Monday, 21 July 2008

Is Ming Attempting to Rough Shod Democracy?

We are the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Following May last year we took a lambasting from the Nats because the party with the largest mandate at Holyrood backed a referendum and we refused to enter talks with them about issues we may have agreed on simply, seemingly because they did.

Now it appears that Menzies Campbell is saying that no matter what the Scottish Conference of members may decide on the question of having a referendum, the 16 MSPs should no matter what not vote for a democratic referendum.

There are two issues that our conference needs to debate against the changing political landscape. The first is whether we should allow the people of Scotland to have a democratic say in the future of Scotland, the second is should we back independence. The second issue I'm pretty sure that my fellow Scottish Liberal Democrats will say a resounding, though not unanimous, no to. The first however, should really be a fundamental of our principles and despite some of the leadership being scared of facing the possibility when have we ever shirked from other tough calls in the past.

Now I'm a little worried with the way the party leadership appears to be trying to take the party over the last wee. First Nick Clegg mentioned scaling down the committee structure of the party and now his predecessor is advocating that the MSPs should ignore the democratic vote of the membership should it not go the way of the leadership.

Policy Committee doesn't always get it's own way at Scottish conference, not because it hasn't come up with policies, but because sometimes their policies have ignored some issue out there in the wider Scotland that the root and branch membership feel that the solution that has been come up with is wrong. In those situation often an amendment comes it to make the necessary correction or occasion replace the whole motion or the motion is rejected. This is not a bad thing indeed it is one of the things that drew me in and keeps me within our party. If the leadership don't agree with a certain proposal they have to muck and give firm reasons why and win the debate and hearts of the membership. If they then go and ride rough shod over democracy there is likely to me mutiny in the ranks.

Ross Finnie in the leadership elections has not ruled out the possibility of the party backing a referendum following a full debate, Mike Rumbles has promised that this debate would take place at next Spring's conference. Two very democratic and open minded views. We haven't had such a debate since the 1990s and the landscape has changed. No longer is it abstract but now somewhat more focused, it is high time the party reassessed its view on allowing a referendum on the question, even if we don't back the ultimate outcome desired by those who want to ask the question.

But in liberal democracy 16 should never be allowed to ignore the majority view of the 4,000 members who help put them and keep them in place in the seats they represent.

Hattip to Stephen Tall @ Lib Dem Voice

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