Thursday, 17 May 2007

"Parliament of Minorities" Good For Scotland

The new government is taking shape. No party having a majority makes voting a fair process.

By Liam Bailey

Leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond made history as the first nationalist to gain power in the party's 73 years, when he was elected First Minister of Scotland May 16. He immediately attempted to silence those who doubt he can form a viable government by announcing his cabinet.

His election was a sign of how most votes might go in the parliament, with no party having a clear majority. But it also displayed that the S.N.P. is the only party that is truly putting what [they believe] is best for Scotland first, and not what is best for their party -- even if the S.N.P.'s view of what is best for Scotland differs from most Scots.

The S.N.P.'s main aim is a referendum on Scottish independence, allowing Scots to vote on splitting Scotland from the United Kingdom and going it alone. They believe that with the main power base in Westminster, Scotland isn't equal to England in the union, and that Scotland is not benefiting equally from council schemes, tax systems and most importantly profits from Scotland's off-shore oil-fields. Therefore the S.N.P. believe strongly that Scotland should split from the U.K. and be the independent state that thousands of our ancestors died painfully for.

The Green party agrees with them, but the other three main parties all disagree. As do I, having seen their policies made to look foolish by MP's opposing the split. But right or wrong I truly believe the S.N.P. is seeking independence because they believe it is best for Scotland.

It is their desire for a referendum on independence that has made the Scottish Parliament a "parliament of minorities" as Alex Salmond called it. If the S.N.P. leadership was vainly seeking to put their party in a majority government of Scotland, they could have dropped the referendum in order to secure a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dem's sixteen seats added to the Greens 2 seats, would have given the S.N.P. a one seat majority, with 65 seats vs. the 64 shared between Labour and the Conservatives. But they held firm on the referendum; putting Scotland before the party.

As such S.N.P. leader Alex Salmond was elected First Minister by a margin of only three, 49 seats to 46. His 49 votes came from the 47 elected S.N.P. ministers and the 2 Green Party ministers. The 46 against came from Labour's 46 seat holders. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives abstained. Knowing, that with Green support for the S.N.P., their abstention would still mean Salmond would become First Minister. No doubt the result they wanted, with their rival, Labour leader Jack McConnell waiting in the wings for another term as First Minister, should Salmond fail in his endeavours to lead the government. So why not put their weight behind Salmond's bid and ensure the people's faith in the new "parliament of minorities"? Because they don't support independence and they couldn't put Scotland having a viable government that the public has faith in before party political issues.

Mr Salmond said: "We will appeal for support policy by policy across this chamber."

His Predecessor, Labour's Jack McConnell said: "He will have our support when his decisions are right. We will, of course, not oppose for its own sake. But we will bring forward to the chamber, for robust debate, the policies in which we believe too."

So, this might be how every policy before the parliament goes. No party has a majority and there is of course the staunch rivalry between the Lib Dem's, Labour and the Conservatives, preventing them from maintaining a definite front against the S.N.P.'s and Greens, except perhaps on the independence issue. So, no one will really be able to predict whether policies will be voted for or against. Even the parties will rarely be able to predict what way the other parties will vote. This reduces the chance of party rivalries or other dynamics affecting the vote.

For once in U.K. or international politics for that matter, the Scottish Parliament should be able to vote on policies, based only on how good they believe the policies are. So, perhaps a government of minorities is best for Scotland.

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