What Will the New Scottish Parliament Mean for Conservation?

"Just what will the new Scottish Parliament mean?" is a question that is on our minds and not just from a conservation standpoint. The Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link, SWCL, are already ahead of the game as they have recruited a Parliamentary Officer to assist them find their way around. At our AGM last December, the new Officer, Elspeth Alexandra came along and gave us a first class presentation and I want to lay out here a few of the pointers she has given us. I hope I can justify this in that politics run our lives on the micro and macro scale - so if we want to be an effective player we have little option but to find out what is going on. Furthermore at the time of writing, apart from the occasional general advert on the TV that tells you little more than the date, there seems to be a dearth on information available to Jo Public - like you and me!

The Political Bones

At the 6th May election the Scottish electorate will be asked to vote three times as follows:
First vote
Right now there are 72 Parliamentary Constituencies in Scotland and each MP is voted in on a Constituency by Constituency basis. Whoever wins the most votes gets elected a seat in Parliament - the political jargon for this is "first past the post". The 72 Scottish constituencies are to remain in the New Scottish Parliament with one addition - Orkney and Shetland are to get one MSP each (Member Scottish Parliament) making a new total of 73 constituencies.
Second vote
By the time this article reaches you it is hoped more information will be available to show how the second vote will increase the level of proportional representation in the Scottish voting system. Here is an illustration of that old chestnut "proportional representation". Imagine there are 4 Constituents in a country and 2 parties competing, one called Left and one called Right.
Here is how the voting went:
NORTH: 25 Left, 58 Right
(Right wins)
EAST: 16 Left, 14 Right
(Left wins)
WEST: 14 Left, 12 Right
(Left wins)
SOUTH: 95 Left, 160 Right
(Right wins)

So what do we have but a hung parliament, equal seats on both sides? However lets count the votes: 150 Lefts, 242 Rights - the majority wants a Right parliament but they are not to get it. OK so this is common knowledge to the majority, however maybe it is still worth the telling.

The second vote is a bit more complicated. The usual constituents are going to be grouped into 8 Scottish Parliament regions. Here is a list of the 9 constituents in the North East Region plus their current MPs.

Banff & BuchanSNPAlex Salmond
GordonLib DemMalcolm Bruce
Aberdeen NorthLabourMalcolm Savidge
Aberdeen SouthLabourAnn Begg
Aberdeen CentralLabourFrank Doran
Aberdeenshire West & KincardinshireLib DemSir Robert Smith
AngusSNPAndrew Welsh
Dundee EastLabourJohn McAllion
Dundee WestLabourErnie Ross

Web sites: www.election.co.uk   www.scottish-devolution.org.uk and www.scottish.parliament.uk

7 new MSPs will be represent each of the 8 constituencies making an additional of 56 MSPs. Thus this new system will therefore:

Third vote
The local councillors will be also voted in in the usual manner on May 6th.

The New Look

The Scottish Parliament is to make full use of IT with interactive web sites, electronic voting, video conferencing and information kiosks. It is stated the decision-making process of the new Parliament will make greater use of public involvement with, eg, NGOs given the opportunity for participate in the policy development. As with all politics this sounds good, it is what we are being promised, - it is important to keep these promises in mind! The Environment, Farming, Fisheries and Forestry and Economic Development will all come under the new Scottish Parliament. In Link's words "The establishment of a Scottish Parliament is a historic opportunity to introduce sustainable environmental policies in Scotland."

The Land Reform debate, initiated by the Labour Party is fascinating in that it has made the other parties come forward with comment - all weaving in and out of the social, economic and environmental arguments that make up this new tapestry which we are calling "Sustainable Development". The environmental movement has to continue to make its case in that, with the new light showing the way to community involvement, the wisest course of action has to be based on giving the environment the respect it deserves. NEMT members are advised further information on the political debate is available if you contact SWCL's Parliamentary Officer.
Jennifer A Cook, 31st March, 1999

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