Archive for the Greens Category

The Scottish Election

Posted in Election, Greens, Labour, Lib-Dems, Scotland, SNP, Tories with tags , , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by pieman70

On Thursday Scotland will go to the Polls.  Ok, technically all of the UK will, everyone’s electing councils and selecting a new voting system and Wales is picking its assembly, but I live in Scotland so its my main source of comment.

I initially had a polemic post filled with personal insults to all candidates, but I’m trying to rise above petty name calling in politics for proper discussion (Read as I’m not actually that witty so best stick to discussion rather than insults)

Due to Scotland being civilised enough and clever enough to be able to understand PR we effectively have a 4 party system, The “Big 2” are the SNP and Labour while the Lib-Dems and Tories take 3rd and 4rth, the Greens even get seats, its lovely.

In its first two terms it was a Labour/Lib-Dem coalition.  Yes, we got to see the Lib-Dems ditch their principles over student fees before they did it to the rest of the country.  This last term has been an SNP minority government, and it’s not been the disaster I suspected.

The SNP have had a hard transition from opposition to power, they were caught on the back foot many times at the start, however they have proven a minority government can work, it has meant dumping some key policies, taking some defeats and going through everyone elses manifestos with a fine toothed comb to find compromise and common ground.  It seems to have worked, Labour have been making noises that, particularly with the Lib-Dems toxic reputation these days they may go for the Minority option should they win this time round.

To the parties themselves, the SNP have actually done pretty well this election.  They clearly knew their weak points and studied responses to them, so they weren’t caught out by questions regarding the Lockerbie Bomber release and on the policies they failed to deliver on, Salmond even admitting one of his student policies never appeared because they couldn’t afford it.  In general the SNP are always well served by the leader Alec Salmond.  Salmond is a debater, he likes to argue, many modern politicians, including Labour’s Ian Gray and the Lib-Dem’s Tavish Scott are speech makers, I may blog about the distinction at a later date.

In government the SNP were a refreshing change at the tail end of the previous Westminster Labour Government, their combative stance was a refreshing change from the previous “Rubber Stamp” impression that having the same party in charge of Scotland and the UK gave.  Their policies have definitely been more progressive, there have been some good attempts to put Scotland at the forefront of tidal power generation research, and in more social policy we’ve seen abolition of Student fees, free care for the elderly and free prescriptions for all.  Its quite a buzz hearing envious noises from down south about these in particular.  There have been controversies, the failure to get an independence referendum off the ground is arguably one of their biggest failings, and the M74 extension and proposed Second Forth Bridge lost them support, particularly from the greens.  The continuing farce regarding the Edinburgh Trams hasn’t helped, but in fairness that is almost the definition of an inherited problem, and indeed one they tried to shut down in their first year.

So, the challengers.  First and foremost is Labour, who do still seem to believe they are entitled to rule Scotland by some divine right, they caught out the SNP in its early years in power, but has been fairly quiet of late, Ian Gray only appearing now and again to comment on any policy that seems slightly unpopular.  In fact they really haven’t impressed much at all lately, they have tried to make the focus of the election jobs after simply pointing out where the SNP failed often left them open to criticism on why they didn’t support policy.  This was particularly evident when they promised a council tax freeze and were promptly asked why they had voted against said policy each time it had come up.  They have since been far more careful to avoid being accused of pettily trying to stop the SNP doing anything.  They also have a flagship policy on Knife crime which shows the unattractive authoritarian streak Labour had in its Westminster years is still alive and well.

The Lib-Dems are nervous, very nervous.  Their ditching of policy on student fees at the start of the Parliament was close to being forgotten, they even helped the SNP get the abolition of fees through parliament, so voted against a policy they allowed through earlier.  They were initially quite annoyed, after all, for 8 years they’d been confident that regardless of who won the election, they always got seats.  Needless to say the SNP opting for minority government caught them unawares.  Particularly embarrassing was when the Westminster party decided to try and introduce minimum pricing, after they’d blocked it at Holyrood.  Tavish had a fairly unconvincing scramble trying to convince people that the Westminster policy was not the same thing they’d blocked.  Anyway, now they have bigger problems, Scotland does not forgive those who get into bed with the Tories, who don’t get much support up here.  The Lib-Dem campaign lurches drunkenly between trying to disavow the entire Westminster party and a strange sense of impending doom.  They expect a wipeout, I won’t put money on that just yet, I suspect they will be hit harder in the councils than in Holyrood, they seem to be aiming to take second votes from Labour as a strategy, and it may just work.

So we come to the Tories, they have one advantage, Annabel Goldie, a scrappy debater and match for Salmond, her ability vastly exceeds her parties popularity.  The Tories have actually not performed badly under the minority government, understanding that getting the few areas of policy they have in common with the Nats is better than nothing they’ve been agreeable and co-operative, which should be quite an embarrassment to the Lib-Dems and Labour, Tories being more reasonable than you.  Sadly their campaign has been lacklustre, mostly because rather than letting Goldie do her own thing Cameron decided that the guy who managed to only retain one seat in Scotland during the Westminster election was the one to run the campaign.  Any gains the Tories make will be in spite of him rather than because of him.

So, these are our options, obviously we also have the Greens, where Patrick Harvie has become more front and centre, and has impressed in debates, we also have George “the Cat” Galloway standing, and presumably re-familiarising himself with Scotland having spent the last decade near London.  This election the Part of tommy Sherridan, of the Tommy Sherridan party for more Tommy Sherridan in politics, will be played by his wife as tommy has found out that Barlinnie south is not actually a seat.

So, a motley crew, but ours, vote wisely.