Tag Archives: Europe

#ScotRef

Posted by Euan Bennet on 14/03/2017

When I heard that the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, would be making a speech yesterday morning I assumed (like many others, apparently) that it would be along the lines of “one last chance for compromise, etc etc” before the UK Government triggered Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the EU. I suspected that I was very wrong within the first few moments of the press conference, and it was confirmed a few minutes later as the FM announced her intention to seek first the Scottish Parliament’s, and then the UK Parliament’s approval for a Section 30 order. This would transfer the power to the Scottish Parliament to be able to hold a legally-binding independence referendum between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019. The timing is key, as it must be once the terms of the Hard Brexit were are being dragged towards are known, but not too late to avoid the damage that Hard Brexit will cause.

The full text of the First Minister’s speech can be read here, and the speech itself plus questions from the media can be viewed here.

I wrote last year that people in Scotland now had to choose which Union they wanted to be a part of – either the UK or the EU. If you need a snappy sound-bite explaining how the two Unions are different, riddle me this: why is it that the Scottish Government must ask permission from the UK to hold a vote on independence, but the UK Government did not have to ask permission from the EU to hold a vote on leaving the EU?

Nicola Sturgeon demonstrated two things yesterday: 1) some actual political leadership in outlining a plan for dealing with the turmoil ahead once Article 50 is triggered, and 2) that she has meant every word that she has said on the subject since the 24th of June last year. The metroparochial media bubble had convinced themselves, and by extension Westminster, that the FM was “only bluffing”, that “she doesn’t want another referendum because she’d lose again”, and that “she doesn’t actually want independence, just another grievance to pursue”. They failed to consider that the FM was serious about delivering her party’s manifesto commitment, and protecting the interests of the people of Scotland.

The referendum campaign starts now

Yesterday saw some frantic scrambling around by the UK Government who by all accounts were caught completely flat-footed. It also saw some frantic scrambling around by the media who managed to trot out a bunch of reheated scare stories about independence would be the worst thing ever and anyway, “Sturgeon shouldn’t be allowed”. Perhaps it’s some residual immunity from the apocalyptic fear bomb that was dropped on us in the final week of the 2014 indyref campaign, but I’m finding the desperation quite funny. Metaphorically, the smell of fear is overwhelming. Anyone with any grasp of how numbers work can see how different the situation is now compared to pre-2014. When the 2014 referendum was announced support for independence was trending at around 28-30% in opinion polls. After recording an actual vote of 44.7% in favour of independence at the end of a campaign of scaremongering and negativity, recent opinion polls have shown independence support at around 48-49%. One much-touted poll last week was split exactly 50/50 among those “certain” or “likely” to vote. Now that a vote is back on the agenda the starting point of support requires a far smaller shift in percentage terms than would have been needed last time round.

That said, the fact that the fear and negativity has already begun means that it’s going to be a very long 18-24 months. Supporters of the UK Union have literally nothing else to support their arguments. All of the key arguments of the 2014 referendum are now dust in the wind, thanks to the subsequent actions of the UK Government. The hardest thing for supporters of the UK Union to grasp right now is that it is the UK Government’s actions which have brought us to this point. In 2014 the UK Government pitched in with lots of support for the No campaign from the civil service, especially the Treasury.

This time around they will be dealing with multiple crises: not only the Brexit negotiations and a campaign against Scottish independence, but potentially also a growing constitutional crisis in Northern Ireland. Added to that the possibility of a movement in England and Wales agitating to call off the Brexit process, the extent of the omnishambles created by Westminster is such that even a vile separatist such as myself is moved to feel pity for the civil servants who will have to do the actual work of managing it.

The Wild Card – what will the EU do?

I was entertained yesterday by the people depicting the possible scenarios during Brexit negotiations.

Theresa May: We want a trade deal, and in exchange we’ll guarantee access to our waters for other member states’ fishing fleets.

EU27: Sorry Mrs May, 90% of your waters are in Scotland, and given the coming independence vote those are not your gift to give. What else?

TM: Erm, well there’s our renewable energy resources – let’s make a deal with those!

EU27: Scotland is the only part of the UK that exports energy, Mrs May please stop trying to negotiate with things that aren’t yours.

TM: Can I interest you all in some Innovative Jam?

It’s a flippant example, but it does show an idea of the opportunity that the other 27 member states will surely see. We’ve already seen MEPs from other member states make comments in a personal capacity along the lines of “if the UK wants to play hardball, so can we”. It’s been well-reported how lacking the UK Civil Service is in trained negotiators for the diplomatic challenges ahead.

It’s probably unlikely that the EU will come right out and guarantee Scotland’s status as a member state should we vote for independence, but anything can happen once negotiations begin. I would certainly expect the Scottish Government to continue their work in communicating with other member states and EU institutions to raise Scotland’s profile. The EU knows fine well that when the UK Government enters negotiations, they will not speak for all of the UK.

The key principle

In the run-up to the 2014 referendum I wrote about my key motivations for supporting a Yes vote. I was very pleased to see the First Minister touch on very similar themes in her speech yesterday. This part really spoke to me:

What Scotland deserves, in the light of the material change of circumstances brought about by the Brexit vote, is the chance to decide our future in a fair, free and democratic way – and at a time when we are equipped with the facts we need. It is – above all – about informed choice.
We know that Brexit has made change inevitable. The option of ‘no change’ is no longer available. However, we can still decide the nature of change. Having Scotland’s referendum – at a time when the terms of Brexit are known – will give the Scottish people a choice about the kind of change we want. And it must be a choice for all of us.
I know there are some who want me to rule out a referendum completely or delay the decision until much further down the line. I understand why some take that view. And of course these views weigh heavily on me. But so does this. And this, for me, is a key consideration.
If I ruled out a referendum, I would be deciding – completely unilaterally – that Scotland will follow the UK to a hard Brexit come-what-may, no matter how damaging to our economy and our society it turns out to be. That should not be the decision of just one politician – not even the First Minister.
By taking the steps I have set out today, I am ensuring that Scotland’s future will be decided not just by me, the Scottish Government or the SNP. It will be decided by the people of Scotland. It will be Scotland’s choice. And I trust the people to make that choice.
I’m probably going to refer back to this speech repeatedly over the next couple of years. It was a good one.
Links
If you’d like to read more about the Scottish Government’s plans, the page to keep an eye on is https://www.ref.scot/
If you’d like to contact, support, or join a pro-independence political party, they can be found at:
If you’d like to get involved with a non-party-political campaign group, here are some off the top of my head that are still running (N.B. I’ve kept this list short for now – no doubt many more groups will be re-formed shortly)
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Full Blown Hard Tory Brexit

Posted by Euan Bennet on 09/02/2017

Imagine the EU Referendum last June had resulted in the opposite result: 52% Remain to 48% Leave. Now imagine that yesterday the “Remain” Government of the UK had announced that the UK was joining the Euro, the Shengen area, and giving up all other special opt-outs that the UK enjoys as an EU member state, and that they were railroading the bill enacting this through Parliament without scrutiny in a way that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years. Imagine if the Government had threatened the House of Lords with dissolution should they not “do their patriotic duty” and approve “the will of the people”.

Imagine the outrage. That an agenda held by a small minority of citizens should be so forcefully imposed without scrutiny and under threats to both the Executive and Judiciary branches of the Government.

Of course that scenario is far-fetched, but it is the equivalent in the opposite direction of what will now be forced upon all citizens regardless of whether they voted Remain or Leave.

Last night the UK Parliament voted to allow the UK Government to trigger Article 50 and begin the formal process of leaving the European Union. In the process, not one amendment was accepted – these amendments ranged from guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK, to commissioning a full Treasury report into the likely economic impact of the decision, to requiring the agreement of the Joint Ministerial Committee (made up of the leaders of the UK, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish Governments) to the final deal. Not a single amendment.

The Brexit bill can be found here.

What MPs voted for last night has been described so often as “handing the Tories a blank cheque” that that phrase now qualifies as a cliche. The Labour Party made a lot of noise last week about how they would be voting in favour of the Government bill, but only after extracting concessions. In the event, they extracted precisely zero concessions… and then voted for the bill anyway. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been attracting mockery for an ill-advised tweet after the Government won the vote, including from the First Minister of Scotland:

corbyn_sturgeon

The fight starts now? Seriously, Labour? I thought the Labour Party in Scotland had monopolised most of the stupid to go around in their Party, and for context today they are probably STILL saying “we are for a strong UK in the EU” with their head buried in the sand. Perhaps it’s contagious. The fight starts now. AFTER you’ve allowed the Tories to get permission to do whatever they want. Aye, very good mate. To quote Hardeep Singh Kohli – “Jog. The. Fuck. On.”.

What do the Tories want?

It’s become clear with the Prime Minister’s kow-towing to President Trump, and the Government explicitly saying it repeatedly, that a trade deal with the USA is a high priority. Leaving aside the technical point of how weak the UK’s negotiating position is with anyone, particularly a US President whose slogan is “America First” and who has espoused at length his strategy of only making deals that favour the USA and disadvantage the other parties, what would be required to compete with US companies?

  • Deregulation of workers’ rights. This has been a long-time goal of certain parts of the Tory party anyway, and I suspect it was a major motivation for many of the Brexiteers in the party.
  • Deregulation of food standards and safety. This includes many different areas, from chemical additives to animal welfare issues. The USA has significantly fewer regulations than there are in Europe.
  • Access for US companies to buy up parts of the Health Service. The current piecemeal privatisation happening in England is only the beginning.

What about the wider goals?

  • CONTROLS ON IMMIGRATION, to quote the famous Labour mug. Yesterday the UK Government snuck out an announcement that they were ending a programme for taking in lone child refugees – they had previously committed to taking 3,000 unaccompanied children in to save them from starvation, slavery or sex trafficking, but have decided to shut the doors to these most vulnerable humans after taking in only 350.
  • A European tax haven. This is not just a goal of the Tories, but given that the financial sector might just prefer to move to an EEA nation when the UK rejects the four freedoms, how else will they desperately appeal to them to stay?
  • Repealing human rights. The Tory plan is to replace the current (EU-driven) human rights laws with a “British bill of rights”. Given all that we’ve already witnessed, would anyone like to bet that a society with the Tory version of human rights would be a desirable society to live in?

 

Further implications

In my opinion, starting last night the UK set out on a truly dangerous path with no clear plan other than to let the incompetent xenophobes in the UK Government make things up as they go along. Factually, this is where we now stand:

  • The UK Government has effectively ripped up the Good Friday Agreement which is an international treaty that safeguards the peace process in Northern Ireland.
  • The UK Government has effectively forced the potential end of the United Kingdom by all but guaranteeing a second Scottish Independence Referendum, in which every single one of the winning 2014 No campaign’s arguments have been systematically dismantled by… the UK Government.
  • The UK Government has demonstrated that they would rather cosy up to a US administration whose actions are consistent with those of a fascist coup, than choose the path of diplomacy and rule of law that the European project is founded upon.
  • The UK Government has demonstrated a casual disregard for at least 48% of voters and the majority of all citizens, and intend to pursue an extreme agenda favoured by a far smaller minority.

 

Closer to home

A reminder: Every part of Scotland voted to Remain in the European Union.

result_map

We are now being dragged against our will into some sort of Europe’s North Korea dystopian future. If that’s not a “material change in circumstances” then I don’t know what is.

There will now certainly be a second Scottish Independence Referendum. And frankly, if we don’t vote for independence under the circumstances of , then we never will. And if we don’t vote for independence to choose a different path for our country, we will deserve absolutely everything that is coming to us – and that is NOT going to be pleasant.

Time to get the Yes campaign up and running again… Let’s do this!

 

 

 

Schadenfreude city as UK Government shambles continues

Posted by Euan on 04/11/2016

I spent much of yesterday trying not to die of schadenfreude at the High Court verdict saying the UK Parliament as a whole is required to trigger Article 50 on leaving the EU. I understand the Government’s case put forward in court was that the unelected Prime Minister should be able to do it alone, acting by the divine right of power channelled straight from God’s storage cupboard via the Queen.

Apart from a deep satisfaction at a would-be dictator not getting their anti-democratic way, my main feeling was utter despair at the incompetents who rule over us (unelected). They clearly thought that they could just continue to make things up as they go along (and to be fair, they would have no reason to think otherwise given we live in a ridiculous country with an “unwritten constitution” instead of the modern 21st-century European democracy you would expect from our location on the world map) and they have been totally caught out – AGAIN.

In 2014 I campaigned for Scottish independence as a route to proper democratic accountability and better (i.e. kickoutable) leaders. The only circumstances under which I would have even considered voting No would have been if there had been actual likelihood of meaningful reform for the UK, and that would have required evidence of actual ability at the top. Just competence at matters of state. Apparently that was, and is now more than ever, too much to ask. I could not possibly vote to endorse the ability, and attitudes, of the “ruling class” in Westminster. It used to absolutely baffle me that anyone could look at that place and think “yes, I am happy with control of my future being in their hands”. Now I keep trying to remind myself that people vote with the information they have available, but that’s getting more and more difficult to believe.

With that in mind, how many people who voted to Leave the EU based on the “Take Back Control” message will be deeply unhappy with this? It’ll be further evidence for some that they never had control (hopefully inspiring a political revolution that will drive for ACTUAL REFORM of the UK. LOL J/K UKIP will be along in a minute to blame foreigners!) but surely there must be others who at least look at this latest crop of the ruling class and think “THESE people are in charge?!”,

Brexiteer Britain 2016: Mainstream newspapers openly call for dictatorship

Today the front pages look like this:

worrying

There’s a lot of white noise in the air at the moment, between the furious brexiteers who have been led to believe that this is in open defiance of the vote, and the ecstatic bremainers who have convinced themselves that all will be well after this (to grossly generalise and stereotype two “sides”) . In all the excitement, both groups seem to have missed that this was a legal decision and not a political one. Imagine if the court *had* ruled that the Government could trigger Article 50 without a vote in Parliament or even so much as a basic look at the details. In our glorious unwritten constitution, that would have set a precedent for the Government being able to override the rule of law whenever it feels like it. That would be the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. We’re still not out of the woods on that yet either, as the Government plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

While we should certainly celebrate the fact that the court has prevented, or at least slowed, the UK’s descent into dictatorship, we should not lose sight of the fact that this was a legal decision, and has little bearing on the political decision to invoke Article 50 or not. A friend pointed out to me yesterday that the whole reason we’re in this mess in the first place is the self-serving incompetence of MPs. Does anyone seriously believe enough MPs will “defy the will of the British people” and vote to block Article 50, when the alternative is saving their own skin for the next election?

I’m reasonably sure that at least 56 of Scotland’s 59 MPs will vote against Article 50 (as clearly instructed by their constituents, incidentally), but that’s unlikely to tip the balance. In the meantime, more and more voters in Scotland will be looking at the absolute shambles of a Government at Westminster and asking themselves “surely we could do better by electing our own leaders”.

 

What happens next?

Posted by Euan Bennet on 24/06/2016

This morning the First Minister of Scotland made a statementclick here for the video.

At about 5am this morning I posted an attempt at dark satire on Facebook:

I’m given to understand that UK political discourse now fashionably features extreme, even provocative, language. So let’s try and join the bandwagon:

The UK Government can take my EU citizenship from my cold dead hands.

That’s how we express things now isn’t it? In Europe’s North Korea, living in the prequel to Children of Men.

I actually checked with Greg, who I watched the full results with, before posting it in case it was too extreme, but it does kind of sum up how I feel about the result and what I want to happen next. I am extremely encouraged by the First Minister’s response to the result, and with the Scottish Green Party launching a petition to #letscotlandstay in the EU, we know that a majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament will support exploring every option to make sure people in Scotland retain our rights and protections as EU Citizens.

I’ll just leave some links here for those motivated to join a pro-EU rights party in Scotland, in alphabetical order.

Scottish Green Party

Scottish National Party

Scottish Socialist Party

At the time of writing I am not aware of the positions of the other political parties in Scotland. I have seen members of the Conservative Party saying that we should accept the result and go along quietly with what follows (of course they would say that). I assume UKIP are saying the same.

I don’t know if the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats have expressed a view regarding Scotland’s future status. For both of those parties their next move on this could either save them from political extinction or hasten it – and I am not optimistic about them saving themselves.

 

 

People of Scotland, it’s time to choose: one Union or the other?

Posted by Euan Bennet on 24/06/2016

Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? The people have spoken, and the answer was

Remain in the European Union: 16,141,241 (48.1%)

Leave the European Union: 17,410,742 (51.9%)

 

result_map

The results by council region

This striking results map shows at a glance that the UK is now more than ever a Union in name only.

Scotland only

Remain a member of the European Union: 1,661,191 (62.0%)

Leave the European Union: 1,018,322 (38.0%)

Every single council area in Scotland voted Remain, some overwhelmingly (67% in Glasgow and 74% in Edinburgh), and some were a wee bit closer (Remain win by 119 votes in Moray). Watching the map of Scotland turn uniformly yellow as the night went on was very pleasing. The country is united, as the saying goes.

The Disunited Kingdom

The absolute opposite applies to the “United” Kingdom.

England only

Remain a member of the European Union: 13,266,996 (46.6%)

Leave the European Union: 15,188,406 (53.4%)

The only Region of England to vote Remain overall was London (59.9% Remain). Check out how the other English Regions voted.

Wales only

Remain a member of the European Union: 772,347 (47.5%)

Leave the European Union: 854,572 (52.5%)

Wales man, what on Earth happened there? Even with UKIP’s vote shares there in 2014 and 2016, I still expected Remain to narrowly win. Show’s what I know!

Northern Ireland only

Remain a member of the European Union: 440,437 (55.8%)

Leave the European Union: 349,442 (44.2%)

The vote in Northern Ireland seems to have split along Unionist (Leave)/Republican (Remain) lines. I’m not really in a position to comment in detail on the unique situation in Northern Ireland. Suffice it to say they, London and Scotland tried our best – but collectively we were still outnumbered by the rest of England and Wales.

So it’s an overall Leave then

Facebook is full of people expressing their disbelief at this result. I’m oddly calm today – maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet. More likely it’s because I’ve been anticipating this for nearly two years.  I was one of the raving Yes campaigners during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum who wouldn’t shut up about Better Together’s dishonesty on EU membership.

BTlies.jpg

This image has been doing the rounds all night, and rightly so.

Looking at the direction of travel politically of the UK as a whole (driven by England [and Wales, as it turns out]) my view during the IndyRef was that the real danger to EU membership was with a No vote. The trouble is, at the time there were no guarantees either way. For me as I’ve discussed before, the primary driver for a Yes vote was the better democracy that would have resulted from it, with everything else following.

I complete understand people who voted No based on the premise of wanting to keep EU membership. Whether they agreed with me or not, voters all made their decision based on the available information, and why would they listen to vile separatist bloggers like me over the UK Government and official No campaign assurances that the “only way to guarantee EU membership is to vote No”?

A material change in circumstances

In 2014 voters made their decision based on the information available at the time. Last night the available information dramatically changed. Voters in Scotland can now choose: either stay in the UK, or stay in the EU. Both are no longer an option.

I truly hope that every No voter who based part of their decision on the EU membership is willing to re-evaluate their decision. Those voters for whom this changes their mind about Scotland within the UK will be welcomed with open arms into the independence movement. Nobody benefits from saying “I told you so”. We voted in 2014, promises were made if we voted No (not just on the EU membership), and every single one of those promises have been broken. Those of us on the Yes side in 2014 will only persuade a majority of people to support our view that Scotland should be an independent country by positive encouragement and welcoming all to the cause.

Last night’s result was the starkest reminder ever that Scotland’s voice does not count as part of the United Kingdom “Union of Equals”. As a consequence our country faces being dragged out of a true Union of Equals against our democratic will. In 2014 I argued that one of the main constitutional reasons Scotland should be independent was that 60% of the time over the last 50 years we’ve had governments imposed on us that we soundly rejected at the ballot box. Functionally this time is no different: but it is more serious, and far harder to refute the fundamental differences in outlook after a binary choice vote as opposed to a multi-party election.

In addition to the constitutional angle there is the political angle. Politically the direction of travel of Scotland could hardly be more diametrically opposed to that of England (outwith London). The Leave vote won the referendum yesterday where the main focus of the campaign was on reducing immigration. Scotland needs MORE immigration, for goodness’ sake! Our problem for the last 3 centuries has been too much EM-igration! Not only that, Scotland now has a Scottish Government and a vast majority of Westminster MPs who were elected on an anti-austerity platform. David Cameron has resigned as Prime Minister but do any of the candidates for the Tory leadership (and unless an unlikely General Election is called and an even more unlikely Labour victory occurs, our next Prime Minister) seem likely to give us less austerity given that the pound just crashed through the floor?

At what point is enough, enough?

During the 2014 independence referendum I debated with people who wanted to vote No to stay in the UK and help reform it for everyone. My view was that the UK had already proven itself unreformable and that it was futile to tie ourselves to the direction of travel that England (mainly) was choosing, when with less than 10% of total votes we had hardly a hope of affecting anything.

If ever there was clear evidence of Scotland trying to influence a progressive choice for the UK as a whole, and failing, then it was yesterday. Yesterday was a major turning point: the cliche in Scotland to explain Labour’s electoral annihilation is “I didn’t leave Labour, Labour left me”. After yesterday it would be fair to say “Scotland isn’t leaving the UK, England & Wales are leaving us”.

In 2014, Scotland was asked to vote No and be part of something bigger than ourselves. 55% of voters did.

In 2016, 62% of voters in Scotland voted to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We now face a clear choice: Which Union do we want to stay in?

What price are we willing to pay to stay in the UK?

Comparisons of democracy

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.

Key:

  • 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.

radical democracy