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Society, Politics & Law

Power sharing and responsibility

Updated Tuesday, 30th April 2013

Article five of ten: How can two parliaments share power and responsibility? 

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For the Scottish National Party (SNP) cohabitation meant negotiating with Westminster for its 'bread and butter' – the annual block grants returned to Scotland from UK-wide tax and custom revenues. For Labour (and other unionist parties) cohabitation meant the SNP blaming any policy failings on Westminster-based controls, interference and lack of resourcing, and arguing that only in a fully independent Scotland would Scotland be well-resourced and policies successful. The parliaments were in essence sharing power and responsibility.

Such power sharing was enhanced in a minority government situation where Labour, along with the Conservatives and LibDems, could easily defeat SNP policies. One such defeat occurred in September 2010 over the introduction of minimum prices on alcohol to tackle the nation's health problems. Another happened with regards to the SNP's first attempt at introducing a referendum on the constitution. Nevertheless, the SNP administration was successful precisely because it had to power-share. It gave the SNP, a party which had never previously held power, a chance to display its readiness and preparedness to govern. In spite of the apparent handicaps, the party managed to steer a course that received wide cross-party backing and developed the perception that it was now a party 'of government'.

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