The build up to the next Scottish Parliament elections is getting interesting.
There are plenty of people within the Lib Dems who don’t want another coalition with Labour, and the feeling is reciprocated. Today’s Scotsman is spinning that Lord Steel’s Commission Report to both recommend “quasi-independence” (what everyone else in the known world calls federalism) and an overture to the SNP. Personally, I think that is a move the Lib Dems should not take lightly, but then I’m English and have this nasty habit of being repelled by Scots who launch election campaigns by swinging claymores over their heads in Stirling.
The movement isn’t just coming from the Lib Dems though, and the electoral system may hold the key to the balance of power next time round. The Herald reported last month that some in Labour are considering not fielding list candidates as it is a wasted vote, and instead encourage their voters to support another party, probably the Greens. The Greens have never fielded constituency candidates and have done well out of their strategy of concentrating on the list. Now the SSP are considering following suit, something which may hurt the Greens to an extent as presumably a number of people may have voted SSP in the constituency and Green on the list, and will no longer have that choice.
This is barmy. For all Labour’s complaining over dual candidacy, the prospect of “list-only” and “constituency-only” parties will undermine the legitimacy of the Parliament. Will anyone be able to claim a mandate? How would you measure it? What is to stop Labour activists from establishing a “Scottish Democratic Socialist Party” – ostensibly with the same agenda as Labour – and using the system to give them an artificial boost? Arbuthnott‘s failure to recommend significant change may come back to haunt the whole of Scotland.
For political obsessives though, it makes for a very interesting 2007, with none of the certainties of 1999 or 2003. Indeed, it may come to be remembered as the first “proper” election when everything was on the table and individual votes could make a real impact – hopefully that will lead to an increased turnout.