Thursday, 25 June 2015

An oscillating chamber

Annabel Goldie's announcement today that she is retiring from the Scottish Parliament to spend more time in the Lords brings to more than one in ten the number of MSPs who will not seek to be returned to Holyrood at May's General Election. 

The number include several who have made genuine, lasting, measured contributions to Scotland's nascent democracy and our public life - Alex Salmond, Malcolm Chisholm, Alex Fergusson, Goldie, and Tricia Marwick. And, er, Duncan McNeill.

This number will only grow - the 2011 General Election returned 25 MSPs over the age of sixty - these deputies will be at least seventy years old at the end of the next Parliamentary session, and it would be expected that the majority would not seek re-election this time round. 

In the three re-elections of the Scottish Parliament, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Members not returned, for various reasons. 15 of the 129 deputies retired or lost their seat (including two - Iain Gray and Michael Russell - who came back in 2007) in the 2003 election; but in the 2007 election, this rose markédly to 40 (including a wipeout of both Socialist parties and a near-wipeout of the Greens). In 2011, it was up again, to 46 (this is the election which may have contributed to the collapse of the Scottish Labour party, being decapitated by the loss of heavy-hitters like Wendy Alexander, George Foulkes, Maggie Curran, Cathy Jamieson, Jack McConnell, Andy Kerr, Charlie Gordon, Frank McAveety and David Whitton and the re-election of James Kelly).

Should the trajectory continue at the same pace, this would mean that the 2024 election would see a churn of half of MSPs failing to make it back (and further extrapolation predicts, incorrectly, that not a single MSP elected in the 2048 election would make it back into parliament in 2052). 

Obviously, that's not the case, but with 16 MSPs already declared as not returning, and Scottish Labour almost certain to lose at least ten of their 15 constituencies, it makes for an interestingly undulating assembly. 

I wondered if this was peculiar to Scotland, because a third of deputies not being returned to a legislature seemed rather a lot (potentially, in a good way - for instance, it may prevent the development of "traditions").

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