Monday, May 07, 2007

And Scotland?

Just a few thoughts on the Scottish results.

Apart from all the difficulties over the voting process (which has probably killed PR for UK elections) I have a few thoughts.

Firstly I think we shouldn't exaggerate the result. All this doom and gloom about the imminent demise of the Union ( see for instance this rather insulting peice in the Independent and this gloomy scenario in the Times), which I actually find to be in rude health.

I don't think we can realistically expect Scotland to elect the same Government in perpetuity - it needs to be able to throw out the current lot in favour of someone else - at some point that is going to happen and that's what democracy is all about and that party couldn't be the Lib Dems (they're a coalition partner and part of the Government with Labour) and can't be the Conservatives who have not been able to rebuild after being wiped out in the 1990's and are still seen as tainted as well as being traditionally anti-devolution.

So here we are with the SNP with a 1 seat advantage. The majority of parties and voters are against having a referendum on independence, so that's not likely to come close to rearing its head. They're not likely to get a bill through any of its Parliamentary stages.

Yes, Alex Salmond can posture and gesture against a London based Government. It will be an irritant, but the other parties can pull the rug on him when it suits them - as any minority Government is always vulnerable to a confidence vote or to a defeat on the budget.

Also - yes, there is the SNP as the biggest party. Yes, the Executive is likely to have no majority of its own. But that's not so bad. It means the budget gets passed and all other laws are voted on by their merits - including private members bills. Its not unlike the situation in the US where Congress doesn't necessarily pass the laws proposed by the President. They seem to get by reasonably well and if voters are unhappy they can vote differently in another election. Democracy - and voter choice - in action (well for those whose vote actually got counted).

Also not a bad idea for a precedent to be set in favour of having a minority administration - all this obsession with forming coalitions is a little unhealthy and means that the smallest parties have inordinate power over the biggest.

So overall I've decised to be relaxed about all of this. It's democracy in action and we should welcome it. There'll be no referendum, unless there is a majority in the Scottish Parliament for that, which I don't foresee happening anytime soon.

So let's all relax and just let them get on with it - and be proud of the fact it was a Labour Government which delievered devolution in the first place and be pleased that voters are making it work for them.

To use a fabled term from the past (with not entirely positive resonances I admit) "Crisis? What Crisis?".


  1. moira macdonald6:35 am

    And a longer (and I think more penetrative) item by Colin Kidd in the London Review of Books written well before the election.
    and with this interesting statement at the end.

    "As well as courting conventional right-wing businessmen, Salmond has also accepted a donation of half a million pounds from Brian Souter, the militantly evangelical owner of the Stagecoach bus group. This is Souter’s second major foray into Scottish politics. In 2000 he funded a campaign against the repeal of Section 28, a measure which had prevented local government from ‘promoting’ homosexuality. To his credit, Salmond has always drawn a firm line between a respectable civic nationalism, and the anglophobic ethnic nationalism which lurks below the surface of Scottish society; but he knows better than most that an independent Scotland has the potential – no more than that perhaps – to be a nasty, inward-looking illiberal democracy."

  2. Well said Moira; accepting the money from Souter shows what territory we are in with the SNP who also received fulsome backing from the Roman Catholic Church in opposition to Labour's policy on adoption and civil partnership....