The Citizen’s Assembly proposal from Common Weal is a variation, albeit a highly distinctive one, on something I have long advocated as a replacement for the House of Lords – a Chamber of Delegates. Without going into tedious detail, this would be an assembly made of individuals from qualifying organisations such as trade unions, professional associations, various types of advocacy group and the like.
This would have a number of benefits. It would, for example, remove the party political element while creating a different kind of democratic voice. It would also provide a pool of expertise in diverse areas which might better inform legislation and allow for more effective scrutiny.
Not the least of the benefits would be the impact such an assembly would be likely to have on the lucrative and often rather dubious lobbying industry. It won’t escape anyone’s notice that the kind of organisations referred to are the very ones who tend to engage the services of professional lobbyists – to whatever extent they can afford it. Why would they need to do this if they have direct access to the legislative process?
It should be noted that this need not be a formal assembly meeting in a chamber reserved specifically for that purpose. It need not be limited by numbers, as not every delegate would have an interest in every piece of legislation. The technology exist to allow for ‘virtual’ meetings and consultations. And should an old-fashioned gathering should be called-for, existing facilities could surely be used.
The main issue would be the qualifying criteria for organisations and the numbers/weighting of delegates’ votes. But it cannot be beyond human ingenuity to devise appropriate rules. Rules which should, of course, be absorbed into a written constitution.
One further thing that might persuade people to the idea of a Chamber of Delegates is the fact that it should be cheap, with the organisations involved bearing most of the costs and the taxpayer being liable only for limited expenses and the cost of supporting organisations which do not have access to adequate funds.
It may well be that some combination of the two forms of assembly would be desirable. It’s certainly worth thinking about. And how gratifying it is that such thinking is an integral part of Scotland’s political discourse. Well done us!Views: 2023
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