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EDITIONS
Scottish Parliament opening Thursday, 1 July, 1999, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Time for democracy, not diktat
Dennis Canavan
By Dennis Canavan, MSP for Falkirk West

Having campaigned for a Scottish Parliament all of my political life, I feel very privileged to be one of its first members.

The Scottish Parliament has great potential to deliver to the people of Scotland on education, health, housing, jobs and many other issues.

But the Scottish Parliament will never fulfil that potential unless its members see themselves first and foremost as representatives of the people who sent them there.

People's will

It was the will of the people, expressed in the ballot box, that no party should have the overall majority.

We are all minorities and that in itself should enable the parliament to exert its authority over the executive.

In the House of Commons, the government has such a massive majority that garliament has been reduced to a mere rubber stamp for the Westminster Executive.

In contrast, the Scottish Parliament has the opportunity to make the Scottish Executive more accountable to the people through their elected representatives.

Dennis Canavan swearing-in
Dennis Canavan: "Sovereignty of the people paramount"
Unfortunately, the Scottish Parliament has got off to a bad start with the fudge on tuition fees.

The majority of MSPs were elected on a commitment to abolish tuition fees and such a commitment should therefore have been included in the executive's partnership agreement.

It is understandable that many people. particularly students and their parents, feel they have been betrayed.

If the executive is determined to go down the road of a review, then the review body must report back to the parliament rather than to the executive and it must be the parliament which makes the ultimate decision.

Before the Scottish Parliament elections, hopes were expressed about a new era of consensus politics rather than the adversarial style of Westminster.

It would be na´ve, however, to imagine that consensus can be reached on everything and I hope that the debates in the Scottish Parliament will be robust and, at times, passionate rather than cosy and anodyne.

'Diktats of party bosses'

I also hope that all MSPs will be free to speak their minds and vote accordingly, instead of being subjected to the diktats of party bosses as at Westminster, where a daily dose of three-line-whips reduces MPs to mere lobby fodder.

I also foresee the relationship between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster as being dynamic rather than static and the dynamics will inevitably lead to more power for the Scottish Parliament if that is what the people of Scotland want.

The sovereignty of the people of Scotland is the foundation on which our parliament was built and, if we always recognise that, then our parliament will respond to the hopes and aspirations of our people.

See also:

07 May 99 | UK Politics
10 May 99 | UK Politics
Links to more Scottish Parliament opening stories are at the foot of the page.


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