December 9, 2014 : Jenny Bloomfield

Surprise wins for democracy in Smith Commission

It’s fantastic that the Smith Commission recommends the devolution of power over elections. It looks like votes for 16 and 17-year-olds are coming to Scotland!

The Smith Commission has been occupying the lives of many policy-bods since the referendum. Unfortunately, we didn’t get many of the things that SCVO and the third sector were calling for.

But the report does boast some positive recommendations – not least, the one giving Scottish Parliament control over voting.

I blogged the day after the referendum about the wonderful victory for democracy that the referendum was – with 97% registration and 85% turnout, the highest ever in Scotland.

it’s clear there’s plenty of appetite for engaging in formal politics

And that democratic involvement looks set to continue. Admittedly, the behind-closed-doors Smith Commission wasn’t perhaps the most open process in the world (something of an understatement there). But with over 18,000 submissions to the commission from individuals (an unprecedented amount for a formal consultation), I think it’s clear there’s plenty of appetite for engaging in formal politics.

And on that front, at least, the Smith Commission has delivered, with the power over elections being devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This means the Scottish Parliament will be able to let 16 and 17-year-olds vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections, just like they did for the referendum.

The Smith Commission recommended that power should come to Scotland in time for the 2016 election so we can keep all those new younger voters engaged, and I hope that it does. I also hope that political parties support people to engage with the details of the proposals as they are turned into legislation. And that devolution of powers continues down the food-chain, bringing decision-making powers closer to communities whenever it makes sense to do so.

Those last two points aren’t in the remit of the Smith Commission, but they are important points that Smith and his team picked up on during their work, and that SCVO and others have been pushing for some time. So with one good thing coming out of this process for democracy, let’s hope we can get a few more over the next few months.

Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don't represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

by Jenny Bloomfield