per MP||Voting system|
|Scotland||5.3 million||129||40734||Mixed-member PR (FPTP, D’Hondt and party list)|
|Denmark||5.6 million||179||30969||Mixed-member PR (D’Hondt and Saint-Lague)|
|Norway||5 million||169||29785||Mixed-member PR (open list, doubly proportional by population and by land area)|
|Finland||5.4 million||200||25900||Electoral district PR (D’Hondt)|
|Ireland||4.6 million||166||27640||Single Transferable Vote, also unelected Senate with 60 members|
|Sweden||9.5 million||349||27286||Open list PR (Saint-Lague)|
|Iceland||320000||63||5080||Mixed-member PR (party list)|
|Switzerland||8 million||200||40000||Party-list PR (Hagenbach-Bischoff), also upper house of 46 elected by FPTP|
|New Zealand||4.5 million||120 (normally)||33566||Mixed-member PR, system allows extra seats (over the normal 120) to be allocated to ensure proportionality if necessary.|
- PR – Proportional Representation: a system that attempts to allocate the correct number of seats to each party, such that the percentage of seats that a party takes in parliament is equal to the percentage of the vote received by that party. As such outright majorities are very rare, as the system requires one party to receive >50% of the vote in order to win a majority of seats.
- FPTP – First Past the Post: a plurality voting system where within each constituency the candidate with the most votes wins the seat. This means that one party can receive a majority of the seats with far less than 50% of the vote. In the UK in 2005 for example, the Labour party received 35.2% of the vote but that got them 355 of the 646 seats (55%).
- Mixed-member system: A hybrid system that includes geographic constituencies as well as “top-ups” using various systems to ensure total proportionality. Examples of the seat allocation system include the D’Hondt and Saint-Lague systems.
So the Scottish Parliament is very similar to comparable nations’ parliaments in voting system and number of members, albeit at the bottom end of the MPs per head list. If we wanted to move towards having more representatives per head of population, then a maximum of an extra 40-50 MSPs would bring us absolutely in line with Denmark and Norway.
One independence dividend will be not having to pay for Westminster representatives (currently 59 MPs plus our share of the large cost of the House of Lords). The cost of even 50 extra MSPs is still much less than the cost of our Westminster representation – I will include the numbers for this in a future post.
Comparisons with the UK
We’ve seen how Scotland compares to nations of similar population, but how does the UK compare to nations comparable to its population? In the same format as above:
|Country||Population||Number of MPs||Population per MP||Voting system|
|UK||63.2 million||650||95787||FPTP, also unelected upper house of 765 members appointed by Queen|
|Germany||80 million||620 (Federal Government)||131934||Mixed-member PR, also upper chamber of 69 elected by state governments|
|Spain||47 million||350||131894||Party-list PR (D’Hondt), also Senate of 208 elected and 58 appointed by regional governments|
|Italy||60 million||630||94556||Party-list PR, also Senate of 315 elected by party-list PR and 6 appointed by the President for life|
|France||65 million||577||113258||Two-round (“run-off”) system, also Senate of 348 indirectly elected by elected officials of all levels|
|Netherlands||16.8million||150||111533||Party-list PR, also Senate of 75 members indirectly elected by the provincial parliaments|
In terms of population per MP, the UK is near the top of the list. However, in terms of the voting systems and upper house structure, the UK’s systems stick out like a sore thumb. Among large Western European nations (and the Netherlands which is really in the middle in terms of population), the UK is the only state that has a lower house elected by a non-proportional method AND the only state with an unelected upper house. It’s not surprising that UK politicians are perceived as being out of touch with the electorate.
What does all of this mean?
When the Yes campaign talks about the democratic argument for independence, it is usually phrased in terms of getting the governments we vote for every time instead of 40% of the time, and that the people who live and work and contribute to Scotland should elect the people who make all of the decisions about Scotland. Another less often heard but equally important argument is that on day one of independence we will have better democracy full stop. Not just in terms of governments accurately and proportionately determined according to votes, but that every decision will be taken by elected representatives. Scotland is is well-placed to become a democratic, equal European country. The UK on the other hand, is lagging well behind the rest, and has shown time and again that it is institutionally incapable of meaningful reform. The future democracy of Scotland is a choice of two futures.