Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Hanging Time at the Westminster Gallows

Apart from the wag who said "If there's going to be a hung Parliament, who do we start with?", the prospect of a balanced Parliament (perhaps a better word than the hugely negative 'hung') raises many questions. Some say that the prospect would be a disaster for Britain; and that 'the markets won't like it'.

Frankly, I really don't care what the fat cats in the markets think of it, but I do care if people are falsely given the impression that this way lies disaster. Certainly not true for the minority government of Scotland, that has achieved so much by working toward consensus on an issue by issue basis. Certainly not true for many other countries where coalition is the norm. Why on earth could the 'mother of Parliaments' not operate when alliances need to be brokered and made?

But then we move on to the question of who, with whom? Here, we need, as an electorate, to take a reality check and appreciate that the constant bleatings of the media aimed at forcing one party or another to say who they would work with is complete and utter nonsense. No party could possibly be daft enough as to give away its negotiating position in advance of the final election result. And in any event, it is not until that final result that the influence any party may have can be seen.

But for Scotland, one thing is abundantly clear - as Alex Salmond says - quite simply, the more SNP MPs are elected, the more Scotland's position will be strengthened. It is an absolute fact of parliamentary mathematics that for each of the three main English parties, when it comes to working out who agrees to what deal in order to form a government, the minority of their seats are in Scotland. It will be anglo-centric policies that will be at the heart of negotiations - despite anything the Scottish Lib Dems may say. When push comes to shove, they will vote with their English colleagues, on issues negotiated for England. SNP members have no such divided loyalty. Their only potential allies their our friends in Plaid Cymru - together, they can be a powerful influence for both Scotland and Wales.

Never before has there been such an opportunity. Never before has the absolute relevance of electing SNP MP's to Westminster been so clear and present. It's a whole different question in the City of Salford, or the leafy suburbs of London. Let England get on and vote for the choices they have - and if that means the Lib Dems do well, then so be it. But in Scotland now, more than ever, Scottish votes must be votes for Scotland. This is no time to let this momentous opportunity slip through our fingers like so many grains of sand. Time to create a strong and influential group of National and local Champions. Time to grasp the chance.

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