The Scottish Parliament: A Scandinavian-Style Assembly?

The Scottish Parliament: A Scandinavian-Style Assembly?

The Scottish Parliament: A Scandinavian-Style Assembly?

The Scottish Parliament: A Scandinavian-Style Assembly?

Synopsis

Since devolution in 1999 Scotland can be considered a Scandinavian-style small democracy with several features common to a Scandinavian parliament. In short David Arter asks whether Scotland's parliament is developing a Scandinavian-style parliamentarism.

Excerpt

The basic premise of this book is that since devolution in 1999 Scotland can be considered a Scandinavian-style small democracy with several features of a Scandinavian-style parliament. The basic research question, therefore, is: 'Has the Scottish Parliament in the first four years of its existence manifested a Scandinavian-style politics in the sense that there has been a high incidence of inter-party negotiation within parliament?' In short, is the Scottish Parliament developing a Scandinavian-style parliamentarism?

The particular focus of the volume is on committees as legislative actors. The architects of the Scottish Parliament saw the committees as the motor of a 'new politics' and gave them extensive powers, inter alia to initiate legislation and undertake inquiries, as well as scrutinise government (executive) bills. Outside Austria, only the Swedish and Icelandic committees have comparable powers. Accordingly, this book sets out to describe and analyse the workings of the committees in the Scottish, Swedish and Icelandic parliaments. To complete the comparisons with the Nordic region, the concluding chapter also discusses the operation of the Danish, Finnish and Norwegian committees.

The book, which is in three parts, draws on in-depth interviews with the convenors (chairs) of the Scottish, Swedish and Icelandic committees undertaken in summer and autumn 2002. The first six chapters comprising Part 1 are organised around the theme 'The Scottish Parliamentary Committees. The Motor of a New Politics?' Chapters 7-10 examine the role of 'The Standing Committees in a Bargaining Democracy' with reference to the Swedish Riksdag. Chapters 11 and 12 concentrate on the committees in the Icelandic Althingi and whether Iceland may be regarded as a case of 'Old Politics in an Ancient Parliament'. The concluding chapter (13) revisits and responds to the main research question-'Is a Scandinavian-style parliamentarism emerging in Scotland?' An epilogue analyses the results of the 1 May 2003 Scottish Parliament election and the likely implications for politics 'north of the border' between 2003 and 2007.

Plainly, committees cannot be considered in isolation from other legislative actors. Political parties are of supreme importance. Indeed, the extent of inter-party negotiation in parliament has been seen as the definitive trait of Scandinavian parliamentarism. In the Swedish case, the frequency of inter-party negotiation at the parliamentary stage of the legislative process-and, on this basis, it has been characterised as a 'bargaining democracy'-has been dictated by three primary factors. First,

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