Coalition talks, Presiding Officers and spoilt ballots (again)

Hello! So you can see, I decided to go with a Wednesday update after all. Plenty has happened since the last roundup, and you bet the bloggers have been talking about it.

The big story is of course coalition negotiations and who will become First Minister. The Lib Dems have caused a stink by refusing to negotiate with the SNP while an independence referendum is on the table. There are lots of views on this.

Iain MacLaren at Small Nation calls the Lib Dems “neither liberal nor democratic” for refusing to accept a referendum. Meanwhile, David at Island Life has some simple definitions for the Lib Dems (I’d love to know where he got that definition for ‘liberal’ from!). Chris Dillow argues along similar lines.

A different view comes from Shuggy:

Why not, then, hold a referendum to demonstrate to the nationalists once and for all that the majority of Scots, as is repeatedly demonstrated in opinion polls, do not want independence?

The answer is that this is not how referenda are understood by those who advocate them. Would the nationalists accept such a referendum as the final word on the subject?

I doubt it. The historical experience has been that politicians advocate referenda when they think they’ll get the answer they want and oppose them when they think they won’t.

Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting thinks that it would be more pragmatic for the SNP to drop the referendum idea.

So the Lib Dems aren’t going to play ball after all. Fair play to them, it’s not like they didn’t give the SNP sufficient warning. I believe the line was that they wouldn’t even pick up the phone while the referendum issue was still on the table. Personally I don’t know why the nationalists are pushing for a referendum that they quite simply will not win at any point over the next 4 years.

Now from the point of view of a Lib Dem, Caron Lindsay:

I am pretty well disposed to the idea of talking to the SNP. Apart from the obvious disagreement on independence, we do have some similar ideas on policy and could probably form a stable government which would be good for Scotland.

However, having said repeatedly since way before the start of the election that we would not support a referendum on independence, we can’t really go back on that now. To do so would be a betrayal of our commitment to the people who voted for us and would make us look like we had no integrity whatsoever.

Gus at 1820 seems certain that the Lib Dems’ refusal to talk is all down to Gordon Brown.

My views on this whole situation are here (I try to avoid including my own posts in the roundup, but I couldn’t resist this time I’m afraid).

Amid all this tangle surrounding coalitions and who might become First Minister, Holyrood Watcher reckons that Alex Salmond has been the best performer since the election.

Meanwhile, like some Achilles of yore, Mr McConnell sits sulking in his tent, while his Labour Party acolytes consider their legal options for bringing down chaos on whatever kind of administration could be patched up. And Mr Stephen plays Greta Garbo, wanting to be alone. What is either of them contributing to the common weal, in this time of crisis?

Kevin Williamson thinks so too:

So far Alex Salmond hasnt put a foot wrong, and the Scottish people are warming to the idea of him heading the government. But the road ahead is fraught with difficulties. As long as Alex Salmond and the SNP press ahead with their keynote policy – a commitment to publish a Referendum Bill in the first term of office – then they will continue to have the support of the Independence movement.

But they can’t decide who is First Minister without first choosing the Presiding Officer. And with the election result being as tight as it was, nobody from any of the parties is prepared to come forward yet. It seems most likely that a Conservative will fill the seat — but which one? Will Patterson has a look at the possibilities.

Richard Thomson thinks that, despite what Annabel Goldie may believe on the back of a reasonably good performance, it would be best for her party to stand aside and become Presiding Officer.

Meanwhile, David Hutchison ponders on the entire situation, including the dreaded ’28 Days Later scenario’.

There is still a lot of navel gazing going on about those spoilt ballots. Richard Havers is talking about the closeness of the result, and how it will ultimately lead to four years of constitutional wrangling. But he also mentions one theory as to why there were so many spoilt ballots:

We’re not in Japan, we read from left to right and so in my view logic dictates that that the constituency would go on the left. Apparently failure to mark a constituency vote is what accounted for a vast amount of the spoiled papers. In this case the Executive, the Scotland Office et al have something to answer for.

This seems a bit unclear. I’ve seen a couple of LiveJournalers posting about this as well. rhythmaning and MatGB are both shocked by the idea that not voting for a constituency candidate might have invalidated your regional vote.

If this is true, this will be a change from the last two elections. Because the ballot papers were separate before, there was no way to tell whether or not someone voted in one vote but not the other. But I’m sceptical that it’s true. I’m sure the smaller parties would be kicking up way more of a fuss if it was so (see my comments on MatGB’s post).

Today came news that the number of spoilt papers was not a piffling 100,000 but was 142,000. Yikes! Anastasia Beaumont-Bott argues that this is not entirely down to the stupidity of the electorate.

Silversprite notes that the numbers of spoilt ballots was comparatively low on the island constituencies. He has a number of suggestions as to why — some of them are controversial!

It is worth remembering this: if there is someone to blame for the calamity, it is the Scotland Office, as Tartan Hero points out.

Given that the SNP have benefited greatly from the split in the left, Osama Saeed is amused because effectively that means the News of the World won it for the SNP!

Some guy, Andrew Keen, was on Radio 4 this week trying to say that bloggers are killing the mainstream media (okay, a lot of bloggers kind of want this, but it’s not happening) and runing the economy! What a jackass, as they say over there. Surreptitious Evil dissects.

I think that is all for now! The next roundup will come your way on Sunday, and it will be hosted by Will Patterson. Suggestions please to

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