Evolving crises at heart of government

Michael Fry and Alan ­Massie have both written articles this week which refer to the “decrepit UK”, which, like “discredited Westminster”, is an oft-repeated, and seldom questioned, phrase.

As a Liberal Democrat, there is much about Westminster government I dislike.

The failure to reform the House of Lords and the rejection of any variety of proportional representation are big disappointments. The UK has historically been over-centralised and London-dominated.

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Nevertheless, in all fairness, it must be acknowledged that Westminster has shown a capacity for reform.

The past 20 years have seen major, and evolving, devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the introduction of fixed parliamentary terms, and a strengthened and effective select committee system whose chairpersons, such as Margaret Hodge, are clearly influential politicians.

We have even had coalition government which has provided stability in difficult and dangerous economic and political times.

It is with genuine regret that I have to say that the Scottish Parliament, in contrast, has regressed from its founding ideals. Far from providing the hoped-for rational debate and more consensual approach to politics, it seems to have adopted the worst of Westminster practices with First Minister’s Questions even more puerile than its Westminster equivalent.

The committee system seems debilitated, the grip of the executive all-powerful and Scotland’s regions are being strangled by centralisation.

We have the opportunity to reform the United Kingdom without destroying our partnership but if we are to build a better democracy we have to be honest with ourselves about the current situation in both Scotland and the UK.

Joan Mitchell


Dumfries and Galloway