07 May 2007

The SNP Question

Last week the SNP became the largest party in the Scottish Parliament by "the narrowest of margins". Apparently, this means the other parties which got the smallest number of seats must now decide whether or not to work with the SNP to form a coalition government. As I have made clear from my earlier post on the subject, I am not overly bothered by Scottish politics insofar as it has no effect on me or my life, but being a soft hearted Southerner, I would offer the following advice to the other parties, should they care to consult me:

The Liberal Democrats: You are clearly in a quandry. You realise that nobody who voted for you wants independence for Scotland as otherwise they would have voted SNP so you do not want to be seen to be allowing the SNP to get their way. However, you can hardly go back into coalition with Labour as they are clearly a busted flush and you would be blamed for putting them back into power, when only a minority of Scots wants them there. The solution is simple. Go into coalition with the SNP but demand that the promised referendum on independence be called immediately - get it out of the way early in the parliament. The voters will reject the proposition (assuming the ballot papers are pretty straightforward to fill in - even a drunken Glaswegian should be able to decide to tick "yes" or "no"), then you can spend the next three and a half years in power with the issue resolved.

Conservatives: OK, I realise that the SNP would probably prefer to be photographed en masse coming out of a swingers' club than to be dependent on Tory support to form a government, and vice versa, the feeling is no doubt mutual (although, after the Tommy Sheridan libel trial, I trust the analogy still carries weight in Scottish political circles). BUT.... Conservatives could form common cause with the Nats on one important question, and that is the inadequacy of the current Scottish constitutional settlement. On the basis that there is a Scottish Parliament and there is no going back, the Conservatives could work with the SNP to press for greater powers for it. This could be combined with a pincer movement by a Cameron led government in three years time, to enshrine these powers in law (via the Westminster parliament) and strip Scottish MPs in Westminster of the ability to vote in London on matters pertaining to England where those matters are reserved in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament. Probably too radical and the Tories and SNP would disagree on just about everything else so it would not be workable as the basis for a complete coalition, but it's just a thought.

Greens: Power! You know you want it. Now's your chance. Don't screw it up!

Labour: do everything possible to scupper the vote of a first minister, and force a new election. If you can't do better next time with Gordon Brown as your leader, then you really are in trouble.

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