Just a wee thought about democracy, this fine Friday evening.
It’s widely accepted that the notion of representative democracy involves people standing for election – generally, but not quite always on a party programme – then those who are elected all get together on a regular basis. They debate stuff and at the end of each debate they have a vote. Then the winners do what they said they wanted to do if they won the vote and everyone agrees that’s democracy.
At Westminster, the government derives it’s right to act on specific things from parliamentary votes, but it has quite separate constitutional legitimacy too, extending from The Crown. At Holyrood, the Scottish government is essentially the executive of the Scottish Parliament. That’s not to say we should go back to the old days of calling it an executive – it’s simply to point out that unlike at Westminster, the Scottish Government ONLY derives it’s power to act through winning votes in parliament.
What seems to be happening at present, though, is that unionist politicians have jointly agreed to question the legitimacy that wining votes in parliament confers upon the Scottish government. And in doing so, they’re undermining the very legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament itself.
For example, for the unionist parties the SNP did not simply put a motion to parliament agreed by the (Labour) presiding officer as competent, which was then duly debated and voted upon. They “forced a vote through parliament”. The only possible implication of using ‘force’ it this pejorative way is that somehow handsomely winning a parliamentary division is disreputable; It sort-of doesn’t count. And that’s how these parties are justifying their position that they; “will never support a referendum”.
It’s bizarre, and of course astonishingly cynical. It’s like trying to stay alive by eating yourself.
When unionists regard harming the Scottish parliament itself as just another bit of unavoidable collateral damage, they’re playing a dangerous game.