Friday, July 30, 2021

Ending royal corruption in Scotland?

Earlier in the week, The Guardian reported that England's monarch had been secretly having laws amended to carve out exemptions for herself, using a procedure called "crown consent". Its a corrupt holdover from the days of absolute monarchy, and something which has no place in a modern democracy, or even in the UK. Unfortunately, Scotland can't get rid of it (at least, not until they're independent, at which point they can redefine their relationship with the monarch, or just tell them to go fuck themselves). But as Andy Wightman points out, there are a few things they can do to make this power much harder to use:

First, Scottish ministers should reject any request from the palace to exempt the Queen’s private estates from Scottish legislation. If this means that Queen’s consent is refused, then ministers should come to parliament and make that known.

Second, the Scottish parliament can take the initiative. It cannot remove the statutory requirement for Queen’s consent but it can amend its procedures to require far greater transparency from ministers about which bills require it, when and under what conditions it has been granted, and (most critically for legislative proposals) complete candour about which parts of any bill or any subsequent amendments are being lodged at the request of the Queen.

That an unelected head of state has the power to legislate in their personal interests, with no transparency or accountability, is antithetical to democracy. The Scottish parliament must take a lead in insisting on the openness and transparency it so often claims to champion.

Meanwhile, Aotearoa has a holdover of this in our parliamentary rules. Standing Order 321 provides that "No member’s bill, local bill, or private bill that contains any provision affecting the rights or prerogatives of the Crown may be passed unless the Crown has, by message, indicated its consent to that provision". I'm not sure if this means that there is a similar consent process here for government bills, or whether it is simply assumed that the government automaticly consents on behalf of the foreign monarch to its own legislation. Either way though, seeing member's bills with majority support having to wait for a formal stamp of approval from an unelected foreign inbred who lives on the other side of the world is demeaning to our democracy. I can't recall such consent ever being denied - we're not the UK, after all - but the possibility that it could be, to a bill with majority support, is an affront to our democracy. As for how to fix it, the solution is obvious: remove this odious provision (and until that happens, move to suspend it in any third reading debate on a member's bill).