Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Scotland's Political Awakening


"ask not what your country can do for you, rather ask what you can do for your country."

- President John F. Kennedy (from his Inauguration Speech - January 20, 1961)

The Scottish Parliament elections in May 2007 changed the political map of Scotland in a way that showed that the people could no longer be taken for granted - particularly by the Labour Party. Many years ago the Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Fife said that "the people of Fife would vote for a turnip if it had a red label". In the years following the unsuccessful referendum in 1979, for a devolved Scottish Assembly, political confidence amongst the electorate in Scotland plummeted. In Central Fife support for the Scottish National Party (SNP) fell from over 30% to just over 11%.

The voting method for the Scottish Parliament elections is a hybrid of the First Past The Post method and a 'top-up' from a Closed Regional List using the d'Hondt Formula to produce a broadly proportional result. There are 73 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP's) elected by FPTP and 56 from the Regional Lists. Here is an overall breakdown of the results of last year's elections to the Scottish Parliament -


SNP 32.70 /28.77 /36.43
LAB 32.26 /50.68 /35.66
LIBDEM 16.23 /15.07 /12.40
CON 16.65 /5.48 /13.18
OTHER 2.16/ 0.00 /2.33
TOTALS 100.00 /100.00 /100.00
SNP -3.93 /+3.73 /21 /47
LAB +18.42 /+3.40 /37 /46
LIBDEM -1.16 /-3.83 /11 /16
CON -11.17 /-3.47 /4 /17
OTHER -2.16 /0.00 /0 /3
TOTALS -/-/73 /129

The FPTP results show that the Labour Party benefits disproportionately from that method of voting. Average voter turnout was 51.46%, hopefully the Scottish Parliament election results, combined with those for the Councils, will bring about an increase in voter turnout which was regularly 65%-75% about 25 years ago. Before the election campaign the Labour Party was in a state of panic, during the campaign it became absolute panic and since the elections they've been completely clueless.

The election results for Central Fife since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999 are as follows -

YEAR: 2007 /2003 /1999
SNP 44.20 /30.59 /30.91
LAB 39.88 /41.38 /57.31
LIBDEM 8.49 /6.74 /5.94
CON 7.43 /7.04 /5.84
SSP - /5.43 /-
IND - /8.82 /-
TOTALS 100.00 /100.00 /100.00

An aspect of the elections in Scotland, last year, that was overlooked by the media outwith Scotland was the fact that there were Council elections in Scotland on the same day. They were overshadowed by the fiasco of rejected ballot papers in the Scottish Parliament elections, which was mainly due to political interference by a UK Government Minister (Labour) in the design of the ballot paper. The Labour/Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive was also warned of the confusion that would result from having the Scottish Parliament and Council elections on the same day using three different voting methods - they chose to ignore it. For the first time the Single Transferable Vote (STV) method of Proportional Representation was used for the Council elections in Scotland. The introduction of STV was met with strong resistance from within the Labour Party. The local 'fiefdoms' and 'one-party states' of the Labour Party in Scotland have been ended forever and the 'politics of fear' as well as the 'control freakery' that permeates that Party no longer work. In the media reporting of the Council elections in Fife mention was made of the dominance of Scottish politics by the Labour Party for the last 50 years saying "however, in parts of Fife it is nearer 100 years". The table below shows the comparison to the number of Councillors (by Party) that were elected in 2003 when FPTP was used -

PARTY 2007 /CHANGE / 2003
SNP 363 / +182 /181
LAB 348 / -161 /509
IND 192 / -39 /231
LIBDEM 166 / -9 /175
CON 143 / +20 /123

All of the SNP candidates in Central Fife who stood for election to Fife Council were elected. In Central Fife it used to be suggested that in the Levenmouth part of the constituency it would be easier to weigh the Labour vote than count it. Inevitably, at the count, a Labour activist would shout across the hall - "Someone in Methil voted Tory [Conservative]" - not any longer.

After having witnessed the significant changes in elected political representation achieved by the use of STV I have no hesitation in recommending its use in multi-member constituencies. Using STV the 'political virility' symbol of the size of a majority and the 'wasted vote' argument cease to exist. The Alternative Vote (AV) method is also a majoritarian method like FPTP, however, it has the advantage that, unlike FPTP, the winner has to obtain 50% of the vote. In a genuine democracy an electoral system (method of voting, constituency boundaries etc.) exists for the benefit of the people. The electoral system and the people DO NOT exist for the benefit of political parties.

Friday, 16 May 2008

"Why Become Independent to Give Up Sovereignty?"

This post is the last three paragraphs of one of the same title which appeared recently on the blog 'HOTEL BRUSSELS',, and my response to it -

"...Take Scotland, for example. It benefits significantly from European subsidies. Is this a coincidence? It has certainly convinced the Scottish National Party that Scotland can become a viable country if the United Kingdom is dissolved, on condition, however, that Scotland remains a member of the EU. Hence the SNP, which is currently in power in Edinburgh, aims for an independent Scotland firmly entrenched within the European Union.

In reality both SNP aims, dissolving Britain while at the same time strengthening the EU, are contradictory. Why become independent from London in order to give up one's sovereignty to Brussels? One may wonder whether the SNP really wants an independent Scotland at all since it seems ready to exchange one Leviathan for another even bigger and more dangerous one.

Perhaps if the Scots leave the United Kingdom to become a province of Europe, England can secede from the EU and, together with Flanders and the regions of Northern Italy, join Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway - the family of truly sovereign nations which are assembled in EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, and do not want to be part of the EU, the European superstate in the making.

This piece was originally published in The Washington Times on May 1, 2008."

and this is the comment I submitted to it -

"This item appeared in the FORUM section of 'The Washington Times' under the heading 'Politics Italian-style' and also in 'Brussels Journal' with the heading 'Why Become Independent to Give Up Sovereignty?'. The author is Paul Belien, editor of 'Brussels Journal'. I address my comments to the assertions made in paragraphs 9, 10 and 11. In paragraph 9 he writes -

'It has certainly convinced the Scottish National Party that Scotland can become a viable country if the United Kingdom is dissolved, on condition, however, that Scotland remains a member of the EU.'

That is total nonsense. The Scottish National Party was formed in 1934 predating the treaties which led to the European Union. When the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, which created Great Britain, was agreed there were riots throughout Scotland. When Scotland regains its independence it is Great Britain which will be dissolved not the United Kingdom - it has never been a country.

'whilst the SNP formally campaigned for a No vote at the 1975 referendum on continued membership of the European Community the tone of its campaign was directed against being forced to join the Community as part of the United Kingdom...rather than opposed to EC membership on any grounds (Lynch 1996:35).'

- 'SNP: The History of the Scottish National Party' by Peter Lynch, pp 185-186, ISBN 1 86057 0038 or 0046.

In paragraph 10 he writes -

'Why become independent of London in order to give up one's sovereignty to Brussels?'

This clearly shows that an assumption has been made regarding sovereignty in Scotland without knowing the actual facts - under Scottish constitutional law sovereignty rests with the people -

'Besides, in the years when Scotland was kingless, another concept emerged besides that of the impersonal crown: ultimate power or sovereignty was seen to lie with what was called 'the community of the realm'.'

SOURCE: 'Scotland: The Shaping of a Nation' by Gordon Donaldson, p64, ISBN 0 7153 6904 0,

'The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law.'

SOURCE: McCormick v Lord Advocate 1954 (1953 SC 396),

'If the Scottish people expressed a desire for independence the stage would be set for a direct clash between what is the English doctrine of sovereignty and the Scottish doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.'

SOURCE: 'The Operation of Multi-Layer Democracy', Scottish Affairs Committee Second Report of Session 1997-1998, HC 460-I, 2 December 1998, para 27.

In 1707 Scotland was taken into a Union with England by a minority despite the views of the majority of the people of Scotland (at the time most people were not entitled to vote as democracy as we now know it did not exist) whereas continued membership of the EU would be subject to the consent of the people in a referendum.

In paragraph 11 he writes -

'Perhaps if the Scots leave the United Kingdom to become a province of Europe...join Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway - the family of truly sovereign nations which are assembled in EFTA'

Firstly, Scots have absolutely no intention of becoming 'a province of Europe', secondly he insults all other sovereign nations, whether in the EU or elsewhere in the world, by suggesting that 'truly sovereign nations' are in EFTA. Tiny Liechtenstein has a population much less than that of Edinburgh and is the only country outwith the Arab world which does not allow women to vote.

'We do not aspire to a centralised European super state, but neither will we be satisfied with a European Union that only exists as a market and that stands divided and impotent when human rights and international law are being violated. Neither will we accept a European Union that looks down on small countries and constitutional regions while allowing the larger member states or the economic and military superpowers to dictate the law.'

- Nelly Maes, European Free Alliance [of which the SNP is a member].