April 6, 2009

Learning from America

There was an article in the Times recently, which was picked up by some of the unionist commentators, suggesting that the UK was over governed, and quoting the fact that the US House of Representatives has only 435 members for its 300 Million population. This was then compared with the 635 MPs, plus 60 AMs, 129 MSPs and 108 MLAs, and suggesting a radical reduction in all of these numbers, and predictably the abolition of the devolved Celtic Assemblies.

What the Times forgot to mention was that every State in the US also has its own State Legislature, and taking the example of Mississippi, which like Wales has a population of around 3 million, this elects 122 members to its House of Representatives and 52 members to its Senate, as well as a State Governor. This is in addition to electing members to the US House of Representatives and Senate.

And the US is not unusual in this respect – taking federal Germany as another example. The German Lander of Schleswig-Hosltein (population 3 million) elects 69 members to its State Legislature or Landtag, while at the same time sending members to the Bundesparliament in Berlin.

And again in Spain, which is divided into a series of Autonomous Communities, which includes Galicia – population 3 million. Galicia elects 75 deputies to its legislative Parliament in addition to sending representatives to Madrid.

Even France, one of the most centralised countries in Europe (apart from the UK of course) is divided into a series of Regional Counsels which have legislative and executive powers. This includes Bretagne (population 3 million), which elects 83 Councillors to its Counsel as well as sending politicians to Paris.

So despite what the anti-devolutionists would have you believe, devolved governments with legislative powers are the norm around the world and it is the UK which is out of step. And none of the examples quoted above is on the ‘slippery slope to independence’.

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