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People & Parliament Part 3 - Process

 

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Summary and Contents Part 3 - Political Process Sample Participant Forms
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Part 1- Identities Part 5 - Sources Embracing Multicultural Scotland Report
Part 2 - Vision Part 6 - Statistics Le Monde Diplomatique Article

 

 

People & Parliament

Part 3 of the Full Report - Process

 

 

3. Question 3 - “We therefore expect our Parliament to work with the people in ways which...”

 

The first two question/responses addressed where we are and where we want to get to. This one looks at how we want the Parliament to get us there. It addresses the processes by which respondents would like the Parliament to work.

 

3.1 Values

 

People wanted to see a parliament which would be characterised by accessibility, accountability and auditability.

 

·      “All power is a Service,” said a group of Glasgow women at a Glasgow ecumenical institute.

·      “Fair, inclusive, public, helpful, approachable, auditable and caring,” said supporters of a university settlement.

·      “To protect our national heritage, to espouse traditional Scottish values; to safeguard our uniquely Scottish forms of law, education and health provision; to be accountable to the people; and to uphold peace and justice,” said a central Scottish Soroptomist International group.

·       “Promote those organisations and individuals ... working for the benefit of the weakest sections of society,” said the Grampian Brahma Kumaris.

·      “Relating to people in their working, recreation and worshipping ways,” said an Aberdeen church group, and which “recognise the unique contribution which the Christian faith has made to the shaping of this nation,” said a group meeting in an Aberdeenshire manse.

·      “In which our Parliament has equal numbers of women/men MPs,” said a women’s justice and peace group.

·      “Promote the philosophy of the God of Love rather than the God of Money,” said a Perthshire community trust.

·      “Work for people rather than the maximum profit of Scotland plc,” said a group of scientists.

·      “Create a culture in which children are valued,” said an Edinburgh group, and “actively discourage the break-up of families,” said a group of ethnic Asians.

·       “Enhance the beauty of this great country and eliminate racial tensions and ignorances towards other identities and cultures,” said Edinburgh students.

·      “Does not take away our freedoms, but adds to our lives,” said a group of primary children.

·      “Protect everyone in Scotland - from the Highlands and Islands to the Central belt; from Hinduism and Islam to lesbians and homosexuals,” said Scottish Wildlife Trust rangers.

·      “A radical, transforming agenda - no excuses,” said a Glasgow group.

·      “An end to the racial portrayal of Scottish people as thugs, drunkards and illiterates,” said a Glasgow ecumenical centre group.

·      “Restore national pride - not foster racism,” said a Fife community council.

·      “Parliament should not be opened by the Queen but by somebody Scottish [like] Sean Connery, Rod Stewart or Hearts footballers,” said a group with learning difficulties.

·      “Protect our natural resources and work to improve the environment,” said a Perthshire neighbourhood group.

·       “Return the land to the people [to] keep the land in good heart,” said a retired Perthshire woman.

·      “Support the Gaelic dimension and its importance to Scotland in the past, present and future ... as a sustainable and meaningful component of the Scottish identity,” said Seo Sinne in Stornoway.

·      “A pluralist Parliament for a pluralist people,” said a Strathclyde Catholic group.

·      “We therefore expect our Parliament to work in ways which have never been heard of!” concluded pupils at a private school.

 

3.2 Conduct

 

We were astonished at the volume of comment upon how people expected their MSPs to conduct themselves and their business.

 

MSPs are expected to “embody the moral ethical principles which underpin our ‘Scottishness,’” said associates of the Iona Community. They should “realise that they are ‘servants’” and “shun party politics, bigotry, discrimination, nepotism, sleaze and corruption,” said a great many others. This means putting “people before party”: “Unite not divide. Include not exclude,” insisted an elderly couple. It entails “the recognition that the established authoritarian axis is redundant in solving [the problems facing the Scottish people, and] has long been writing the wrong script and getting overpaid for it,” according to the Scottish Tree Trust. An Aberdeenshire presbytery said:

 

We would expect Parliamentary ‘Ministers’ to remember the meaning of the word and to realise that they are ‘servants.’

 

“Colour, creed and religion should never be the basis in selection procedure in any walk of life,” said the Glasgow Moslems. “Talk to young people, not tell them!” said youngsters in Tollcross and “listen to women’s voices throughout Scotland,” said a Moray business & professional women’s club. Service should be offered “remembering that authority comes from God through his sovereign people,” said a Stirlingshire presbytery of the Church of Scotland.

 

MSPs should “go back to the electorate and seek re-election immediately” if they change party, said a Fife community council. A Dundee residents’ association wanted “A Parliament that is by the people for the people, literally. One that will make us believe that our views and opinions really matter.” “If you are going to consult us,” said users of mental health services, “then ask us what we want before you start drawing up the plans. Make it easy for our voices to be heard.” An independent academic network said “We fundamentally and continually require those in power to rise to the challenge posed by the imperative of social and ecological sustainability.” Retired educational professionals urged Parliament to “Encourage anti-spin-doctored intellectual honesty throughout our new Scottish society.” Ultimately, said a Glasgow group, “the electorate must have a method of censuring the Scottish Parliament and its members, e.g. a Scottish Parliamentary Ombudsman.”

 

Many people wanted to see Parliamentary business structured in such a way that MSPs and civil servants, as East of Scotland Quakers put it:

 

... should be able properly to honour any requirements of care, as mothers, fathers or other carers.

 

Similarly, many groups wanted to see close contact with constituencies to “enable MSPs to lead ‘normal’ lives and thereby enable them to be closer to the communities they serve.” A rural community council surmised:

 

It would be mandatory for MPs to live in the area that they represent. The job of an MP is regarded more as a service to society rather than a highly paid career leading to power over the people rather than service to the people. It should be more of a vocation than a career...

 

Party political point-scoring should yield to “parties working more in alignment with each other for the good of the people,” said women in Braendam Link: “consensual rather than confrontational,” said the staff in a Govan office, reflecting a great many people’s hopes. “Childish behaviour” should not be “on display in the same way it is at Westminster” said a west of Scotland family. MSPs must “avoid the ‘power’ thing” and, said a Perth group, “remember that most of us want this to work.” There are to be “No ‘fat cats’ in our future Scotland!” said teenagers in a former mining area of Fife. Neither should there be “chauffeur-driven limousines or 1st class business-jaunts,” said three family groups, and in the Parliament building itself, the Strathclyde University Dominicans said:

 

Security should not be overdone - because it is crucial that the building and the arrangements for access to it should be a physical reinforcement of the commitment made by the Consultative Steering Group to an open, accessible, inclusive and transparent approach to our legislative process... The image which should come across should be contemporary and down-to-earth, not elitist and pompous.

 

In keeping with various calls echoing being “not elitist and pompous” there should, said the Adult Learning Project’s women’s group during a pilot study, be “No power suits!” Land reform workers added that Parliament should be a place that:

 

... does not impose the class system in the guise of mandatory formality upon the people and their servants. Jackets and ties were not part of our ancient traditions and should never be made compulsory for events concerning the Parliament.

 

Most respondents clearly felt optimistic that change was possible. A few were cynical. The challenge was squarely laid down by children at Aberdeenshire Secondary School who concluded:

 

We don’t believe any of these comments will make a difference, so please prove us wrong.

 

3.3 Participation

 

Many groups indicated that they did not just want to be represented in the new Parliament: they also wished to participate. Parliament should “involve us so that we know they are listening to us,” said out-of-school-care workers. As such, it should work:

 

WITH the people, not FOR the people.

 

“Many people feel excluded from the whole process” of what we have had up until now, said a Pilton adult education group. Parliament should therefore “give the ordinary person more power and control,” thought “middle aged, middle class women” in Aberdeen, “otherwise the electorate will cease to vote at all.” Participative democracy as distinct from representative democracy on its own is a question of “giving all Scots ownership of Parliament and politics” announced a Charter 88 group. Achieving this is not easy, because past political history has rendered us disempowered and apathetic. Accordingly, we need to be listened to in a way that builds confidence. One, said some Dunfermline parents:

 

... in which the ordinary person in the street can air their views, without fear of malice or ridicule, in the knowledge that their opinion will be considered valuable.

 

And in engaging with participation, politicians must avoid fobbing people off with hollow “consultation” exercises because, said an Age Concern group, “It’s not just about listening; it’s about taking action on what you’re told.” This should embody “a consensual approach.” Like several other inputs, a member of a community council touched on ancient lore about taking grievances before the King in urging:

 

The rights of the common man to be allowed to stand before the Parliament to speak his mind, to be heard, listened to, without hindrance or malice.

 

Other groups expressed awareness of modern “participatory appraisal” techniques. Members of an ecumenical study group therefore wanted Parliament to:

 

Devise forms of local participative workshops on issues so that regular consultation with ordinary people becomes a valued part of the informing of the Parliament.

 

To “encourage people to feel that they own it” we should have a “peripatetic Parliament” - “Parliament Road Shows”: the principle should be one of “Don’t have meetings for Scotland only in Edinburgh,” said Aberdeenshire Academy pupils. One person suggested building a Parliament with wheels so it could shift around. Hi-tech could assist participation. One family said:

 

We would welcome a phone-in service to Parliament or our MP in which we could simply make our comments on various issues: ‘Press 1 for education; 2 for industry; 3 for social services, etc..’

 

Ethnic groups such as an Islamic centre summed up the feeling of many marginalised groups in asking that:

 

Positive action is taken to recruit more councillors and MSPs from ethnic minority communities... More ethnic peoples are employed by the parliament itself but not only at lower grade jobs. Genuine consultation is carried out with the communities to find out what their needs are and what action is taken to meet the needs.

 

Disabled groups asked for measures like “Braille voting papers” and suggested that there should be “someone in Scottish Parliament with learning difficulties.” Parliament should also enable “women to get into the work force and get into politics.”

 

3.4 Representation

 

Various identifiable groups, like youth, old age pensioners, disabled people, ethnic minorities and women suggested either that they should have their own MSP or that seats should be proportionally allocated to them. A group of Scottish Muslim women put the case for this as follows:

 

Why not have MPs who are independent and willing to represent just women and children, rather than this part of society being represented at ministerial level. This would facilitate people to feel empowered within their own community and bridge the gap between community issues and state politics. Instead of politics from the top down to the people it would be the other way round.

 

At the heart of such concerns lay a widespread dissatisfaction with the party system. A rural community group urged a Parliament:

 

... not governed by the policies and doctrines of political parties: thus a person would be elected because of his/her ability and experiences rather than their support for the doctrines of a political party. Also there would be open debates on principles and free votes on all policies and laws. Most MPs would therefore be independents.

 

Similarly, a community group insisted that:

 

MSPs should represent us, not Blair or party lines... Consulting with community groups on their own grounds should become part of the legislative process... MSPs should work with community activists - it will be time-consuming but this is what they will be paid for... MSPs and civil servants should come into communities like Pilton, into the community centre and projects and meet people under lightbulbs, not chandeliers.

 

A number of participants suggested that there should be limitations on how long a politician could serve. Referenda were requested for major issues. Often groups demonstrated limited understanding of what was already planned. For example, there were calls for “proportional representation” as if the participants did not realise that this is already in the legislation. A Perthshire group suggested Parliament should:

 

Look at ways to re-enfranchise those who were removed from the voter’s roll at the time of the poll tax and who, in many instances, have never got back on.

 

One of the most surprising participant groups comprised of 25 members of People First in New Delhi, India, who described themselves as, “professionals - namely public management practitioners, political leaders, lawyers, economists and planners.” At least one member of the group had previously studied on professional training courses at Edinburgh University. This accounts for the Scottish connection. Although speaking here of Indian history, there is a striking relevance to Scottish traditions:

 

We believe in a true democracy as advocated by Gandhi in which power flows upward from the people, not downward from the parliament... In the old days, every nation-state used to have a royal priest as conscience-keeper, advising on righteousness in action. Contemporary nation states need an institution, a Soveregn Rights Commission, with authrority to direct referendums. This will ensure citizen’s oversight over representatives....

 

 

3.5 Political Education

 

Many groups, especially the young, the poor, the ethnically marginalised and the disabled, felt that they needed (non-party) political education to develop “a sense of ownership” in the parliament. A Gypsy/Romany group north of Bathgate saw this as a two-way process whereby:

 

... it would be good for a Scottish People’s Parliament to learn from us as we would learn from yous.

 

“A programme of political education should start as soon as possible.” These might be “similar forums to the People & Parliament [process].” Black women in Edinburgh spoke for many groups - both ethnic and indigenous - in saying:

 

We want to be involved in the decision making process even if it takes the Parliament to invest money in their local people to bring them to a level in which they can articulate themselves and understand the language of the Parliament.

 

The extent to which many Scots still see politics as a class-divided activity was reflected in statements like a Clydebank family wanting Parliament to deal “not only with politicians, but with the lower classes on how to solve the nation’s problems.” In short, many groups saw their position as being one whereby the new Parliament is about the “meek,” so to speak, inheriting the Earth, but the meek are still waiting. The “meek,” however, wish to get ready for “active and inclusive citizenship” and this “will increase a sense of responsibility.”

 

Educationalists were particularly outspoken in seeing the role that they could play through school education. Amid calls for “‘civics’ to be taught in schools ... as a core subject for all pupils,” teachers of modern studies wanted to see a process that:

 

... provides regular information about the operation of the Parliament; invites pupils, their teachers and representatives of the Modern Studies Association to participate in ‘mock-Parliament’ days; an Education Officer should ideally be employed to facilitate these links.

 

3.6 Communication

 

Closely linked to the wish for non-partisan political education were strongly held views on the importance of good communication between people and the political apparatus. Many of these comments urged the use of “language that we can understand” - both in terms of ethnic (including indigenous ethnic) minority language use and either avoiding, or educating people in, the technical language of politics. Members of the Glasgow Chinese community said:

 

Leaflets should be in ethnic minority languages. The Chinese community is under-represented. It would be helpful if leaflets [like the People & Parliament one] can be translated into ethnic minority languages such as Chinese.

 

The Renfrewshire Elderly Forum said:

 

The use of plain language would help to remove the ambiguities that unfortunately can lead people to believe that they have been misled.

 

The committee of a care centre spoke for many people, saying:

 

[As adults with learning difficulties] we would like to know more how government works, have got rights, would like to be listened to, would like support from Government, rely on Government, would not like to be let down.

 

Many voices suggested that communication should make optimal use of new electronic technology such as the Internet. But communication is also about face-to-face engagement with people, and not just in traditional settings that reinforce authority from a podium. Thus, said Morayshire members of the Scottish Landowners’ Federation, it is important also to be “... innovative: e.g. role playing, Planning for Real, games, etc..” Advocating what might be thought of as a user-friendly People’s Hansard, an urban Baha’i group concluded:

 

We would suggest that ways in which [participation] could be achieved might be through each MSP holding not only surgeries for individuals, but also a series of public surgeries in strategic parts of his territory... Copies of all documentation, legislation, etc. should be immediately placed in all public libraries. It should be supplied to them without cost... Regular news sheets could be prepared for distribution to all Scottish households. Development of an Internet site can be expected to be of major importance.

 

3.7 Sectors (Public and Private)

 

A number of groups were conscious of how public sector services and private sector endeavour should, could, and sometimes ought not to influence the political process. For example, “We must be open to suggestions from Scots in business and manufacturing,” said an urban community council, but also, said a study group, “Prevent economic considerations from tyrannising the political and cultural elements of our common life.” A Pilton group touched on macroeconomic principles in saying, “We expect our Parliament to devote much more money to public spending either by controlling money made in Scotland or re-prioritising policy.” Parliament must “Make plain the influence of corporate power and its costs, and is willing to control it,” said an anonymous respondent. It should, said an Aberdeenshire individual:

 

Help young people who have the potential to become employers so that they are able to generate employment, instead of us having to depend on foreigners coming to our country to build factories

 

Various statements reflected an expectation of grassroots empowerment and bottom-up politics bringing a new sense of ownership and responsibility to service provision. Thus, activists for mental health services said:

 

Parliament should recognise the importance of the value of the user movement and independent advocacy and actively seek out the views of the user movement. Ensure there is political accountability for mental health services and recognition of the importance of mental health issues.

 

The future is an open book, and there was clearly a feeling that old ways ought not to block out the creative possibility of new avenues opening up. Thus, retired professional women in an Edinburgh suburb urged that Parliament:

 

Recognise the prime importance of primary education, and the insanity of the ‘education for the 21st century’ mantra. Whose crystal ball is being used? Supply the intellectual tools which work at any time and in any place, and we shall have a second enlightenment.

 

3.8 Local Governance

 

A small but significant number of groups saw that the new emphasis on participation and empowerment would have considerable potential consequences for local government, provided that local authorities stopped “being the nursery slopes for the Westminster pistes.” Thus an Inverness environmental group suggested that Parliament should “continue the process of devolution further down to the regional level.” A group meeting in Glasgow City Chambers said:

 

Through ‘grassroots’ involvement, decision-making should be better as the politicians will be better informed on local issues. We would advocate the use of consensus rather than conventional confrontational politics.

 

Parents attending a Gaelic Medium education unit in Edinburgh said that we must, of course, ask: “Are we expecting too much?” They concluded, Parliament must attend to the “roles of local government v. Scottish Parliament.” An Ayrshire neighbourhood group wanted:

 

... further devolution of power, especially to deprived urban and rural communities. The Parliament should act as banker and provider of resources and expertise, and let communities decide for themselves how to use the resources.

 

“Community councils should have more impact” said a crime prevention group. Indeed, said a community council in west Argyll, Parliament should be one that:

 

Values and respects the work of community councils, recognising that 4 hours’ return drive to our administrative centre throws upon us a greater responsibility to maintain democracy and public participation in government... Grassroots [commitment] is demonstrated in the quality of service to the smallest and remotest communities.

 

3.9 International Relations

 

Although foreign affairs is not at present a devolved power from Westminster, a small number of groups nevertheless took the opportunity to express views of a “Scots Internationalist” character. A group of environmentalists hoped that the Parliament would:

 

Increase [the people’s] self-esteem and give them a sense of place in a multicultural world which is dependent upon a fragile biosphere.

 

We must, said a scholar of the Scots “democratic intellect”:

 

Start to dismantle an economic system which piles up huge mountains of capital in northern hemisphere countries, ignoring the starving and destitute in the Third World. This involves breaking free from the rotten, decaying English elective dictatorship.

 

A group of Methodist women in Glasgow, however, wanted “a voice in London and the EEC” whereas a Paisley widow, aged 72, said, “Forget GREAT Britain - let’s have caring Scotland,” and remarked, “What a time to be alive!!!” Leaving aside whether or not Parliament “should encourage us to go forward as an independent nation,” a West Lothian church group urged:

 

We feel we should look seriously at how we relate to our ‘world’ neighbours [to] improve the lot of the poorest in the world.

 

The Scottish Refugee Council said, “We hope Scotland will not close its doors to keep refugees at bay.” We should put “more money into charities including Third World countries,” said a Kilwinning group with learning disabilities. Encourage visitors to “come and enjoy our country,” said a Galashiels group; “advance the world environment to bring world peace about,” said a Big Issue reader; and “avoid ‘isolationism’ of nationalist, racist varieties,” said an Aberdeen Church of Scotland.

 

Whilst being free from having “to get permission from London,” a Scottish Health Services group hope that Parliament would create “opportunities to work in Europe and improve our friendship with England.” Non-Scottish wives of incoming oil-related industry workers in Aberdeen concurred, saying:

 

The Parliament should work to make and maintain good relationships with all other countries including the imminent neighbour - England.

 

It was clear that to some groups breaking free from and yet remaining friendly with England represented the future Scotland’s most formidable challenge. The general priority, concluded a group from a Catholic presbytrery, should be to:

 

Show awareness of our relationships with other countries and cultivate these for mutual benefit.

 

 

 

(This is the end of the analysis. The remainder of the report comprises data in tabular form and statistical information)

 

 

 

Click Links from the Menu below to Navigate the People & Parliament Report

Summary and Contents Part 3 - Political Process Sample Participant Forms
Part 0 - Methodology Part 4 - Raw Data Related Material: The Parekh Report
Part 1- Identities Part 5 - Sources Embracing Multicultural Scotland Report
Part 2 - Vision Part 6 - Statistics Le Monde Diplomatique Article

 

 

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