All 5 entries tagged Scotland

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May 06, 2007

Lib Dem Failure = Lib Dem Power

It’s a strange quirk of the electoral system in Britain nowadays that the Lib Dems can do fairly poorly at an election and come out of it with so much power. In both Wales and Scotland, they hold the keys to power for Labour and the SNP respectively. The only difference this time round is that they’re considering rejecting the easy option in both cases.

In Wales, leader Mike German, under a great deal of pressure from his members (a leadership election is more than likely) has to decide, perhaps within a week, whether to prop up an unpopular Labour administration headed by Rhodri Morgan. He seems keen, but he could be deposed before he has a chance to sign off on it.

In Scotland, Nicol Stephen has a similar decision to make for the Lib Dems, although they would at least be propping up the SNP, who are on the up themselves. Even then, the SNP would still need the Greens to form a majority. The Greens support independence. The Lib Dems do not, and it could be a deal breaker.

Even in Westminster, it’s an open secret that the Lib Dems could have to do a similar job for Gordon Brown (or Cameron) after the next election.

It’s almost becoming the case that the Lib Dems are the bland, faceless party of coalition. They don’t seem to be threatening to lead any coalition in the near – perhaps even distant – future. And when elections become closer between the top two parties, their share of the vote often collapses.

There’s something to be said for coalition governments. But when the Lib Dems are so predictably the partner in any coalition, is there any value in voting for them?

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My view is that there’ll be another election in Edinburgh within the year. The SNP’s majority is so flaky they’ll struggle to govern. Hold a new election and they’ll probably do even better. In Wales, Labour and the Lib Dems are going to struggle to come to a deal. Many in the Labour party are dead against joining with Plaid, and the Tories are of course a complete no-no. It’s going to be iffy here too.

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I (honestly) wrote this before reading Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer. He makes the exact same point.


May 04, 2007

A "Mauling" for Labour?

Some of the first newspaper reports suggested it was a nightmare night for Tony Blair, Rhodri Morgan and Jack McConnell. The light of the next day leaves things a bit unclear.

In England, Labour have taken heavy losses. They’ve lost a few councils that should be their natural heartland – such as Blackburn. In total, the Tories have taken control of 15 councils, and the Lib Dems 1.

In Scotland, it’s neck and neck. Both Labour and the SNP have 32 seats in the Parliament. Most of the remaining constituency votes should be Labour ones. But in turn, most of the regional votes will probably go to the SNP. It’s going to be incredibly tight, but it will be a poor show for Alex Salmond if he doesn’t get the most seats.

In Wales, Labour are clearly on top – “contrary to others’ claims that people have ‘voted for change’”. The Lib Dems say the voters have demanded more than one party is in charge, which suggests the people have an incredible knowledge of the complicated electoral system. They’re also not the people’s second favourites, so they have to be careful.

At one point last night, it almost seemed Tony Blair might go out on a high. It didn’t work out like that, but he’s also not going out in a blaze of shame either. The doommongers got it wrong, and while Scotland might prove to be a disappointment for Labour, elsewhere the picture could have been much, much worse.

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I got to bed at 7am after a very long, but adrenaline-filled night at ITV Wales. ITV were typically getting the results faster than the BBC were in Wales, but then took longer to get the relevant graphic on screen. All told, it was probably a victory for the Beeb, but that shouldn’t be a surprise – they had a much bigger kitchen sink to throw at it.


March 22, 2007

Warnings before the smoking ban

It’s nearly a year since smoking was banned in Scottish pubs, and warnings from the landlords should be listened to south of the border.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association said pubs had suffered “collateral damage” from the smoking ban, and had been forgotten in the wrangling between tobacco companies and the Executive.

Drink sales had fallen 11% and food sales – expected to rise by some – had also fallen, by 3%. Only around 530 pubs responded to the survey by the SLTA, but the lack of help made available to small businesses rings true with the situation in Wales and England, where smoking will be banned in April and July respectively.

In Wales, small businesses have been screaming for help, but the only visible signs have been leaflets informing landlords and business owners of their duties once the ban comes in. The Scottish experience seems to suggest that local councils haven’t been sympathetic to planning applications for outside amenities for smokers.

Some good news comes from the survey though. Services which help people quit smoking had seen a big increase in the number of calls from the public, suggesting the ban might trigger some people to quit.


January 16, 2007

Why are the SNP taken so seriously?

Asked what the Act of Union (300 years old today) had done for England and Scotland, an SNP spokesman told BBC Radio 4 tonight:

Well, back three hundred years ago, it made England look strong and powerful.

And that, apparently, is it.

Regardless of what you think about nationalism and the idea of Scotland becoming independent, isn’t it more than a little disingenuous to suggest that Scotland hasn’t benefitted one jot from being politically and economically joined to England?

True, they would have had a lot of North Sea oil to themselves, but I’d be interested to know if Scots think that England has ever done anything for them.

My suspicion is that the Act of Union has strengthened both countries over time, and that in denying this outright, the SNP are making themselves look silly. There are still arguments for independence today without disregarding three hundred years of history, no?


April 11, 2006

False Alarm???

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4898398.stm

The 'working hypothesis' in Whitehall is that the swan that died of the 'deadly strain of bird flu' may have been washed up from another country.

The type of H5N1 it had was identical to the one found in Germany, and it seems as if the failure to find any other dead swans in Scotland suggests this may well be a one-off that was swept ashore by the tides.

So does this mean we're going to have all of this hullabaloo all over again when the UK does actually have bird flu!?!

And does this mean that the concern was all a fuss over nothing?

I've not seen this news reported on TV yet, but I'm willing to bet that it won't get the same attention in the media that the initial 'outbreak' did.


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