Consensus Building with Proportional Representation

by Brendan Buff // Published February 15, 2009
The Scottish Parliament recently failed to pass its' budget for 2009.  Cries of outrage were heard across the country, fear of a failing institution, threats of a vote of no confidence. Although the deadline for passing the budget is weeks away, a sense of urgency is felt within Parliament.

An article in The Scotsman highlights the varying stances on the budget for the different parties in Scottish Parliament.  Lawmakers from these parties are having difficulty reaching a compromise, and each party needs to enact policies which will help both their constituents as well as the country at large.

These problems are only temporary, and procedural.  Scotland incorporates a form of proportional representation called the Additional Member System which uses half First Past the Post and half proportional representation to elect members to parliament. This system allows for the direct representation of First Past the Post, as well as the minority representation of proportional representation.

Proportional representation requires consensus building among parties with diverse and sometimes opposing interests. While the process may seem messy at first glance, the policy comes out more representative of the interests of the people.

This is a break from the old Westminster model of rotating party control, overreaching with policies and attempting to reverse the legislation of the past. Government creates policy with input from the entire electorate due to the lack of major power centers and dominant parties.  Greater deliberation and prudence is required in order to create legislation which satisfies all, as opposed to a slim majority.  The Scottish Parliament is in safe hands, not in one large party in power, but in the wise hands of proportional representation.