Jack McConnell says UK governance in ‘state of crisis’ as he calls for ‘radical’ reforms

© SuppliedFormer first minister Jack McConnell.
Former first minister Jack McConnell.

Jack McConnell has called for a series of “radical” reforms to restore trust in the UK political system.

The former first minister, in an essay published today, said the current system was “in a state of crisis” and that people have “had enough of those in power seemingly existing in another world”.

Mr McConnell said “nothing less than a radical transformation of structures and political culture” would restore confidence with the public as he called for the abolition of the House of Lords, the establishment of a “Senate of Nations and Regions” to bolster devolved voices at a UK level and a new “UK Council of Ministers” for co-decision-making between the nations of the UK.

The Labour peer, writing for the think tank the Smith Institute, said: “Nothing less than radical transformation of structures and political culture will restore confidence in our democracy and system of government.

“Brexit – if it now happens – might yet provide that opportunity for some big picture thinking and leadership.

“It is surely time for abolition of the Lords, establishing a Senate of Nations and Regions; and for restructuring the UK Cabinet, alongside a new UK Council of Ministers for co-decision-making between the nations of the UK where powers are devolved but decisions would be better taken together.”

He added: “The UK government should reach an agreement with the devolved governments leading to regular secondments and interchange between UK departments and departments reporting to ministers in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

“Top level civil servants in London, and in the devolved governments, should have spent some of their career working at the other level, understanding the internal systems and dynamics at play there, and understanding the relationships from both sides.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who also wrote an essay for the think tank, warned that a breakdown in good governance had occurred partially due to Brexit.

She said: “The UK government has routinely deprived Scottish government civil servants of important information, for example on preparations for a “no-deal Brexit”, which I would expect to be made available.

“This is perhaps a reminder that – regardless of the professionalism and goodwill of civil servants – clear leadership from ministers is still absolutely essential if government is to function effectively.”