Headlines: June 12th, 2006

A group of Basque parliamentarians have been in Scotland to find out more about how devolution works there and to study the Scottish Parliament’s groundbreaking steps in e-democracy. The 12 Basques also studied other areas of their Scottish opposite numbers work.The Spanish Basque country – Euskadi – has had its own devolved parliament since 1980, giving the region control over education and taxes and greater powers to promote Basque language and culture. It is one of 17 autonomous parts of Spainthat have their own elected parliament and government.

A particular focus for the high-level delegation, which included the President, First and Second Vice-Presidents and First and Second Secretaries, was the work of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee. “The Basque Parliament is particularly interested in our model of 21st century governance, our commitment to sharing power with the people through our petitions system, through e-democracy and through outreach to our citizens,” said the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, George Reid.

The Basque visitors also examined Scotland’s approach to urban regeneration and community care and visited Glasgow, Stirling and Perthshire as well as Edinburgh. The trip was the latest step in the growing relationship between the two parliaments. They already have good practical working relationships through participation in NORPEC – the Network of Regional Parliamentary European Committees and through the Information Technology Joint Working Group of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies, which has produced a series of indicators to allow elected authorities to benchmark their progress against e-democracy targets. George Reid visited the Basque region last year.

He said, “The Scottish and Basque Parliaments share a desire to engage and challenge our community to exercise its democratic right and this visit offers an opportunity for our two Parliaments to reflect on how we make the most of devolution