Letter : Democracy for the modern age

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The Independent Online
From Ms Marion Ralls

Sir: Revelations of parliamentary activities by MPs connected withpaid consultancies for particular sections of business, industry or other special interests surely highlight the inadequacy of our present Westminster structures. MPs are elected to the House of Commons solely by their geographic constituencies and paid and trusted to represent the interests of all the ordinary electors therein. This may well include speaking up for needs connected with sources of major employment in their constituency. Whether they should also be paid to work the parliamentary process in favour of particular business, industrial or social groups on a random, personal, non-democratic and nearly invisible basis is surely another question.

In Scotland, work is in progress on new democratic structures suited to the modern age. We plan a fairly elected, proportionally representative parliament, in which adequately paid MSPs will represent the citizens in their geographic constituencies, as a full-time job. Keeping up to date with the concerns of the people they are representing is as much a part of that job as keeping up to date in your work is a requirement for all.

On its own, however, this structure does not provide well for the democratic representation of the needs and interests of society from the other angle of business, industry, services, culture, leisure: our occupations, our social lives and responsibilities. The structures of "civil society" do not necessarily match geographic parliamentary constituencies, yet initiatives, input and informed scrutiny of legislation from this angle is clearly essential.

We are forming a "civic assembly", based mainly on the key sectors of civil society such as business, education, health, transport, etc, democratically representing all involved in them. It is these key sectors that will be able to consider and suggest legislation required in their area, check for untoward interactions with other sectors within the assembly, and advise the MSPs and the specialist committees of the parliament.

Yours sincerely,

MARION RALLS

Edinburgh

17 May

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