In support of the SNP and Plaid

Both the SNP and Plaid Cymru are circling the wagons against the recently announced TV debates with the former threatening legal action as a result of their lack of representation. I have sympathy with their position; what more encouragement could you give to nationalism than the editorial in The Times? It contemptuously dismisses the SNP;

Much as this may surprise Mr Salmond, the rest of Britain is packed to the gunwales with people who have no interest in him whatsoever.

It may well be true that voters in England have no interest in the positions of both the nationalist point of view but that is barely the point from a democratic standpoint. Telling both Scotland and Wales that the nationalist parties that represent them don’t matter or that they are merely regions of the United Kingdom is unlikely to do anything but encourage the feeling that Westminster has no interest in their concerns and increase their sense of alienation.  

 The Guardian, which is more sympathetic, makes the point that Quebec nationalists are within Canada’s coast-to-coast federal election debates. Surely then a solution can be found that incorporates both the SNP and Plaid? It makes the distinction between the nationalist parties and ‘aspirant’ Parliamentary parties like UKIP and the Greens. However, this is a false distinction to some degree as while it is true that both do not represent people at Westminster they do at other levels such as council and European level. 

Given that the BBC recently justified the inclusion of the British National Party leader Nick Griffin  on Question Time on the grounds of their two MEP’s I feel that the ‘aspirant’ parties also have a legitimate grievance about the arrangement of these debates. They are partially the victims in this instance of the electoral system which means these aspirations can be denied with a degree of credibility.

As things stand these debates are a positive development whose potential to make a substantial contribution to our democratic life are curtailed by the terms under which they are being arranged.

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About darrellgoodliffe

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