Democratic ideals must be defended. An increasing number seem unwilling to accept democratic decisions, feeling that the system is failing if it fails to yield their desired outcome. We will encourage democratic engagement and promote the philosophy of democracy.
There are currently many issues on which elected representatives do not represent the spectrum of views in society. Referenda can enable the genuine voice of the people to be heard and prevent the political and media establishments from giving a false impression of public opinion. The reluctance of the government to hold referenda when challenged to could convey a message in itself. The SFP would call for a referendum on an issue if we believed that the government was acting against the will of the majority of the population in a matter of serious consequence. A reluctant political establishment might seek to obstruct the implementation of referenda results, but better that than the majority view remaining unexpressed.
We would explore the possibilities of digital democracy, allowing the public the opportunity to express views through votes on individual policies and legislative proposals routinely as they arise.
Election campaigns in Scotland are routinely dominated by issues not relevant to that level of politics. We will endeavour to point this out when necessary and will encourage the media to focus on the relevant issues.
Local engagement in politics is important. In each election campaign, in every constituency and region, a hustings event should be filmed and made available online, along with a filmed message from each candidate and an online discussion forum.
The Holyrood election Regional Lists should be replaced by a National List. The proportional representation element is undermined by regionalisation. The current regional system unjustly rewards geographical concentration of support, while setting the bar unnecessarily high for viable, smaller parties. Furthermore, we are open to full proportional representation in the longer term.
There are four problems with Local Government:
1) Councils areas are too big, and so lose community engagement. They could be split, or district councils reinstated;
2) Councils increasingly just have to implement central government policy in many areas. More decisions should be devolved;
3) Council spending is not linked closely enough with Council Tax level, so there is a lack of accountability;
4) Lack of public awareness. Again, a single website of films of candidates, online hustings etc. could help.
Democracy in Scotland is seriously undermined by the government abusing its power by giving taxpayers’ money to organisations and charities that are very influential in public debate. Such ‘sock puppet’ charities present themselves as grassroots movements, while they actually are paid by the government to advance the government’s agenda. This injection of funds skews public debate as other views lack the organisational and staffing resources to compete. As well as promoting the government’s philosophies, these organisations often praise and give positive publicity to government officials.
We propose that a large number of such organisations are defunded, regardless of the controversy. Organisations in receipt of state funding should be restricted in their campaigning. For example, Scottish Women’s Aid should not be free to argue for liberalisation of abortion law while receiving taxpayers’ money. All charities that engage in any campaigning or public communication should have to declare their direct and indirect government funding clearly and prominently. We list some organisations whose funding we question in our Public Finance policies.
Educational institutions should offer the opportunity for students to hear a diverse range of viewpoints, especially as younger people are now able to vote. The current all-pervasive promotion of a particular political outlook in schools must be challenged.
The highest standards of integrity, openness and honesty should be demanded of politicians and government at all times. Every temptation to bend the rules or the truth in pursuit of political goals and ambitions must be resisted and exposed.
If politicians show themselves to be dishonest and dishonourable in their personal lives, for example by having an affair, this insight into their character is not irrelevant to their public role. Respect for politicians would be enhanced by higher expectations of integrity and faithfulness.
If a politician is showing moral failings, the electorate should know about it. Elected politicians and those seeking election should not be able to use legal means to prevent the publication of facts about their behaviour and lifestyle where these would be relevant to assessing their integrity and character.
We seek to model civil and respectful debate, refraining from insult, ridicule and hysteria.