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…


April 22, 2007

I’m standing outside of the train station. There’s a group of people huddled together, with an array of yellow banners, badges, leaflets, and clipboards. The SNP look to be canvassing. Standing amongst this group is Nicola Sturgeon, deputy leader of the party, also campaigning against the majority Labour vote to win a seat in this particular part of the city. It’s always interesting to see somebody from the TV standing in front of you in the street.

I watch quietly, off to the side, to see what they’re doing. While they’re talking, a gent in his thirties approaches the group. He’s recognised Nicola, and he’ll realise that she’s running for the local elections in this area. He tries to get her attention.

“Nicola. Nicola… Nicola

She either ignores, or doesn’t hear. He’s not being obnoxious or impolite, though perhaps he is just a touch forward. Eventually, she notices, and moves toward him.

“Nicola, you’ve got ma vote. Nicola, you’ve got ma vote. Ah cannae even get a job at the moment. Nae fuckin’ money.”

She steps over to him, doesn’t say a thing, and shakes his hand. She walks away. He’s determined to have his say.

“Nicola… Nicola…”

She takes a leaflet off a fellow canvasser, and hands it to the poor guy. He stumbles away.

She seems to have his vote either way, but she wasn’t exactly an advert for herself or her party. Too busy to talk to a voter? Come on.

I’m not sure what he’s wanting out of the SNP. Does he actually want a job? Or does he want a bigger state handout? Scotland’s been slowly but surely working off the socialist leanings it had to adopt after two world wars to survive. We don’t want to step back.

What’s important for Scotland?

  • Governance. Whether that means increased power in the devolved parliament, or total independence, I do not know.
  • Transparent taxation. All the parties win votes by campaigning for lower taxes, but they’re never clear on how they’re going to lower taxes and improve everything else. I want an honest-to-god tax, straight up. Tax my income. Don’t tax my income, my home, my car, my fuel, my miles, my air travel, my beer. We have no clue how much tax we actually pay, because most of it is hidden away from us.
  • Education and healthcare for all. Total left-wing stance on these issues.
  • Improved infrastructure. Maintain and improve basic amenities: electricity, water, gas, data, travel. Private companies who offer services over this infrastructure is great. Encourage any public transport scheme, improve bus links, build new rail lines, open up tram links. I’d heartily suggest unifying the ticketing scheme used by all forms of Scottish public transport, and the publishing of a guide to services.
  • Politicians who speak to the people. My previously neutral stance of Ms. Sturgeon has gone downhill somewhat after her behaviour today.

She may have just lost my local vote.


March 26, 2007

We’re running rather close to the upcoming Scottish Parliament election in May. I find myself torn over who to vote for.

I’ve spoken before about how I’m proud of my nationality. I’m very proud of the fact that I’m Scottish, was brought up in Scotland, and still live in Scotland. I enjoy wearing a kilt and chasing haggis whenever possible. If someone asks me where I’m from, I’ll say Scotland. I write “Scottish” under “nationality” on any form. I’m Scottish before I’m British.

But I’m torn. There are only two serious candidates in the upcoming election: Labour and the SNP.

Labour, in the red corner, are currently in power but don’t seem to have any teeth any more. Jack McConnell is fairly bland as politicians go, the novelty of somebody-other-than-the-Tories being in power has long since worn off, and enough people dislike Blair’s Iraq war, the Trident “nuclear deterrent” (just a few miles from here), Labour’s stab at promoting “Britishness” (though I wonder what our friends in Northern Ireland think of that), and Brown’s recent budget forcing the lowest earners to pay twice as much income tax, that Labour are on very shaky ground. The Tories, in the blue corner, will never gain power in Scotland, not in my lifetime. They did enough damage to their reputation during their last gazillion years in power in Westminster. The Lib Dems, bless ’em, never seem to have anything of their own to say. They don’t have any balls as a political party, so have often been viewed as a ‘default’ vote whenever the voting public couldn’t figure out if they preferred red or blue (ironic, then, that the Lib Dems are a nice shade of yellow).

The only other real option I see up here is the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP). I’ll ignore the fact that their colour is also yellow for the purposes of this blog post.

The SNP have been around for a good long while, always shouting for an independent Scotland. Their stance since the discovery of North Sea Oil is that England has been taking most of our money away from us, and that Scotland will be a rich nation if only we can make money out of the last of the oil, and that we can only do that by freeing ourselves from Westminster. I’m pretty sure using oil as one of your biggest bargaining chips these eco-friendly days isn’t the best way to win votes, but their bigger message is that of an independent Scotland. That’s the part people will listen to.

Yesterday, the papers ran the following story: The SNP revealed their intended timing and cost of a referendum on independence. If they win power this time around, they intend to ask the following in 2010:

The Scottish parliament should negotiate a new settlement with the British government, based on the proposals set out in the white paper, so that Scotland becomes a sovereign and independent state. Do you agree of disagree?”

The timing is such that they’ll have enough time in power to prove themselves in the eye of the public. I’ve not read in enough detail to find out if the white paper they refer to is available yet.

So, should Scotland be independent? Perhaps. There are certainly lots of other small nations who get on just fine by themselves, so why can’t we? I certainly don’t want to poo-poo the Union, as it’s served both Scotland and England very well over the years. But is it still relevant in 2007? I’m not so sure. So much stuff gets outsourced to business these days that Government is left merely to shape the rules within which business must play, and offer basic services such as pensions, healthcare, armies, etc. If that’s the case, then a more localised, more lightweight, Government makes sense.

Further, with more and more of the Big Power moving over to the EU, and Europe becoming more of an entity to be reckoned with, it seems that it makes sense for Scotland to sit independently on the EU Parliament, and to speak as a nation of its own

Scotland is an advanced nation. Glasgow is still, in many ways, the second city of the Empire (well, if the Empire existed any more). In the UK, we have the biggest suburban rail network outside of London, and the biggest shopping area outside of London. Lots of people, and lots of cash, flow through the two primary cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The ship building industry in Glasgow is nothing compared to what it once was, but what little is left is arguably at the top of its game. The cities, and the Highlands, are steeped in history that brings endless streams of Tartan-clad Americans to our shores in search of their great-great-grandfather’s friend’s Auntie’s cat. All over Scotland, lots of money is being pumped into updating infrastructure, building new buildings, renovating old areas, and generally keeping things as up to date as seems possible. We’re way ahead of the rest of the UK in terms of utilising renewable power sources. We have a lot of expertise to make a go of things, particularly in the technology and software market.

To me, it looks like we as a nation stand in good stead to have a go at it. But it’s possibly now or never. The only problem I have is that the media is always vague on what the SNP really intends to do. What does the above question really mean? Do we attach ourselves to the Euro, split out our armies, NHS services, etc, from the UK, and hope for the best? Or would Scotland be an independent nation, with, say, joint membership of the British Army? Would we/should we still trade in Pounds Sterling? Or is the Bank of England (set up, by the way, by a Scotsman) too English to deal with our country? Would we have a Scottish Pound? (And would English retailers then finally have a valid reason to refuse Scottish notes?) There are still too many questions surrounding independence that I long for transparency from political parties and the media.

So who do I vote for? I don’t know. Labour, Tory, Lib Dem … they don’t offer me anything different, so far as I can see. All politicians are afraid to do much these days for fear of the backlash they might receive. The political parties really vary very little, apart from the SNP, who actually want to do something radical. I’m tempted to vote SNP and be very quick to be very vocal should they try anything that doesn’t sound good for the nation. And I don’t yet see independence as being bad for the nation…