The results of the
Scottish General Election held on 3rd May 2007
This is an extraordinary outcome. According to
every opinion poll most of the population of Scotland is against
the total separation of Holyrood from Westminster. They are against
the breaking up of the United Kingdom. A recent opinion poll conducted
by the Scotsman indicated that 55% of Scots did not want the break
up of the Union (which has stood for 300 years almost to the day),
while 35% said they did, and 10% said they did not know. Yet total
devolution of Scotland from the rest of the UK is a fundamental
part of the SNP manifesto, the party that will have the most seats
in the new parliament.
So how did this weird result come about?
The main reason is described in the editorial on this website that was written just before the election was held (1).
There have been many causes for the profound disillusionment in the manner in which the Scottish Parliament (and indeed the Westminster Parliament) has been run over the past eight years. The previous Land-Care article described some of these causes from the perspective of running a business in both an urban and in a rural situation. Scottish politics has been dominated from the West Central belt with an economically extravagant agenda that has had the hallmarks of prejudice against what has been successful, under the pretence of wanting to level everything up. In reality, they have spent vast amounts of public money levelling most things down: be it education, law and order, health services, scientific research, land management, etc. Their extravagant incompetence in the consruction building of their own parliament building was nothing short of astounding. Much parliamentary time has been spent passing Bills that are based on ideology but which have been poorly constructed and were not founded on any great need. The impression was given that the Coalition used its power to dominated the various committees with people who simply followed the party line, so that reasoned debated was stifled under the guise of "extensive consultation". Hype was the order of the day. Sleaze has been prominent.
The electorate was also fed up with the escalating public spending with little apparent benefit, except to the civil servants themselves. Quangos increased along with a mounting bureaucracy and an arrogance that had become intolerable: as demonstrated by Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Historic Scotland etc. Perversely, much of what was excellent in Scotland was being damaged by a largely ignorant and over zealous officialdom.
Sleaze has been rampant. it was epitomised by Mike Watson. Appointed to the Lords by a Labour government as a sop after he had failed to be elected at a previous election, he introduced the anti-fox hunting Bill, which subsequently became an Act (2). He was sent to jail for deliberate fire-raising, putting the lives of others at risk as they slept in their beds in a prestigious Edinburgh hotel.
Spin has become such a feature of Labour, both north and south of the border, that it is no longer possible to believe what they say. The Liberal Democrats have clearly compromised what principles they had in order to gain power well above their weight, as the fourth party in terms of the number of seats it held.
The people of Scotland were also fed up with the antics of the small minority parties: the Greens, the Scottish Socialist Party etc. Clearly, with their narrow perspectives they could not be relied upon to contribute to rational government.
And so it transpired.
Then there was the "clever" trick of
the SNP not to call their party by that name on the voting paper.
Rather they chose "Alex Salmond for First Minister" and
had based their pre-election promotions almost exclusively on him
as a personality on account of his communication skills at hitting
labour rather then much to do with policy.
A shambles of an election
What also transpired was the fact that the Scottish Labour/Liberal Democrats could not even manage to run a competent general election. It was their decision to run the Local Council Elections at the same time as the General Election. This required two voting papers, each using a different style of voting. While their purpose was to try and get a higher involvement of the voters in the local elections than previously, the result was an unprecedented number of spoiled votes - amounting to over 100,000. They had been advised by the Scottish Conservatives not to do that. The Scottish Labour/Liberal Democrats had also agreed that the Scottish Executive use electronic voting with the aim of getting quicker results, The result was the reverse, with technical problems with the scanners jamming and the central computers failing to spew out the results. Then, of course, each spoiled paper spotted by the scanners had to be checked by the officials. As if the breakdown in law and order was not bad enough, one polling station in the Capital was attacked by a man with a golf club, breaking open the ballot boxes and tearing up the voting papers. In the West, unacceptable;e scenes of abuse and disruption occurred during the announcement of the local results. The boat carrying the ballot boxes from the Isle of Arran broke down midstream, and the helicopter taking ballot boxes to the Western Isles couldn't take off because of fog. The election was such a shambles that you could not have made it up. The type of idealistic but expensively impractical chaos that we have come to expect from the Scottish Executive.
But that may not be the end of this sorry saga.
Believe it or not, Andrew Wilson - a Labour MSP and Deputy Minister
of Scottish Enterprise in the previous Parliament, but who lost
his seat this time round by 48 votes - is trying to establish a
legal basis for claiming that the voting in his constituency was
invalid because of there being so many spoilt papers. But it was
his party, along with the Lib/Dems who agreed to the new voting
and counting system being used, against the advice of others.
The Greens were reduced from seven members to just two. The Scottish Socialists were annihilated. There is only one Independent left.
With 47 SNP, 46 Labour, 17 Conservative and 16 Liberal Democrat members of the Scottish Parliament one would have hoped that it would be possible to get a more balanced debate than heretofore. But, sadly, a major obstacle has arisen that may thwart that ambition. Politicians, seeking power, prefer to try and work the numbers game.
Thus, 47 SNP, 16 Lib/Dems and 2 Greens would make the magic number of 65 - the number that would give such a coalition overall power.
The Greens have apparently agreed to go along with that, provided they got a junior minister position within government. To have a Green as junior minister in SEERAD would not be good for the Scottish environment, because of the extreme stance taken by the Greens and their lack of application of true science, rather than pseudo science. With their single drum they could not be expected to contribute rationally to a wider responsibility.
The Liberal/Democrats could have a much bigger problem. How can they now go along with an SNP pledge to hold a referendum on Scotland's separation from the rest of the UK within the tenure of the next parliament, when before the election they said they would not. The amount of spin required to get round that one could, hopefully, be a spin too far.
A SNP/LibDem/Green coalition would put Scotland's economy into melt-down, including any rational energy policy. Just imagine what would develop from policies that say no to all nuclear weapons (especially Trident), that aim to get 100% of Scotland's energy from renewables (which specialists say is impossible) and that wants to have its own army, while still expecting Westminster to continue to provide Scotland with large amounts of cash.
The alternative would be to have a hung parliament. Although unstable, as indeed would be a coalition of the type just described, it might be the better option.
But there is another matter to be overcome before a First Minister can be chosen. And that is, who is to be the Presiding Officer for the new Scottish Parliament? It has to be an MSP. But none of the larger parties are willing to give up a voting seat for this prestigious post. Wisely, Annabelle Goldie, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has said an emphatic no. To have said otherwise would only have facilitated an unholy coalition.
One can almost see it coming. If a coalition cannot be agreed, the Greens will see that they are not going to get any power in the new government. They will then go for status in the form of the Presiding Officer. Should that happen Scotland's image as a great wee country would hardly be credible.
The best course would appear to be for a hung parliament to be formed. If it can hang on long enough, Blair will have gone and the colour of Brown might perhaps be more transparent. Just how responsibly each of the Scottish political parties then performed at Holyrood would be most revealing.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would have to listen, for the first time, to what others are saying. They would have to debate, rather than bully.
Interestingly, in the Scotsman's independent panel assessment of how the leaders of the four main parties performed in the debate on national TV on the Sunday evening before the election, Annabelle Goldie got by far the best marks for her debating skills.
Being unstable, the hung parliament would
sooner or later collapse. Should that happen then hopefully the
voters might be given another go .The results could be rather different.from
what we have today. The parties had better behave themselves
1. Editorial (2007). Thoughts
on whom to vote for in the Scottish elections 3rd May 2007.