May 8, 2007

This should be my final election post, unless something really surprising happens in the next few days. My thoughts on the whole afair:

  • The voting mechanism was too complex. 3 votes, one election. It’s no wonder people didn’t know the difference between a constituency and a region. It’s not a surprise that people didn’t understand where to put the numbers for the local council election. With regards to the numbers, how are they counted? Is only one number used? How are the numbers weighted? Does 1 mean ‘1’, and 2 mean ‘0.5’, etc? The instructions telling me what to do with my numbers were fair enough, but if people don’t understand why they have to follow these instructions, then of course things are going to go wrong.
  • The smaller parties may have been drowned out by the noise of hundreds of leaflets in my letterbox, handed out on the street, attached to lampposts, etc. In this case, three votes in one day may have worked for the bigger parties, and against the smaller parties.
  • Labour weren’t destroyed, they didn’t lose that much. A vote for SNP was not the protest vote against Labour the media wanted us to believe. It was a protest vote against the perceived lack of change post-devolution, considering that the only party to gain seats was the SNP, and all others lost seats.
  • The vote for the SNP became possible when they made it clear that the vote for the SNP was not a vote for independence. At that point they became a valid political party. In the light of the results, it seems clear that outright independence is something a lot of Scots don’t really want. That’s fair: a lot of Scots would have grown up through the dark years of post-war depression and attribute the spectacular regeneration of the UK to the Union, not to Scotland.
  • An SNP minority Government can’t be a bad thing. If it requires more discussion and debate, then these election results could be the best thing yet to happen to the Scottish Parliament.

That’s what I think, anyway. Time will tell.


May 4, 2007

The outcome? Well, there isn’t one. Not yet, anyway. Lots of results aren’t in yet.

I was watching last night when McConnell won his extremely safe Motherwell & Wishaw constituency, and was highly amused as another candidate unrolled a banner to the effect of “No trident replacement” (exact wording lost in the mists of a headache); quite clearly over the microphone was one woman on stage who said “oh, don’t spoil it,” soon after which the banner was sheepishly removed.

It looks like the SNP have done pretty well out of things. It also looks like Labour have done pretty poorly out of things. It wasn’t the trouncing many of us enjoy seeing, but the numbers look much more balanced, and will hopefully make things interesting in the coming days, months and years.

Of note is the weird decision to run two different voting systems in one night, leading to around one hundred thousand ballot papers being null & void, I’m not surprised. Given that I received mail on how to vote, saw instructions plastered all over the BBC News website for weeks, and was offered further instruction at the polling station, I’m not surprised in the slightest that the number of void votes was that high.

In the grand scheme of things, the existing vote should be representative of the final outcome whether those void votes were counted or not. Of course, we can’t know for sure, unless we ask for only those votes to be redone (though that’s impossible to achieve), or for the whole election to be done again.

More thoughts as things unravel.

Apologies for turning this into a political blog of late, I realise that this isn’t what most people want to hear about. I’ll return to normal posting soon, once I’ve completed this huge pile of work on my desk…


May 1, 2007

Pre-election jitters, that is. Is a vote for independence the death knell of my great nation? Or will it release us from our cage?

I’m not qualified to say, which is why it scares me that I should have this decision bestowed upon me. I’m not a money man. I’m not a politician. I’m an academically-inclined nerd who works at a University. Why should I have to make this important decision regarding where our nation goes?

Given that I feel this way, it strikes me as really scary that most of the rest of the nation can also vote. I’ve tried to dig into the facts behind the propaganda pushed out by the political parties, but how many people actually do that? How many people really think about their vote beyond “Oh, I really like that McConnell chap” or “Fuck the English”? That independence is potentially fueled by hatred than levelheadedness scares me even more.

So it is with interest that I picked up the current issue of the Economist, to see what they had to say on the issue. I enjoy the Economist; it’s well written, and provides me with a hell of a lot of new information whenever I pick it up.

They say the jury is still out on whether Scotland could support itself, but they err on the side of caution. Summary? Labour’s numbers show that the Government spent £11.2billion more in Scotland than we raised in taxes. But these numbers don’t include revenue from North Sea oil. This is where previous SNP campaigns, by suggesting that our North Sea oil money would have made us rich, have fallen short in credibility: oil prices vary heavily with respect to time, oil reserves are running out (and in the meantime, becoming harder to extract), and perhaps most importantly we haven’t yet negotiated which parts of UK North Sea oil belong to England, and which to Scotland.

The Scottish Executive suggests that if all North Sea oil revenues were attributed to Scotland, we still fall 5% short. I’m not against increased taxation, as such, to make up the shortfall. But how angry will people be if the numbers really don’t add up, and the SNP fail to provide what they’ve promised? Does Scotland need an ugly burn of right-wing capitalism directly after independence? I’m inclined to think so. We might still be a bit too left-of-centre to succeed.

Do I want to believe in an independent Scotland? Yes, I most certainly do. Do I feel qualified to suggest that we can make it as an independent Scotland? Certainly not. Do I feel so inclined to support the underdog (ie, ourselves) that I should vote for the SNP this week? Almost certainly yes.


April 26, 2007

I’ve written a couple of times on the topic of the upcoming Scottish elections on May 3rd. My choices are still not pinned down, in part because no party makes any clear point ahead of any other. The standout is SNP, if only because of their radical aims to see Scotland as an independent nation again.

I do find it interesting, however, to see one of the other parties creaking under its own weight. Labour’s landslide win at Westminster in 1997 was long overdue, and I think Tony Blair has done a pretty good job. No prime minister can ever be perfect, but I do think Tony’s done well in his fairly long term. (The Iraq war is probably his biggest slip, but interviews with him I’ve read/listened to via the New Scientist and Newsweek make it quite clear that he was/is passionate about this topic and that the war, for its flaws, will do good in the long term; to our credit, the UK arm of the war seemed to better handle the peacekeeping operation than the American troops, but perhaps that was the spin the UK press deemed appropriate for us.)

So it’s with great interest that look to Jack McConnell, leader of the Scottish Labour wing, and try to figure out why we have a First Minister who, essentially, bumbles his way along while avoiding the heavy topics.

Now, fair’s fair. Sitting at the top of the pile he’ll attract the Big Guns, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I think Labour’s trying to pull the tactic that worked so well for them in 1997 — dish the dirt on the other parties. Name-calling. I suspect this is something McConnell is not comfortable with, but he probably has his colleagues and a PR team behind him gunning strongly for this tactic. The impression of McConnell I get is that he would rather focus on the real topics that should be up for discussion, the old stalwarts of education, health, transport, taxation, etc. But sitting at the head of his party with a direction chosen by his PR team with which he is not comfortable, he squirms his way through interviews. I’d say it’s already a PR disaster, but everything’s too close to call before May 3rd.

For reference, I plucked the following Newsnight interview from over on Tartan Hero:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Interestingly, the majority of part three covers youtube, bloggers, and political bloggers.