1. As a general principle of political philosophy, the principle of subsidiarity states that all governmental tasks are to be carried out at a level as close to the citizens affected as is consistent with equity and with efficiency in the pursuit of common goods. This implies that, for example, environmental legislation needs at least a European if not also a global reach in the setting of common standards. But the local and detailed elaboration and application of these common standards needs sensitivity, well-measured discretion, and a great deal of local knowledge if the overall scheme is actually to achieve its objectives. We are therefore fated to live with multiple levels of government, and we certainly have a multiplicity of levels in the Scotland of today. It is important that European-level legislation, typically in the form of Directives, should leave as broad a scope for local discretion in filling in details and in satisfying legal requirements as is compatible with a genuinely and fairly maintained generality of legal principle throughout the Union. The qualification is especially important in those domains in which competition may be unfairly distorted through effective evasion of common standards.
2. The powers that are exercised by the legislatures and the executive governments of constitutional regions need to be guarded against erosion by the Union's institutions no less than do those exercised by central governments and legislatures. Greater vigilance is needed in the case of the constitutional regions, to the extent that they have no place as of right in the Council of Ministers. The mutual definition of powers between states and their internal nations and constitutional regions needs to be reflected in the constitutional design of the European Union. The judicial policing of boundaries (see section 7 below) could be handled in ways that are sensitive to this.
3. In this respect internal nations and constitutional regions differ in kind and in right from geographical or administrative regions.
4. The Council is at present the Chamber that represents the states as such. Parliament is said to represent the people or peoples of Europe. Yet Parliament is constituted in the Treaties on the basis that it consists of "national" delegations, in proportions that reflect imperfectly the populations of the states. To secure adequate representation of the internal political diversity of smaller states, these enjoy greater per-head representation than larger ones, under what is sometimes called the principle of "degressive proportionality". It follows that small states find themselves with proportionally larger numbers of MEPs than similarly sized regions (whether constitutional regions or geographical/administrative ones).
5. Moreover, some Member States, even large ones, treat the whole state as effectively a single electoral constituency, with state-wide party lists in use to achieve d'Hondt proportionality among parties seeking election to the European Parliament. This entails that citizens of constitutional regions in these states (including internal nations) are deprived of any clear opportunity for representation as such in the European Parliament.
6. In the interests of subsidiarity, at least the constitutional regions, whether or not also internal nations, ought to be recognized as electoral units for the purposes of election to the Parliament. It would be desirable to see other states follow the United Kingdom example in this matter. Indeed, as in the UK, merely administrative or geographical regions should be used alongside internal nations as electoral constituencies.
7. Otherwise proportionality of party representation from the Member States is achieved at far too high a cost in dissociating representatives in the European Parliament from any effective link of local accountability to the electors whom they represent, while on the other hand increasing immoderately the power of party hierarchies. The introduction of all-Europe party lists proposed in the Nice Treaty makes this point yet more urgent. For again party power will be enhanced in proportion to diminution of real electoral accountability, with the aim of enhancing all-Europe sensibilities among electors, an aim that is worthy in itself but doubtful of achievement by this means.
8. In the longer run, the democratic principle of equally weighted votes for all citizens should be more nearly implemented than at present (e.g., Luxembourg has far larger representation than Euskadi; Denmark has twice as many representatives as Scotland for the same population (5m, 16 and 8 Members respectively). Degressive proportionality has a certain justification as a counterweight to the effects of Qualified Majority Voting in the Council, but this in turn requires scrutiny of the present contribution of Council procedure to the European Democratic Deficit.
9. Is the Committee of the Regions then the answer? An institution that is supposed to enable `regions' to have a voice in the processes of the Union should in some measure reflect the relative populations of its constituencies. By this test, the Committee of the Regions is at present radically defective in its design. For it simply replicates with proportionately reduced numbers the shares of the states in Parliamentary seats. Absurd comparisons result from this. Luxembourg, for example, has more members than Wales, though Wales has seven times the population of Luxembourg. Again, the regions of Denmark are more generously represented than is Scotland as a single `region' of the UK, though Scotland and Denmark have the same population and the internal regional diversity of Scotland is by no means less than that of Denmark.
10. So far from giving the internal nations and constitutional regions a forum that enables them to compensate for disproportional under-representation in other institutions, the Committee of the Regions simply reinforces the existing lack of proportionality. As an institution, despite the excellent work its members do, it has constitutional deficiencies that discredit the concept of a true regional element in European government. The Committee is radically ambiguous in role as between providing a forum for local government and providing one for regional governments, and the method of nomination of members entails that the Committee has negligible democratic legitimacy either locally or regionally. Radical structural reform is urgently needed.
11. By way of a purely illustrative example, one can figure principles that would make possible something closer to proportional representation, without excluding very small states. In a union of 367 million citizens, one might contemplate a median population size for `regions' at about 2.5 million citizens. An allowance of three representatives (with three substitutes each) per notional region would yield a Committee with 450 members. Member states having 2.5 million or fewer citizens would be entitled to elect a full set of three members. Other states would be entitled to denominate regions, and to allocate numbers of representatives to them based on relative population size, subject perhaps to some local application of degressive proportionality in the interest of small but highly distinctive regions. The total per member state would be calculated on the basis of three members per 2.5 million citizens, rounded up or down as might be appropriate. The system of election or selection of members to the Committee could in that framework be determined by `constitutional regions' for themselves. For administrative or geographical regions lacking legislative and executive powers of their own, this would have to be done, after appropriate consultation, by the relevant Member State Parliament. The size of a Committee of the Regions so constituted would grow step by step with the admission of new member states, but even with an aggregate population of 500 million, the total would only marginally exceed 600 members, taking account of the presence of some Member States with very small populations.
12. If, by the illustrated means or something similar, the Committee of the Regions achieved real democratic legitimacy in the regional setting, it could become a candidate for the status of a second or third chamber in the European legislative scheme. Certainly, it would seem more persuasive than any of the ideas considered in section 3 below.