In the Hansard Society’s latest Audit of Political Engagement, a record 73% of respondents agree that Westminster’s Parliament is ‘essential to democracy’. Yet within the very same survey, only 32% are satisfied with the way Parliament works and only 28% believe that it encourages public involvement in politics. A number of academic commentators have also cast doubt upon Parliament’s credentials, with some regarding it as ‘either peripheral or totally irrelevant’; and within comparative scholarship, the House of Commons is frequently derided as lacking the clout of its continental counterparts.
In the last few months, an intensive spotlight has been thrown on Scottish government and politics. First, almost 45% of the voters supported leaving the UK and second a consensus has emerged that the Scottish Parliament should acquire additional powers. Latterly, opinion polls have chronicled a surge in support for the SNP and potential electoral doom for Labour in Scotland and perhaps consequentially at UK level. These contemporary events provided a good forward for research I have been undertaking over the last few years on scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament. The central themes perhaps being is this resurgent self-confidence in Scottish institutions justified? And how do they differ from those at UK level?