For more than half a century (1921-72), the existence of a devolved parliament in Northern Ireland created a contradiction at the heart of Unionist thought: while proponents of ‘the Union’ championed legislative autonomy in one part of the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland), they simultaneously denigrated moves towards devolution in Scotland and Wales on the basis that it might constitute a ‘slippery slope’ towards full ‘separation’. In a new blog from our Making Sense of Parliaments conference Dr David Torrance sheds light on a neglected aspect of broader debates about parliamentary devolution in the UK.
Scotland and Wales’ devolved political institutions, elected under proportional Additional Member electoral systems, were intended to produce a more consensual political culture. However, writes Felicity Matthews, although their electoral rules have increased the proportionality of representation, the structures of the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales have meant that a more consensual approach to policy-making has been more limited than might have been expected.
The Scottish Parliament’s Commission on Parliamentary Reform, established by the Presiding Officer last year, reported in June. Its recommendations include that committee conveners should be elected by the whole Parliament, changes to First Minister’s Questions, the extension of the legislative process from three stages to five and the establishment of a new backbench committee. In a post originally posted on the Constitution Unit blog, Ruxandra Serban summarises the report and notes that several of the most substantive recommendations would bring the Scottish Parliament’s procedures closer to those of the House of Commons.