The Scottish Parliament is often reported by London newsreaders as a proxy for Scottish public opinion. In truth, it’s an institution held in wide contempt – and the desultory 52% turnout (in what was a knife-edge election) speaks volumes. This is the first fact to consider when judging the problems which Alex Salmond is facing this week.
Look at the final results. The SNP was supported by just 17% of the electorate (and 32.9% of votes cast against Labour’s 32.2%). It was the largest party by just 15,800 votes of the 2.02 million cast. It is the thinnest imaginable mandate.
Sensing this weakness, the Scottish LibDems have refused to enter coalition. Salmond looks set to run a minority government, which will be hopelessly hamstrung. It is a recipe for regular no-confidence votes, and general paralysis. Which, given the dire quality of Holyrood’s legislation, may be no bad thing.
I suspect the LibDems will now want to destabilise Salmond, in hope of forcing a second Holyrood election which may return them to power-sharing with Labour. They’ll elect Salmond as First Minister–failure to do so would trigger a second election, which as Iain Dale rightly says would increase the SNP vote. All told, it makes the Italian system look decorous. Now and again, there are calls for proportional representation at Westminster. We’re witnessing why this is a rotten idea.