Tag Archives: haggis neeps liberalism

Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism special: Dramatic independence referendum duel in London and Edinburgh

It’s been a torrid few days in Scottish politics.

Since the SNP won an overall majority in the Holyrood elections last year, there has been much talk of the independence referendum they pledged to have in the second half of their term. They have been tight-lipped on their plans.

There has been uncertainty on the legality of such a referendum. Even respected legal blogger Lallands Peat Worrier, himself an SNP supporter, has expressed that the terms of the Scotland Act may not allow it. And amid all the bluster of this blog post from senior SNP strategist Stephen Noon is …

Posted in News and Scotland | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 17 Comments

Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism #9

Who does Alex Salmond think he is?

With all three main party leaders having now agreed to participate in televised debates in the run-up to the next general election, Scotland’s Opportunist-in-Chief is threatening to throw his toys out of the pram
unless he’s included in any debate shown north of the border.

But Salmond is indulging in pure gesture politics once again. As my colleague Stephen Glenn has pointed out before, Salmond has no right to expect to take part in a leaders’ debate when he won’t even be a candidate at the next Westminster election.

He leads the fifth biggest party at Westminster (behind the Democratic Unionists) and will be fielding candidates in less than 10 per cent of constituencies UK-wide.

Posted in Op-eds and Scotland | Also tagged , , , , and | 8 Comments

Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism #8

It seems impossible to believe, but once again Freshers’ Week is upon us. That most exciting time of year, when fresh-faced school pupils transform overnight into bleary-eyed students – all while scrupulously obeying government guidelines on alcohol use, of course.

It’s a great opportunity to try new things, or at the very least join new clubs and promptly forget about them. It’s also the most important time of year for youth politics.

The vast majority of student activists and party members are recruited at Freshers’ Fayres, so it’s important to have a decent operation to bring people in. That’s harder than it appears – aside from the cost in money and time, you need a strong team of young activists willing to give up their Freshers’ Week to stand at a stall. Fortunately, this year we do.

Posted in Op-eds and Scotland | Leave a comment

Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism #3

When STV isn’t actually proportional …

The Scottish Liberal Democrats very much punched above their weight during the two terms of the Labour/LibDem coalition in the Scottish Parliament – 1999-2007 – and one of the major successes of the second term was the introduction of Single Transferable Vote for Scottish Local Government elections, starting with the May 2007 election.

Coalition government does require compromise on the part of the partners and in order to gain the support of sceptical Labour backbenchers (who really did not want a change from first-past-the-post) the new STV wards were set at 3 and 4 member only, reducing their proportionality. STV local government elections elsewhere – for example, in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – have more flexibility in number of members per ward, improving proportionality, particularly in urban areas.

So, where I am a councillor – in Dundee – in 2007, the two bigger parties (SNP and Labour) ended up over represented – Labour got 29% of the vote but 35% of the seats – and the two smaller parties (LibDems and Tories) ended up under-represented – the Liberal Democrats on 11.3% of the vote got 6.9% of the seats.

OK, you may say, not entirely proportional, but a whole lot better than the wide distortions between votes and seats often seen under first-past-the-post – and you would be right. However, a recent council by-election in Dundee has highlighted what I consider a serious failing in the current arrangements, which can result in by-election results seriously distorting the proportionality of results in a multi-member ward.

The by-election I refer to took place in the Maryfield Ward on 12th March; by-elections take place under Alternative Vote (AV). In 2007 at the main STV election, the SNP won two of the three seats with 44% of the vote; Labour won the other seat with 30% of the vote. The LibDems were third on 13% (no seat) and the Tories a weak fourth. The Labour councillor resigned just after Christmas, and given that there was little change to vote share at the by-election, the SNP comfortably gained the Labour seat.

The SNP now holds all three seats, but with less than 50% of the vote. Not exactly proportional, that one, is it? The majority of voters did not vote SNP and are now not represented at all, other than by nationalist councillors.

As a result of the by-election, the knife-edge situation on the City Council has altered, prompting a series of events culminating in the Labour Lord Provost effectively switching sides, and an attempt by the SNP to wrench control from the Labour/LibDem coalition administration will take place this Monday. And, all because there was no significant shift in voter opinion since May 2007!

This is not the first time we have seen the unfortunate effects of by-elections under AV.

Posted in Op-eds and Scotland | 13 Comments

Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism #2

This is the second in a regular, and now named, series of articles by Scottish-based bloggers giving their thoughts about developments in Scottish politics.

On Friday evening I’d just completed a long week at the office in one sense wishing I was in Harrogate with my fellow Lib Dems – but at the same time too exhausted for a full weekend of Conference, having squeezed one full extra day into the week that would go without payment as a result of a freeze on overtime. But as I walked to the bus through Edinburgh Park I saw that lights were …

Posted in Conference, Op-eds and Scotland | Also tagged , , and | 8 Comments

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