Dual mandates occur when an individual holds elected office for two positions. In the Scottish context, this can be any combination of MP, MSP, Councillor or Peer. Upgrade Holyrood supports accountable and fair representation and therefore opposes dual mandates.
The problem with dual mandates
The main argument against dual mandates is one of two connected parts. In principle, parliamentarians are elected to serve their constituents at either Holyrood or Westminster. Each role has different responsibilities, and representatives owe it to their constituents to solely focus on representing constituents in one clear capacity. Dual mandates mean this cannot happen.
Related to that is the practical element. Being an MP or MSP is a full-time job and carrying out the duties of both roles to the same extent as a representative for one job is simply impossible. Constituents deserve better than that.
Dual mandates in Scotland
Dual mandates in Scotland are currently not a massive issue as there are no joint MP-MSPs or joint MSP-Lords but the issue has made headlines in recent months. Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross’ explicit commitment to hold a dual mandate as well as the Alba Party candidacies of MPs Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey in the 2021 election have reignited debate about the issue. There are a small number of MSPs that are also councillors. That all said, the fact that dual mandates can still exist flies in the face of accountable democracy.
Dual mandate patterns are largely representative of changing political winds such as the influx of Labour MSPs at the parliament’s inception, the surge in support for the SNP in 2007 and 2011 and the jump in representation of Scottish Conservatives in 2016. This is symptomatic of the Scottish (and British) political career ladder, with local government often viewed as a stepping-stone to Holyrood or Westminster.
READ MORE: 5 reasons to ban dual mandates
Dual mandate bans in the UK and abroad
In recent years, the House of Commons has banned dual mandate MLAs in Northern Ireland and dual mandate MSs in Wales. There is no reason why a similar ban could not be put in place for Scotland.
Dual mandates are also banned to varying extents in other democracies around the world. MEPs are not allowed to take their seats if they also hold a mandate in a national parliament. They are also banned as far afield as Australia and Canada.
With dual mandates banned in Wales, Northern Ireland and in other countries around the world, why not Scotland?
Banning dual mandates in Scotland
There is debate to be had over how to ban dual mandates in Scotland. Should candidacy for one legislative body if a member of another be banned outright or should there be a grace period like in Wales or Northern Ireland? Should MPs and MSPs also be prevented from being councillors? Upgrade Holyrood’s report on ending dual mandates explores these options.
Dual mandates are unfair on constituents and are not in keeping with the spirit of representative democracy. A discussion must be had about dual mandates in Scotland which must lead to an eventual ban.
The full Upgrade Holyrood report on ending dual mandates, will be available here.