Ronnie Cowan is MP of Inverclyde and a supporter of UK Parliament Week. He tells us why he thinks UK Parliament Week is so important to democracy in the UK.
“I am aware that not every MP engages with UK Parliament Week and as a Scottish National Party MP, whose raison d’etre is to extract Scotland from the auspices of Westminster it may seem strange that I enjoy the interaction and embrace the opportunity to help my constituents understand Westminster all year round. MPs continually complain when turnouts at elections are low. When we have something we want to say we seek an audience. We often hear people say ‘we only see you when you want our vote’.
UK Parliament Week facilitates that engagement we seek. I want to encourage a better understanding of the machinery of government and the structures of democracy that we pertain to hold so dear. By opening up Westminster to scrutiny from the electorate and the future electorate and by helping them to become better educated and more familiar with the process. We then create an engaged public that is more capable of holding elected members to account and constructively contributing to the democratic process.
It is with that aim that I encourage my local schools to get involved, I take students on walking tours, I host question and answer sessions and I promote involvement at all levels. The better informed the public is the more they will be able to contribute and the more constructive that contribution will be. Westminster is portrayed as a gothic building, adorned with statues of the great and the good, papered with massive canvasses depicting historic scenes. The green and red benches dominate the landscape and that can lead to the functioning and non-functioning aspects of a Parliament being ignored. I see Parliament week as that moment in the Wizard of Oz when they pull back the curtain and see the reality of the situation.”