Thoughts on a 2nd chamber in the Scottish Parliament
16 January 2013
Notwithstanding the fact that Michael Forsyth did a much better job of making his case today than any unionist MPs did yesterday, I abhor the House of Lords. The idea that people can inherit the right to sit in parliament nowadays is grotesque, even if that number is much reduced. The system of patronage in place now, along with life peerages makes the partially reformed House only a little better than it was a few decades ago.
I am in favour of a second chamber though, and again have to give a nod to the Lords, who I remember holding up and amending various poorly thought-out acts over the years.
However, there's a valid observation that an elected second chamber will often only mirror the lower house, and fail to pay for itself in taking a distinctive approach to debate.
So in thinking of how to create an elected upper chamber which can bring something different to parliament I came up with the following. It almost certainly requires electronic voting, both due to the complexity of counting, and the increased options in the voting process. It will certainly have many flaws and may be unworkable, but here goes.
Instead of using geographical constituencies I envisage ones based on sections of society. These constituencies may be to do with employment or cultural interests. For example:
- The medical profession
- Trade Unionists
- The law
- Church of Scotland
- Jedi Knights
- Computer games
- LGBT rights
- Opera fans
There should be no limit to the number of constituencies. Anyone can propose a new one - perhaps they'd need 10,000 signatures to have it on the ballot.
Voters in each constituency would be self-appointed, but each voter would be limited to, say, 3 constituencies, so would vote in the ones which mattered to them most.
In order to be elected from a constituency a candidate would almost certainly need to be well versed and regarded in the field, otherwise they'd be unlikely to get many votes.
The number of successful candidates in any one constituency would be fluid. If a million people vote as part of the Agriculture constituency, there might be 10 elected members. If only 25,000 select themselves into the Aquarists constituency, even the top candidate may not reach an overall threshold for election, and so the Aquarists would be unrepresented in parliament.
This might be a silly idea, but with an independent Scotland looking for a new constitution in a couple of years, this is a good time to think up silly ideas.