Monday, 13 May 2013

Why I'm Backing Green for Aberdeen

The sad death of Brian Adam at the age of 64 last month, added to the resignations and sacking of various MSPs, has left the Government, elected two years ago with a majority of nine, stuck on a majority of zero. 

Mark McDonald, a capable and popular new list MSP for the North East, has resigned his seat in Parliament in order to fight the resulting by-election. His place in Parliament is automatically filled by the next (and last) candidate on the National Party's list in the North East, Christian Allard. 

The scale of the SNP's victory two years ago meant that almost every candidate on their North East list was elected. With Mr. Allard the last-ranked candidate, should further attrition (death or resignation) occur on the North East list, the seat will not be filled and shall remain vacant until the fifth - and also first - Scottish Parliament election in 2016. 

Interestingly, Mr Allard is the first Frenchman to sit in Holyrood. One can only begin to imagine the fury that this will draw from a Labour Party which is increasingly facing intensive questioning at what appears to be an exponential growth in anti-"foreigner" racism within its ranks. 

The composition of Parliament is thus:

Government 64
Unionist       57
Green/Ind     6
President      1

Should Mr McDonald win the seat - and given that Mr Adam bequeathed a majority of over seven thousand, it is difficult to see how he could fail - the Government will have its majority restored (65/57/6/1).

However, it is my assertion that single party majority government, whilst providing some advantages, is an inherently negative position for any legislature, and indeed a negative position in many ways for the governing party itself. 

The SNP's majority in Holyrood has, it must be said, led to a degree of arrogance in government, which has resulted in some very unpopular legislation which may affect the cross-party Yes Scotland campaign's chances of success in next year's independence referendum. 

A single-party majority government, as even Tony Blair conceded, means that only the opinions of a small number of party power-brokers need to be listened to when drafting legislation. It means that the full panopoly of national and legislaturial opinion can be ignored - even the opinions of friendly critics - with no fear of the legislation failing to pass through Parliament. 

It is no accident that the minority government of 2007-2011 was the most popular in Scotland since the introduction of democracy in 1999. The SNP, while implementing a popular manifesto, had to listen to the opinion of smaller parties in fulfilling its duty of government. There was no sense that the SNP was railroading poor legislation through against all sensible advice, and to public opposition. 

Therefore, it  fundamentally appears to me that the SNP losing its majority (whilst retaining a pro-independence, pro-referendum majority within the legislature) would lead to a more collegiate and consensual style of government, which would in turn lead to a more substantial chance of success in the referendum, as the Government would no longer simply be "the SNP government" so beloved of spittle-flecked Unionists. 

With no desire to bolster the ranks of the centre-right Unionists, or indulge the fantasy that a Ukip which captures fewer than 1% of the Scottish vote will ever win by legitimate means a seat in Holyrood, the only chance of genuine refreshment and change in Holyrood; a fillip for one of our campaign's parties; and a loosening of the SNP reigns on Holyrood which is one of the biggest obstacles now to a Yes vote, in the absence of a Socialist Party candidate is to vote for Rhonda Reekie of the Green Party. 

She won't win, of course, but I feel it would benefit progressive politics in Scotland, the Yes Scotland campaign and the Government if she did. 

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