Tag Archive for 'scottish_executive'

The Scottish Government – what’s in a name?

The recent news that the new SNP Scottish Executive had decided to re-brand itself as the “Scottish Government” caught my eye for about 30 seconds before I decided that it didn’t really matter. Of course it’s understandable that a nationalist administration would want to do everything it can to project an image of “creeping independence”. That doesn’t always mean that the substance matters. Yet this particular bit of spin seems to have annoyed quite a few people, including claims The Times the Prime Minister. Source: You’re no government, says Brown as Salmond renames the Executive [The Times].

I’m sure most Scots thought of the Scottish Executive as the Scottish “government”. People living in federal systems such as the USA and Australia, as well as some European nations such as Germany have long been used to “state” and “federal” levels of “government”. There’s really no problem with having multiple levels of “government” in the UK. The problem if anything was a lack of foresight by the UK government. They called the Welsh Assembly Government a “government” even though it has much less powers. They could have seen this coming and similarly called the Scottish Executive a “government”. Or not used the word “government” at all for consistency.

Having said all that, in my opinion, the term “government” is technically wrong and “executive” much more accurate for the UK‘s devolved bodies. The reason? Precisely because they are devolved bodies. We do not have a federal system in this country. All devolved bodies derive their legal authority from the UK Parliament – which retains the power to overrule or revoke their authority at any time. In a true federal system the constituent states have a degree of sovereignty. In my view no body of political administration can be considered a “government” unless it has sovereignty. Furthermore you’re not really a government if you’re dependent for funding on a stipend from a superior body. But since I’m sympathetic to a more federal UK I’m happy for the informal language to move in that direction.