Tuesday, 10 May 2011

An Aljazeera correspondent on the SNP triumph

[The following is an excerpt from a report on the Aljazeera English-language website:]

Within five years, the people of Scotland will be asked to decide if they want to remain part of the union or create an independent state.

This is due to a remarkable win for the nationalists in elections to Scotland's devolved parliament which sits in Edinburgh.

The Scottish National Party [SNP] had governed as a minority administration but this time around it has taken 69 of the 129 seats up for grabs.

When the parliament was established in 1999 a complex electoral system was drawn up – a mixture of first-past-the-post and proportional representation – to ensure no party, particularly the nationalists, would ever win an overall majority.

But the founding fathers failed to see a complete collapse of the left of the centre Labour Party in its traditional industrial heartlands around Glasgow and Fife, the loss of every single Labour seat in the north east around Aberdeen and the huge collapse of the Liberal Democratic Party.

The SNP was told it would suffer because as the party in government in Scotland it approved the controversial release of the convicted Lockerbie Bomber, Abdel Basset Al Megrahi. It didn't. It simply wasn't an election issue.

Labour claimed the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed because of their links with the Conservatives in the UK government and disaffected voters went straight to the SNP. There might be some truth in that, but it does not detract from this astonishing result.

The leader of the nationalists, Alex Salmond, is by common consent the only 'big beast' in Scottish politics, by far and away the most impressive, informed, in touch politician.

He has in the past put forth the idea of Scotland having a parliament, everyone rejected this but they were wrong. That the SNP would never run Scotland, but they did with a minority administration in the last parliament. And that his party could never secure a majority. And it has.

Now he says those who predict Scotland will never be independent must be worried.

[The following is from a report in yesterday's Glasgow Evening Times:]

After he is confirmed as First Minister next week Mr Salmond will pick his cabinet for the second term and is expected to keep his team largely unchanged.

He fought the election on the SNP’s "record, team and vision" so would be a surprise to ring the changes.

One change is a new post of minister for cities which will be under the control of Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who is likely to remain as Health Secretary.

Finance Secretary John Swinney appears to be another untouchable after showing immense diplomatic and political skill in dealing with difficult times in local government.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had a stormier four years than other Cabinet Secretaries carrying the anger from the US and elsewhere over his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al Megrahi.

There will also have to be a new Lord Advocate after Elish Angiolini’s decision to step down.

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