Democratic Government

Why is the electorate not voting?

In a recent by-election, turnout was just over 30%.  Why so low?  How can we get more people to vote?

Has the parliamentary system adapted to society as it is today? Our system was built up in the industrial era, at a time of limited education and at a time of rigid traditional bonds of place, class, and institutional social structures.  Today's better educated, more affluent. and socially flexible population expects greater control and choice over the many aspects of their lives than today's politics provide.  The people have moved on, but the system has stagnated.

Has the Prime Minister become a President in all but title? Many people feel that the processes of our democracy do not offer them enough influence over political decisions -- this includes members of the main parties, who feel they have no say in policy-making, and are increasingly disaffected.  Power has been removed from Parliament and from ministers. The Cabinet in London has been stripped of executive power.  The Prime Minister has made himself into an unelected president.  Anyone who steps out of line is either sacked or sent to the House of Lords and the Prime Minister hands power over to Brussels without Parliament or the people having any say in the matter.

Why are our elected representatives held in low esteem and widely distrusted? The main political parties are considered to be too similiar and lacking in principle.  The electoral system is seen as leading to unequal and wasted votes. Voting procedures are regarded by some as inconveneint and unattractive.

The present system of government is divided into five tiers. Four tiers, each with varying degrees of decision-making authority - represented by MEPs, MPs, MSPs and Local Councillors, and one tier with no decision-making authority - represented by Community Councillors.  The system is cumbersome, excessively administrative, costly and therefore highly inefficient.

Scottish parliamentry elections use a type of proportional representation called the Additional Member System (AMS). AMS is a hybrid system which combines "first past the post" (constituency seats) with an element of "proportional representation" (regional seats).  This means that the number of seats allocated to parties and individuals in the Scottish Parliament seeks to reflect their share of the overall votes cast. The overall system is complicated, confusing to many, and could result in one party (such as Labour) having a majority of MSPs but a minority of the total votes cast.

Scottish local government elections use a single transferable vote system (STV) of preferential voting, providing proportional representation within a multi-seat ward system. The STV system is designed to minimize "wasted" votes while ensuring that votes are expressed for individual candidates rather than for party lists.  The combination of the different national and local voting systems has created much confusion, contributing to the disenfranchising of many voters.

Some 72% of new regulations in 2009 were imposed on the Scottish people by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.  The Lisbon Treaty effectively gives, undemocratically, sovereign authority of the United Kingdom over to Brussels.  There is very little accountability within the present system, at any level.

In Scotland, over 55% of the currently available workforce is directly or indirectly employed by the state, and generates no wealth.  With an ageing population the wealth generating private sector is struggling to pay for the expanding public sector.  This is an unsustainable situation.  The remedy is to reduce the proportion of directly and indirectly employed civil servants in the working population.  This would allow the private sector to grow sufficiently to provide the additional tax revenues required, to provide a well funded social support structure, and to grow the economic sphere and improve the availability of jobs and higher wages.

We invite comments on these statements to assist us to formulate proposals for an improved quality of Democratic Government in Scotland.

Monarchy Versus Republic

The SDA believe that any change to the current system is a decision which should be made by the people.

At present, the primary objective is for Scotland to regain Sovereignty - with the Monarch as a non-executive Head of State.

It will be for Scots, in the future, to decide whether to retain a Monarch or to change to an elected Head of State.

An article is under preparation.


In recent days there has been much talk about whether Scotland and its people have the right to hold and run a referendum on the question of independence or otherwise.  Neither the Westminster or the Holyrood governments appear to be fully aware of the full legal position under international law, which is superior to UK law.

In reality the decision has been made and is clear under international law.

The Scots and the Scottish government have the right under the Charter of the United Nations to hold a referendum without interference from the Westminster parliament.

The following three documents explain the full legal story, and we recommend that you read the Self-determination pdf first.

Download this file (Scotland's Status.pdf)Scotlands Status[Scotlands Status]191 kB
Download this file (Self-determination_R.pdf)Self-determination_R.pdf[Self Determination]234 kB
Download this file (State succession.pdf)State succession.pdf[State Seccession]209 kB

General Principles

The Scottish Democratic Alliance believes that a fundamental reappraisal of the Scottish constitutional situation in its broadest sense is a matter of urgent and vital importance. On looking around it is hard to remember that it was Scots who taught the world constitutional government, because the level of constitutional illiteracy in the country is quite staggering. It is not simply a lack of knowledge of a fundamental law, but a lack of even the most basic sense of propriety in the conduct of public affairs. In what other country in the civilised world would – or could – a handful of politicians decide to build a new parliament building without as much as asking the elected representatives (in Westminster or Edinburgh) whether they wanted one? And, furthermore, have no sense of having done anything wrong?

There are two aspects of sovereignty that must be addressed: internal and external. There is the question of who is the sovereign authority within the state, and the question of Scottish national sovereignty in relation to the outside world. Following are a number of points relevant to both aspects:

 a) The Declaration of Arbroath of the year 1320, one of the earliest documents of the Scottish constitution, laid it down that the King of Scots (the then executive and head of state) was subject to the will of the Community of the Realm of Scotland, and could legally be deposed if he failed to carry out that will. The Declaration refers to "our kingdom", and not "the king's kingdom". The principle is crystal clear, and can easily be translated into terms of the modern executive. The expression "Community of Scotland", even in the sense in which it was understood in 1320, can be taken to include all the politically enfranchised members of the modern population.

 b) The Claim of Right of the year 1689 justified the deposition of King James VII by the Convention of Estates (the Scottish Parliament meeting on its own authority) on the ground that he had subverted the constitution of Scotland by turning a legal limited monarchy into an arbitrary despotism, and had thereby forfeited the right to the crown, which had become vacant. Here, again, it requires no revolutionary thinking to realise that, in this age of international democracy, the principle is eminently applicable to the current Scottish situation.

Constitution Fundamentals

Draft Constitution

The SDA have adopted a proposal for a written Draft Constitution for Scotland.

Members require to log in to read full content of draft Written Constitution.

Extract from Draft Constitution:-

Explanatory Notes:

1. Poor quality Government: CurrentlyScotland has too much centralised government - by Brussels, Westminster, Holyrood and Local Authorities, yet there is a marked lack of democratic representation and accountability. The current system was set up for remote centralised control with little or no accountability to the electorate. This has resulted in poorly managed public services and quangoes where there is a significant amount of patronage, cronyism and corruption amongst senior management. In contrast, where the public sector has achieved, this has been attained through the dedication and skills of the front-line professionals in spite of the limitations being imposed by excessive administrative red tape.

Government performance is further degraded by the poor quality management capabilities of the elected representatives at Holyrood and in local government. Few elected representatives have the skills, competence or experience to provide the levels of business oversight required to adequately manage the multi-million industries they have been elected to be responsible for. One detrimental outcome has been the expansion of the consultancy culture which has generated significant abuse and misuse of taxpayers' money. This lack of in-house ability has contributed to the culture of greed and corruption which has resulted in such as the Edinburgh Tram fiasco, the over-engineered Leith Flood prevention, the majority of the £1500 million budget for the Forth Road Bridge going abroad without any offset deals for jobs in Scotland, and other similar situations across the country.

    Elected representatives require to have the training necessary for them to carry out their duties competently.    

 2. Devolved Government: To improve democratic representation and accountability and move decision-making closer to the point of need we propose that state authority and responsibilities are shared across three distinct and highly autonomous levels of government.

   a) Parliament,

   b) Regional Councils,

   c) Burgh (Local) Councils.

3. Fiscal stability: The use of a full parliamentary term budget will allow more efficient fiscal planning for both private and public sectors. Commercial enterprises in particular will benefit from longer periods between fiscal changes.  

4. Constitutional flexibility: To promote flexibility, the Constitution - as the Fundamental Law - performs as the trunk of a treelike structure, with the branches being the enabling Acts of Parliament.

The Acts of Parliament should contain the detailed content which can, when appropriate, be amended to suit the evolving needs of society.

5. Public service contracts: The default position for all public service departments should be to use local companies for public infrastructure and service contracts. All major contracts for such as hospitals, schools, bridges, etc. should be offered for tender as projects or groups of projects of a size which can be competitively tendered for by or through Scottish local or regional based companies.

The lack of commercial or technical ability within some public departments has provided an opportunity for contractual abuse, resulting in corruption and the misuse of public money. All contracts awarded by Regional, City and Burgh Councils with a value of five hundred thousand pounds and over should be made available for public scrutiny on Council websites. All contracts awarded by Councils to be subjected to a national standard of independent auditing.

6. Local Government Devolution: In order for the electorate to feel any ownership of the political system they must see the effects of how they can influence the decision making process. This will occur only if the electorate have the means to influence the system at local level and see the results of their input. It is therefore proposed that the Burgh Councils be re-instated with clearly defined powers, funds and assets. It is proposed that the thirty-two (32) Local Authorities and their current powers be re-organised and divided between larger Regional Councils and the local Burgh (or Community) Councils. All matters of local concern should be evaluated and divided as considered best to achieve fit for purpose outcomes.  

Matters to be considered include:

(i) economic development;

ii) housing, land use and planning;

iii) infrastructure (infrastructure classed as strategic is the responsibility of central government).

v) transport; the upkeep of streets, roads and public spaces;

vi) public health;

vii) the control and recycling of waste;

viii) education and training;

ix) environmental protection;

x) libraries, museum, the arts and culture;

xi) social care and services;

xii) engaging with police, public safety;

xiii) parks, garden and allotments;

xiv) recreational facilities;

xv) local public revenues;

xvi) civil defence planning and response;

xvii) any other matter of local concern.

7. Regional and Burgh Councillors: Party politics should play no part in local government. Regional and Burgh councillors should be working for and answerable only to the electorate not remote party bosses. It is therefore proposed that all Regional and Burgh Councillors should stand as Independents on a non party ticket. The precedent is already in position as the Community Council Handbook issued to Community Councillors clearly states that all Councils will act as non-political bodies in the party political sense.

Why do we need a constitution? 


Download this file (Draft Constitution_June_2013.pdf)Draft Constitution_June_2013.pdf[ ]218 kB

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