Scotland Can Be A Bolder Democracy

Faodaidh Alba a bhith nas dàna deamocrasaidh

With a turnout of 85%, the Independence Referendum affirmed a simple but often forgotten political truth: if people are invited to take part in an important decision about the future of their country, they will – and in huge numbers. But that spirit will wither away unless citizens are again invited to play a direct role in public decision-making. We want to create a radical and inclusive democracy that puts citizens at the heart of the democratic process, both at local and national level.

In a second referendum the Scottish Greens will campaign for independence. Until then we can build a bolder democracy, and open up our institutions for greater citizen participation while pushing for stronger powers for Holyrood.

As well as a bolder Holyrood, Scotland needs a revitalised local democracy where citizens are engaged and active in the important matters affecting their communities. Scottish Greens will campaign for real local democracy where voters can make real choices about the services they want and how to pay for them.

Andy Wightman MSP

MSP
Lothian
Local Government, Communities, Housing & Land Reform

Our commitments

  • A Written Constitution

    A radically democratic written constitution, produced by the Scottish people in a citizen-led process.

  • Strong Local Democracy

    Scotland can revive local democracy by devolving more powers to local councils and requiring them to include local communities in decision making.

  • People's Parliament

    Scotland can finally fulfil the promise of Holyrood when it was set up by creating a more accessible ‘People’s Parliament’ that has more of the powers it needs to serve the Scottish public.

Scotland can lead a democratic revolution:

  • A written constitution. We will create a radically democratic written constitution, produced by the Scottish people in a citizen-led process. This is compatible with Scotland’s place in the UK, but after more than 15 years of devolution, Scotland’s democracy still does not have a founding document beyond the Scotland Acts. With the new Scotland Act effectively guaranteeing the permanence of the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Greens believe now is the time to complete the embedding of our democracy by creating a people’s constitution that will be the basis of a democratic renaissance in all areas of Scottish public life. A constitution that protects rights for marginal groups will also drive equality in Scotland.
  • Strengthening local democracy. Scotland can revive local democracy by devolving more powers to local councils and requiring them to include local communities in decision making. Scottish Greens agree with Cosla, the body representing local authorities, that local government needs substantial and far-reaching reform to make it more local and more democratic. We will start this process by calling for a Local Democracy Act that will require local authorities to create local democracy and public participation plans to devolve decisions and budgets to a more local level and will give councils the powers to implement new structures for local democratic participation.
  • People’s Parliament. Scotland can finally fulfil the promise of Holyrood when it was set up by creating a more accessible ‘People’s Parliament’ that has more of the powers it needs to serve the Scottish public. The Scottish Parliament was supposed to embody a new way of doing politics, but has lost its way on this over years. Scottish Greens will champion new ways for the public to become involved in the legislative process, including through radical democratic processes like citizens’ juries.

Scotland can return power to local communities:

  • Protecting the role of local government.  Just as the role and status of Holyrood is being constitutionally guaranteed by the Scotland Act, so too should local government and communities be protected from the steady accumulation of power in Holyrood. As part of the process of writing the new constitution, Scottish Greens would fight for a constitutional entrenchment of the rights and powers of local government. Never again should local governments’ democracy be undermined by Scottish ministers.
  • A bottom-up local democratic revolution. Strengthening local democracy should not be about the Scottish Parliament and Government devolving power at their discretion. Instead, national bodies should always have to justify why their functions are not been exercised at a local level. We support proposals made by Cosla’s Commission on Local Democracy, on which all 5 main parties were represented, that Scottish Ministers should be placed under a legal duty to explain why the decisions they make are not being made locally. Similarly, local government should have a ‘right to challenge’ to take on functions currently exercised by national bodies. 
  • Locally funding public priorities. Scottish local government raises only 18% of the money it spends, in contrast with an average of 50%-60% in comparable European countries. Scottish Greens will fight for local governments to be able to levy their own local taxes – including entirely new ones where there is a clear public demand – and to set property tax rates to match local needs. This would result in local government raising at least 50% of its own income.
  • Citizen-led local governance. The Local Democracy Act would enshrine a clear duty to promote community participation in all local decisions about taxation; spending and services, including a legally-defined minimum proportion of local authority budgets to be decided through participatory budgeting, a process championed by Scottish Greens in Edinburgh to great success. Green MSPs would also push for local government to identify communities that might otherwise find it difficult to participate in such processes, and support them to do so.

Scotland can champion a more open and participative lawmaking process:

  • Citizens as legislators. Citizens should be able to play a direct role in the legislative process: on presenting a petition signed by an appropriate number of voters, citizens should be able to trigger a vote on important issues of devolved responsibility. As we proposed on the one year anniversary of the Independence Referendum, this is the Scottish Greens’ preferred way of deciding to hold a second referendum on Independence. If a new referendum is to happen, it should come about by the will of the people, and not be driven by calculations of party political advantage. In such a referendum the Scottish Greens will campaign for independence.
  • More effective Parliamentary committees. Committees were supposed to be the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Holyrood when it first started. But successive governments have sought to block scrutiny of its work. Scottish Greens want to strengthen the committee system’s ability to hold government to account and as a first step will call for committee chairs to be elected by Parliament, not chosen by party bosses. A further step would be to establish public scrutiny committees made up of randomly selected citizens; community representatives, local councillors and others; and regular Public Questions session, in which members of the public can pose questions to Scottish ministers.
  • The public’s voice at the centre of Holyrood. The public should be able to play a role in setting Holyrood’s agenda. As is already the case with Westminster, citizens should be able to push Holyrood into holding debates on issues of public interest by presenting petitions with an appropriate threshold, without the Public Petitions Committee having a veto.

Scotland can have open and accountable public services:

  • Citizens at the heart of our public service organisations. Following the Public Sector Equality Duty model, Green MSPs will call for a Democracy and Public Participation Duty to apply to all public bodies and all other organisations performing public functions. This would require organisations fulfilling public functions  to show that the public are consulted adequately when they take decisions and to demonstrate how their decisions will impact on Scottish citizens’ right to be involved with the design and delivery of their public services. Green MSPs will also fight for the public appointments procedure to be more open, accessible and transparent and for major public bodies like Creative Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to reserve at least one place on their boards for ‘citizen governors’ representing the Scottish public.
  • Protecting ‘the Right to Know’. Whilst Scottish Greens support diversity in public service provision, the transferring of public functions to arms-length organisations (ALEOs) and private companies delivering services has undermined the Scottish public’s ‘right to know’ what is done in their name. Scottish Greens would push for a radical extension of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act to automatically apply to any organisation performing a public function. We would also campaign to end FOI exemption for the Royal Family.
  • Opening up public data. Not enough is being done to ensure that data which the public should have access to is freely available. Green MSPs will fight for all public authorities to routinely publish the public data they produce (with exemptions for personal information) in easily useable formats through a national online open public data gateway.

Scotland can have a more powerful Holyrood:

  • Strengthening devolution. Scottish Green representatives to the Smith Commission argued vigorously for a new radical devolution settlement. Whilst we welcome the powers in the current Scotland Bill, they are not enough. For the vision of Scotland that runs throughout this manifesto, Holyrood would need more powers to be devolved from Westminster. Green MSPs will fight all the way through the next Holyrood term for more powers to be devolved on a case-by-case basis, as well as calling for a new devolution package once it becomes clear what the strengths and weaknesses are of the forthcoming Scotland Act.

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