Published on October 20, 2014

“It is essential that people are given a say in the shape of our political system”

People & participation Scotland

By Tim Hughes

Tim is director of Involve. He took over leadership of the organisation in January 2017, having previously led Involve’s open government programme and the UK Open Government Network (OGN).

Involve is one of 28 civil society organisations, academics and democracy experts who have written to William Hague calling for a citizen-led constitutional convention. Read the letter below:


Friday 17th October 2014

Dear Rt Hon William Hague,

We are writing to you as representatives of a broad range of civil society – including democracy experts, membership organisations and academics – to urge the Devolution Committee which you chair to recommend establishment of a citizen-led Constitutional Convention with real powers to decide the future shape of the UK.

When it comes to new Scottish powers, there is clearly no going back on The Vow. But once these powers are delivered, there will still be wider questions about where power should lie elsewhere within the United Kingdom. Your committee is tasked with answering these difficult questions. We believe the best way of approaching this task is to give the lead to citizens, within a clearly defined process of decision-making.

The Scottish independence referendum demonstrated people’s enthusiasm for making decisions about the future of the UK. When given a real choice with real influence, Scots turned out to discuss, debate and vote on their future in unprecedented numbers. We urge your committee to build on this passion and give people across the UK a role in shaping the country.

A citizen-led Constitutional Convention is the only way to answer questions about the future of the UK in a way which commands legitimacy and ensures a sustainable settlement. It will not do for politicians to make these decisions about our constitutional future behind closed doors.

We are calling for a Constitutional Convention based on the following five principles:

  • UK-wide: it should involve the people of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
  • People-led: a majority of the Convention participants should be randomly selected from the population, in a way which represents the UK as a whole
  • Focused on where power lies: the Convention should focus on deciding the balance of powers between the Westminster Government and our nations, regions, localities and people
  • Nations and regions recognised: the main Convention should be informed by discussions at a regional and national level, involving people from every section of society
  • Binding: there must be mechanisms in place – including a binding referendum – for ensuring that decisions made by the Convention are acted upon

We appreciate the challenges facing your committee, and would like to help you bring in the widest range of voices as possible to meet these challenges. To that end, please let us know how we can best contribute to your work.

In a time of low election turnouts and rising distrust in politicians, it is essential that people are given a say in the shape of our political system. You have an unrivalled opportunity to give them this chance. We ask you to seize it.

Yours sincerely,

Katie Ghose, chief executive, Electoral Reform Society
Prof Vernon Bogdanor, King’s College London
Alexandra Runswick, director, Unlock Democracy
Graham Allen MP, chair, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee
Stephen Bubb, chief executive, Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations
Prof Patrick Dunleavy, co-director, Democratic Audit
Dr Alan Renwick, Reading University
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive, National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Mita Desai, chair, British Youth Council
Dr Andrew Blick, King’s College London
Nan Sloane, director, Centre for Women and Democracy
Anthony Zacharzewski, director, Democratic Society
Prof Roger Scully, University of Cardiff
Prof Matthew Flinders, University of Sheffield
Graeme McDonald, director, SOLACE
Prof Yvonne Galligan, Queen’s University Belfast
Prof Graham Walker, Queen’s University Belfast
David Torrance, journalist
Anthony Barnett, Open Democracy
Prof Laura McAllister, University of Liverpool
Emma Ritch, director, Engender Scotland
Simon Burall, director, Involve
Prof Stuart White, Jesus College, Oxford University
Neal Lawson, chair, Compass
Prof Conor Gearty, London School of Economics
Prof Simon Hix, London School of Economics
Prof Ron Johnston, Bristol University
Mike Sani, managing director, Bite the Ballot

 

Picture Credit: UK Parliament, Rajan Manickavasagam

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