"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

May 7, 2007

French elections and Scottish Elections

In Scotland a comparison of the French and Scottish elections might at first sight lead us to focus on the most obvious difference - the Scottish elections were characterised by large numbers of "spoilt" or uncounted votes whereas in the French election there seems to be no reports of any significant problem of this type. So strike one to the French eh?

Comparing the two elections in this way would however be to miss a much more important feature. The French presidential elections were in many ways a divisive process. they produced an electorate which was effectively split down the middle. Commentators have described Sarkozy's victory as decisive - and indeed in some respects it was - 53% compared to Royale's 47%. The process was very much a first past the post model and leaves the winner in clear command.

The reaction to the French vote however shows how divisive this process can be. Riots followed, albeit on a smaller scale than some perhaps feared. Sarkozy as the winner has spoken about trying to unite France and the French will indeed hope that this is what he does. There is however no imperative for him to take account of the very large minority of French people who clearly do not accept his agenda for change. This is of course both the advantage of first past the post and its weakness.

In Scotland with a proportional representation system the picture is very different. The SNP as the largest party certainly have some moral right to try to govern. But on their main manifesto commitment - a referendum for independence - they did not receive the support of the majority of the Scottish electorate. Had the system been first past the post they would now be in a position to forge ahead with this policy.

But the reality for the SNP now is that they can not force through a referendum on independence. They must gain the support from others to achieve this and it is unlikely that they will be able to do so as the LibDems are, rightly, standing by their manifesto commitment.

So unless the SNP retreats on this policy it looks as if the SNP will need to consider acting as a minority government. Is this a bad thing? No. Because the other parties will support them issue by issue. It will force the Scottish governing party to seek consensus on issues and prevent them from forcing issues which are more divisive. It will prevent them from fomenting arguments left right and centre with Westminster ( although undoubtedly they will try).

So how should we make the comparison between the two elections? Forget the lost votes. The Scottish Election for all its faults has demonstrated that the Scottish system will force parties to seek consensus. It will prevent large minorities like the SNP from forcing through changes that are potentially divisive. This is the benefit of our system. If it makes the course of governing a little less secure and requires a Scottish government to act through consensus then we should welcome this.

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