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Forging a new political culture: Plenary behaviour in the scottish parliament

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Part of the appeal of creating a new Scottish Parliament lay in the ability of legislators to re-define the institutional culture of politics. For advocates of change, the Westminster system, with its emphasis on adversarial and male-dominated politics, turned citizens off politics. Devolution advocates argued that a Scottish Parliament, composed of a new type of politician and operating according to modernised rules, would better serve the public. The four principles of the Consultative Steering Group report included among them references to a more open and accessible political system. The 1999 elections introduced a number of new faces but among the 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) are a number of sitting and former local councillors, Members of Parliament and party workers. This article examines these individuals and their behaviour in the first year of plenary debates to determine whether the social characteristics of these MSPs, their gender, their partisan ties or their previous political experiences affects the likelihood of a new model of political debate. It argues that initially the political experience of MSPs affected their levels of participation but that increasingly, position within the Parliament exerts a greater influence. Some social characteristics such as gender, however, continue to influence the extent and manner of participation.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

Publication date: 2005-03-01

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