Sunday, May 06, 2007

No Mandate for Breaking Up The Union

According to this story in Scotland on Sunday Labour party lawyers are planning to contest the result in Cunninghame North, which the SNP won by just 48 votes, giving them a one-seat victory. There were an estimated 1000 spoiled ballot papers. According to Independent candidate Campbell Martin: "There were discrepancies of around 100 votes between those that were counted in Arran and those that were counted in Irvine [where the count was held]. The Labour candidate's agent said: "I have written to the returning officer asking that we can manually inspect the ballot papers. I expect to see that the vast number of them show that people made the mistake of voting for Labour but then not voting for the candidate." Campbell Martin added. "A lot of people saw the Scottish Labour party on the regional list and thought to themselves that they were voting for Allan Wilson. People were so confused. So many of them voted on the regional list but left the constituency one blank."

Obviously the fiasco across the entire country is an embarrassment to Scotland, the Executive, the Scotland Office and everyone else who had a hand in the election organization, but given the closeness of the vote in Cunninghame North I would be doing the same if I were Labour.

When I looked at the ballot paper, which had the regional list on the left hand side and the constituency vote on the right, I remarked that it was a strange layout. We're not in Japan, we read from left to right and so in my view logic dictates that that the constituency would go on the left. Apparently failure to mark a constituency vote is what accounted for a vast amount of the spoiled papers. In this case the Executive, the Scotland Office et al have something to answer for.

Naturally the SNP are griping about Labour's "sour grapes at losing". However, the only loser in this election is democracy. How many people have failed to have their postal vote count? We have no idea. There are people who definitely didn't get their postal vote; some like me who got them late would have been unable to vote - I was just lucky that my trip to Berlin was cancelled.

Given the closeness of the contest it's no wonder that this is happening. On the comments section of the Scotsman there's a heavy dose of SNP rhetoric about Labour being a pain for complaining. If the situation was in reverse the words SNP could be substituted within the report for Labour. The fact is that this is indicative of what we can expect for the next four years. More arguments about constitutional issues rather than the substantive issues of running the country. With the SNP clearly wanting to march on with their victory tucked underneath their arm, claiming that Scotland has spoken, with Salmond wanting to assume the mantle of First Minister and getting on with the drive towards independence none of this is surprising. We are a nation divided between separation and unionist philosophies and this will be the recurring theme of the next four years whether the anyone likes it or not. All the while the business of government will suffer and Scotland instead of getting better will become bogged down in the mire of separation.

The election was no SNP landslide, whatever they say. They were so far ahead in the polls for such a long time that there’s no doubt frustration that at the end of it all, even with the democratic balls-up that the actual election became, they still only just squeezed home. Yes the SNP got 38,000 more votes across Scotland on the regional list, but in the SNP heartland of N.E Scotland alone they got 53,000 more. When all is said and done the SNP took just 31% of the list votes – that’s no mandate for breaking up the Union. Add to this the Salmon's little problem with the fundamentalist wing of his party and it could make the in fighting between old Labour and Nu-Labour look like the teddy bear's picnic. The honeymoon will soon be over and King Alex may be glad he held onto his seat at Westminster.

Memo to the Leader of the SNP. Just how many days are you going to spend in Westminster? Why do you consider the job of First Minister a part time appointment? Oh the fun we're all going to have.


james higham said...

...All the while the business of government will suffer and Scotland instead of getting better will become bogged down in the mire of separation...

Sadly, yes. I'm not a dissolutionist and I gather you're not either. But maybe we come from different directions. I fear the EU more than any other and what it would do with separated nations - it would simply play one against the other, as is already happening.

Richard Havers said...

James, I'm with you on the EU argument. It will weaken Scotland, not strengthen it as the separatists would have us believe.

My strongest argument against separation is the whole business of how much it will cost Scotland to become a separate nation. It's nowhere near as simple as people think.

David Ross said...

Not simple at all, although not quite the same circumstances some recent examples would be the 15 former Soviet republics, some of which have now become part of the EU and have access to a considerable amount of EU funding.

I have had the pleasure of working in a number of them.

The gross domestic product in all former Soviet republics (excluding the Baltic states) immediately went down, totaling only 40% of its 1991 volume. Inflation was also rampant. By 2004, only 6 of the 15 states had reached a gross domestic product that was higher than it was in 1991.

Still there will be plenty civil servants to monitor the situation.

Richard Havers said...

Cry Independence, full employment and King Salmon.

CalumCarr said...

I agree that the SNP would be complaining about the 48 vote loss had the roles been reversed.

Also had Labour been the largest party by one MSP they would be claiming victory - just as the SNP are now.

I think the outcome you fear - expressed in your 3rd last para - "this is indicative of what we can expect for the next four years. More arguments about constitutional issues rather than the substantive issues of running the country. " need not happen.

It may, if both sides want to play silly buggers.

Undoubtedly the SNP will want to advance the cause of independence but first they need to demonstrate that they are capable of running the Executive.

If they fail in this task then convincing the public that they could run an independent Scotland won't happen unless the Unionist parties and/or the Labour government actually make life difficult. Make life unnecesarily difficult and the SNP can and will claim malign interference.

There's a lot to be said for the Unionist parties not to act destuctively but to let the SNP and partners get on and run the country. They (SNP)will find it difficult - as any party would. If they struggle with no inteference then independence will not come.

Obviously there's a risk which arises only if the SNP run the country well but even then convincing a majority to vote in favour of independence is a big task.

Richard Havers said...

Calum, I go along with most all of that, other than the bit about our politicians playing silly buggers. They will not be able to stop themselves, as they are, after all's said and done politicians. Cynically, I’m inclined to believe that even if some manage to behave like grown ups the majority will go for the jugular.

Fitaloon said...

With the general feeling that the elections in Scotland were a huge mess, the picking on one constituency where there was a small victory might lead to all sorts of other complaints coming forth, one which I saw involved someone leaving a count as
having been at the count in East Kilbride not only was it chaotic and shambolic and votes disenfranchised but I dare say it, there was a feeling of what I can only describe as votes being ‘manipulated’ - allowing certain papers through for some parties (or should I say party) but not others. I left in disgust at 2 in the morning.
Now if we then start analyzing all of these sort of problems, the whole election will be a mess, Scotland will be a mess and our reputation will be totally shot. I'm not sure if this is a great idea at the moment.
I think we just have to get on with what we have at the moment, See what will happen and how the SNP is going to form a government (or not). What must happen is that consensus has to be gained on the major issues for the next few years, this may lead to some unlikely alliances on issues. If this doesn't happen we will be forced into having another Parliamentary election and at the moment I can see that having a very different agenda with the SNP forcing it onto much stronger devolution/referendum issues that might split the country further.

Richard Havers said...

Fit, that's a solid argument and very logical, but (and isn't there always) can you see this lot acting like intelligent adults. I watched some of those Labour victory speeches and I was shocked by what I saw. No wonder they don't let some of those people speak too often in Holyrood! There's so much at stake here for individuals that you wonder if any of them can get a perspective on the whole thing.

I totally agree that we/they should be getting on with it, but I'm not holding my breath. It certainly needs someone to try and rise above it all. Will is be Alex? He's been practicing the Statesman bit recently, but I wonder if after the election the drugs have worn off?

commenter said...

"When all is said and done the SNP took just 31% of the list votes – that’s no mandate for breaking up the Union."

There was never a chance of a 'mandate for breaking up the Union'. Even if the SNP had got a majority of seats (which was never going to happen) it wasn't a manifesto commitment.

Their manifesto commitment was to a referendum, which in fact is supported by a majority.

Richard Havers said...

Commenter, I agree with that, but that's not what many are saying who support the SNP.