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29 September 2014

The Smith Commission on Further Devolution

In relation to further powers for the Scottish Parliament, I wrote to my SNP MSP recently. Feel free to reuse, share etc.

Smith Commission on Further Devolution

I would like you to note, as my constituency MSP the following views in relation to the Smith Commission

That the Scottish Government, the SNP and the respective leaders of the Labour Party, Liberal Democrat Party and Conservative Party both at UK level and in Scotland accept the people of Scotland are sovereign over their own affairs. There are numerous additional references to this, ranging from the Wings over Scotland blog and the Claim of Right 1989 signed by the Scottish Constitutional Convention.

It is fundamental as part of recognising Scottish sovereignty that recognition is also given to what territory we are sovereign over, ie. what constitutes Scotland. This is not only important as a basic principle, but will become of increasing importance in terms of legislation as further powers come under the remit of the Scottish parliament. In 1999, approximately 6000 square miles of what was formerly Scottish sea was redesignated as English under the Westminster Act, the Scottish Adjacent Boundaries Order (1999). This was passed into law the night before the Scottish parliament reconvened after a 292 year postponement and was not openly debated in the House of Commons.

As a sovereign nation, the Scottish boundary should not be moved without consulting with the Scottish people. This was not done, therefore I am writing to ask that you personally support the reinstatement of the pre-1999 Scottish sea boundary and feed it into the Smith Commission negotiations.

Secondly and in recognition of the existing and further political devolution which is coming to Scotland it is essential that we receive devolution of political and news content from the BBC for which Scots pay a licence fee to ensure there is a proper amount of airtime to examine Scottish political issues. This would mean at least the following:

1) The realignment of the Scottish and UK news so that editorial control over the entire unified slot is in Scotland and stories from Scotland, the UK and abroad are covered and broadcast in a manner which reflects the importance and interest to the people of Scotland. This would replace the current arrangement which is UK and international news first followed by a Scottish slot at the end. The current arrangement not only gives undue prominence to England only stories but also insufficient time to cover Scottish specific stories in depth. This is the argument raised when a "Scottish Six" was discussed although I am calling for this change in all news bulletins.

2) That the political impartiality of broadcasters in Scotland is overseen by an independent body which reports back to the Scottish Parliament on matters of political impartiality, in a similar way to the role of the Scottish electoral commission and Scottish elections.

I am writing to ask that you personally support this move towards devolved political and news coverage in Scotland and feed it into the Smith Commission negotiations.

I look forward to hearing from you on these matters.

Craig Cockburn

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