Scotland the Brave

Scotland gets Devolution

 Our Scottish Saltire

Update - Election 2003

May 6th 1999 - Election of Scotland's first Parliament for 300 years.

What we said then

"That was Donald Dewar paying tribute to Tony Blair" - BBC Scotland's Kirsty Wark after Donald's acceptance speech in his constituency, and effectively as First Minister of our new Parliament. We hope tribute will not be a continuing trend!

Donald Dewar of the Scottish Labour Party will be Scotland's First Minister, in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats led by Jim Wallace, the first coalition in Britain since WWII. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), led by Alex Salmond, will be the official opposition party. The Scottish Parliament meets at 9.30 on Wednesday the 12th May 1999 for the first time, when the 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will be sworn in. It sits in full session on July 1st 1999.

Donald Dewar will also need to become a World statesman, and not just a wrangling politician. He will have to make sure his apron-strings are not tied by Westminster, Blair (British Prime Minister) or John Prescott. We're sure he's up to the job. Full credit should be given though to Tony Blair, born in Edinburgh, for his unstinting efforts in pushing through Devolution. The price of a coalition for Labour is expected to be the scrapping of student tuition fees, a most unpopular national Labour party and (British) government policy. We hope this will lead in time to full reinstatement of student grants, after a 5% drop in student applications last year. Scotland needs degrees to encourage tourism (and for the sake of business and the future).

With 30 percent of the vote in Scotland and 35 MSPs, the SNP and Alex Salmond will be a major force in Scottish politics. As the official opposition, they have an opportunity to mature and grow as a party, and show the Scottish electorate that they would be fit to govern in the future. Labour are still riding high nationally in Britain as their policies have met with general approval; not surprising as towards the end of the previous Conservative rule, there was massive dissatisfaction leading to a landslide victory for Labour in the last British elections, and the removal of the last Conservative MP in Scotland. And Labour kept their promise to give Scotland and Wales a (successful) referendum for Devolution - a most unusual political event (keeping promises that is). The next Scottish Parliamentary elections may bring very different results from this one.

The election was held under the first proportional representation rules in Great Britain, whereby 73 seats are for individual members by the traditional "first past the post" method, and then on the results of a totally separate second poll, "topping up" occurs so that the final composition depends on the overall regional percentages in this second vote. Initially against this whole idea I can see that it has worked, though favouring the major parties at the expense of the "rainbow" or minor ones. Credit should be given all the same to John Smith (sadly deceased), Donald Dewar, Jim Wallace, David Steel, Canon Kenyon Wright, the Council of Churches, and the many others involved in its design. We hope David Steel as a prime mover will become the first Speaker (Presiding Officer).

There was a disappointing turnout for the election (58%), probably due to the carping negative nature of a 6 week campaign which disgusted people all over Scotland who deserved better. We hope this disgraceful exhibition never happens again - leave Westminster politics to Westminster thanks very much. Scotland will need the "Politics of Co-operation". 'Nuff said.

BBC Scotland television presenter Kirsty Wark, Peter Snow with the computer graphics swingometer, and guests made the election night very enjoyable, and marked a landmark in Scottish history. Vote-counting was, however, often a shambles, and resulted in huge delays in results, particularly for some of the lucky candidates elected from the regional lists through topping-up, including David Steel of the LibDems and David McLetchie, leader of the Conservatives. Get it right in 2003!

Final standings of the parties (and their leaders) were:
Scottish Labour Party - 56 members (Donald Dewar)
Scottish Nationalists - 35 (Alex Salmond)
Scottish Conservatives - 18 (David McLetchie)
Liberal Democrats - 17 (Jim Wallace)
Independent (Labour) - 1 (Dennis Canavan)
Scottish Socialist Party - 1 (Tommy Sheridan)
Green Party - 1 (Robin Harper)

The Scottish Conservative and Unionist party staged a comeback due to the proportional representation system, where they achieved 18 seats through the topping up process. They managed to get no Scottish seats at all at Westminster in the last UK election, and regardless of anyone's politics, it must be welcomed that their opinions have a voice in the new Parliament.

Dennis Canavan was forced to stand as an independent and was then expelled from the Labour party, because he was not selected as his party didn't like his views. When will these idiots ever learn that Scotland has intense loyalty to its people? He soundly trounced the official candidate, getting 3 times as many votes, but takes little comfort as he's given his life to the party. We hope that Labour will have the good sense to welcome him back in as a member. Now is a time for conciliation and co-operation, not bitter dispute and self-serving rancour, which has been the bane of Scotland throughout the centuries.

Something like 7 percent of the voters used their second vote to support a "rainbow" party, and one of the big advantages of the proportional representation system is that it has allowed the Green Party to have a member sitting in the new Parliament. The new member is Robin Harper, and we hope he is able to express views different from the normal boring party politics we're all so used to. Sadly no member from the Highland Alliance made it through from the lists.

Tommy Sheridan of the Scottish Socialist party (SSP) is a character and a half, having been jailed for a time for refusal to pay the infamous "poll" tax years ago. This party can be seen as the old socialist Labour party as opposed to the "New" one, and is an interesting development in Scotland and one worth watching in the future.

The three individual MSPs are expected to form a left-wing alliance, and there are already rumours that disaffected SNP MSPs may consider defecting to it and even a few Labour ones. It should be kept in mind that no matter what is the political leaning of a British national party, Scotland is largely socialist at heart, and there will be increasing drift between a Scottish party's policies and the UK national ones. Friction is inevitable, and it would be strange indeed if a one-member party or an independent became a focus for a really radical change in Scotland's politics. While this is playing itself out, all MSPs will have to carefully consider business needs in Scotland, both domestic and foreign, as well as their own social, economic and political ideals and ours. One thing's for sure; the next few months and years are going to be an adventure - fun for a change.

Finally, many people internationally will wonder at how much power our new Parliament has. There are other references to explore this fully but we have no doubt that its powers will increase over the years. The SNP have always wanted complete Independence for Scotland, and it is their firm policy to introduce a Referendum as soon as possible, to allow the Scottish people our democratic say. While it might be difficult to effect this in opposition, they may well become the government in the future, and so after a period of semi-self-government Scotland could yet gain Independence. Our nearest trading partner and next-door-neighbour will still be England, however, and we must keep our good relations with them, no matter which way we go. Whatever happens, we look forward to a successful and prosperous future for Scotland, and hope all countries smile on us and wish us well!! Our doors are always open.

 Sunset on the Clyde

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