Sunday, 11 July 2010

Respect or Irreverence?



David Cameron has excellent PR skills. To show he 'cares' about Scotland he rushed up here hot foot during his first week in office, met with the First Minister and had a wee tour of our expensive Parliament. He insisted he would treat 'Scotland with respect'. I noted he didn't say 'with the respect it deserves' but it's now becoming clear that's what the new coalition government meant.

Very quickly Mr Cameron and his deputy decided the date of the next Westminster election. Why that had such priority seemed strange but it was said it was part of the 'deal' with the libdems. So the next general election will be held on the same day as the Scottish Parliament planned for the Holyrood election in 2015. With 4 year terms of office in the Scottish Parliament the date had been mooted for some time. So Scotland, in 2015, now has to vote for both Holyrood and Westminster on the same day. A good idea? Certainly, if that does come about, the voting will be interesting - in both elections.

As part of the 'respect we deserve' agenda, this past week Nick Clegg has decided Westminster will hold a referendum on AV, on the day of our Holyrood elections next year. Alex Salmond protested but it would appear his bawling has been ignored.

There's a Scottish Office in London which I have always presumed was an expensive government department primarily in situ to liaise with the UK and Scottish governments. If it can't sort out two simple problems of clashing dates, how do we expect it to do anything in the best interests of Scotland?

Silly me. It's just another branch of UK plc treating us with the respect we deserve.

33 comments:

John said...

You are discussing professional politicians. As a sad breed, they can only ever see things from their own perspective so it is pointless to ascribe morals, respect or even 'common' sense. I am now so old I ignore them. If what I am to do is totally unlawful only in view of some directive and no one is harmed - I do it anyway. In real terms, politicians have no impact on what I do and that is how it should be. If they were really worth having, they would be dealing with things that matter such as wars, hunger in UK, disease and poverty at home in UK

Joe Public said...

"......Nick Clegg has decided Westminster will hold a referendum on AV, on the day of our Holyrood elections next year. Alex Salmond protested but it would appear his bawling has been ignored."

So, the British people, some of whom don't have the luxury their our own Parliament, can't do anything until it's been approved by a whinger north o' the Border?

Perhaps he'll throw his toys out of his pram next.

Strathturret said...

Respect is easy to say; its actions that count.

Clegg has shown that there is no respect within Westminster for Scotland or is parliament.

However I rather suspect that there will be a reckoning on the way for the Lib-Dems at the next Scottish Elections!

Mrs Rigby said...

Some areas of England will be voting in local elections that day and Wales and N Ireland will also be electing to their Assemblies.

Doesn't it make sense to have the referendum at the same time as other elections? It means more people are likely to vote, and doesn't necessarily mean a doubling up of staff, and costs.

Chuck said...

I suspect it is in the sense of, 'Of course I'll respect you in the morning...'

tris said...

I think you hit the nail on the head with the "PR" comment.

We were, I think, taken in by the contrast between the affable and charming Mr Cameron's respectful visit to take tea with the First Minister within days of his kissing hands, and the grumpy unpleasant Mr Brown's point blank refusal to admit that Mr Salmond existed.

But Mr Cameron’s work outside of parliament was in PR. He knew that he was the PM of a country where few had voted for him, and his only legitimacy, though his coalition with the Liberals was relatively tenuous. It would be obvious to anyone who cared about his image, that a show of “respect” for Scotland and its devolved institutions was a necessity.

He also cleverly did not appoint the one and only Tory from Scotland to the “colonial secretary” type position at the Scotland Office, but gave the Cabinet appointment instead to a series of Liberals. Further showing his understanding that whilst we didn’t vote Liberal either, at least we voted for a lot more of them what Tories.

That was probably the little bit of respect that we were going to get.

Clearly anything that happens in Scotland on the same day as something that is happening supranational will be overshadowed by the coverage in the press and most particularly TV.

As usual the SNP and other little parties will be left out of that. That will put them at a disadvantage. Two birds, one stone. Can’t argue that it’s cheaper, and so the SNP’s carping can be shown up as them wasting the state’s money for nothing.

Of course it won’t do the Tories any good in Scotland David. It is Labour that will gain from the SNP’s loss.

subrosa said...

Whilst I agree with you in many ways John, politicians do have an impact on what I do. For one, their decisions affect the management of my finances. The decisions of local politicians affect me regularly because they control local public services.

Like you though I disregard most of it but at times I have to tolerate stupidity if I can. One example is the collection of bulk rubbish. Not so long ago I could phone the local council office and a van would come within a couple of days, often the same day. Now I have to go through a lengthy process with the central government offices, pay £15 up front, then wait for a phone call to tell me when the rubbish will be collected. Bureaucracy at its worst. It's not the £15 I'm concerned with, it's the time spent on the phone pressing all the keys to get the right department, then having someone who doesn't even know the area deal with the problem.

I get a better service with many English private companies on the phone. They seem to understand my accent far better than council staff.

subrosa said...

Dearie me Joe. Now whose fault is it that you don't have your own Parliament? Yours.

The Scots campaigned for years for the return of their parliament. Maybe it's time more people joined you and pushed your politicians into a corner about it.

I'm entitled to whinge. I'm a pensioner. ;)

tris said...

Joe: That's not the argument.

If that's your problem why don't you fight for your own parliament.

It's not just Alex who think it unfair. There are members of the public who agree with him. Even some who are not nationalists and just see themselves as North Englanders.

subrosa said...

Indeed Strathturret, the libdem bloggers I read are currently being kind, but some are still sceptical about the whole business.

subrosa said...

It's not the financial angle which concerns me Mrs R. We had an election here in Scotland just a few years ago when we had council and Holyrood elections on the same day. Even after spending £millions on public information films, the whole thing was a complete mess. So many people didn't seem to understand the difference and of course the electronic counting system didn't help either. (I'm most suspicious of that).

So Wales, N Ireland and Scotland all have parliamentary/assembly elections on that day.

The fact that England is voting on some local elections that day doesn't affect us until Westminster then slap a national referendum on top.

I can see chaos here.

subrosa said...

And of course you don't Chuck. You just want out of the situation asap.

JRB said...

We are only now beginning to see the ConDems in their true colours.

Respect? – Aye right!

Believe that and you will believe anything.

Joe Public said...

SR @ 12:31.

".....in Scotland ......we had council and Holyrood elections on the same day. ......the whole thing was a complete mess. So many people didn't seem to understand the difference....... "

So, (some) people who can't even understand the difference between two things are given the vote. Methinks that's an education / explanation problem.

Perhaps there should have been a 3rd box on the Ballot Paper "I do not understand the difference", so those votes could immediately be discounted.

Oldrightie said...

Everyone always forgets the underbelly of Government, namely the Mandarins. It is their remit that thwarts and damages the necessary bureaucracy of government and screws it up more often than not. Given the newness of this coalition their progress is refreshing and amazing when so many are determined to tar them with the same brush Labour used on themselves. As for relations twixt Scotland and The UK, devolution was desired and granted. If independence is to follow don't expect we unionists to campaign against our own beliefs.

subrosa said...

Afternoon John. We'll see much more of it I'm sure. Is it our age that makes us cynical or our experience of politics? Maybe a bit of both.

DougtheDug said...

The main problem identified in the Gould report with the last 2007 election was not that the Holyrood and Council ballot papers caused confusion by being presented together but that the campaigns were run at the same time and that the local election issues were lost in the Scottish Parliament campaign. I've reproduced the two paragraphs from Chapter 9, Conclusions and Recommendations below.

This is exactly what will happen to the Scottish Parliament campaign in 2011 which will be lost in the London media frenzy about the AV referendum and it's the subject of Alex Salmond's complaint in his letter to David Cameron.

By running two separate campaigns simultaneously the Lib-Con coalition is going against the Gould report which recommended against doing that.

Even though the Gould report applies equally to the English local elections which will also be lost in the AV campaign Cameron's respect agenda treats the Scottish, Welsh and NI elections as if they were English local elections where the SNP, PC and the Northern Irish parties don't exist and where airtime for these parties in the face of a continuous feed of Lib/Con/Lab pundits and politicians from London is not a consideration.

Silly me. It's just another branch of UK plc treating us with the respect we deserve.

In the last General Election 80.1% of the Scottish electorate voted unionist and to be treated as an English region so the majority of Scots are actually getting the respect they deserve.

From the Gould Report:
"If local issues and the visibility of local government candidates are viewed as a primary objective, then separating the Scottish parliamentary from the local government elections is necessary in order to avoid the dominance of campaigns conducted for the Scottish parliamentary contests. In addition, separating the two elections would result in minimising the potential for voter confusion. Yet combining the elections is not without benefits. Such an approach is less costly in terms of financial and human resources as electoral administrators, political parties and candidates and the voters are required to participate in one not two electoral processes. In addition, statistics suggest that a higher turnout can be achieved when local government elections are held at the same time as those for the Scottish Parliament.

All this considered, we are convinced that combined elections are not only a disservice to the local councils and candidates but also to the electorate as well. In essence, the local government elections are not simply about ensuring a reasonable number of voters show up at the polls on polling day. More important is that they engage with the campaign in a meaningful manner and make a knowledgeable decision on their ballot paper. Therefore, we recommend separating the Scottish parliamentary and local government elections, preferably by a period of about two years. This recommendation does not mean that concerns about voter turnout should be set aside. Institutions that are concerned about voter turnout, including the Electoral Commission, political parties and other organisations, should continue with their efforts to encourage voters to exercise their right to vote. We recommend that initiatives in other countries - where there have been significant increases in advance voting while turnout at polling stations has diminished - are explored."

DougtheDug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

I really don't understand the complaints about the AV referendum. It make financial sense and if people are too stupid to understand the difference between the voting papers then perhaps they shouldn't be allowed to vote at all.

We're supposed to be a mature democracy. Is it really a credible argument to say that we can't confuse people too much by asking them to vote for more than one thing at a time? Come on now.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

How wonderful to be granted the 'right' to devolution.

That just about say's it all for the whinge fringe.

tris said...

With respect it it not really that that is the issue.

It is more that the media will concentrate the minds on everyone of teh supranational debate... and the smaller parties will be sidelined

subrosa said...

Doug, what would we do without you bringing such great information to the fore once again. I can only thank you.

Wasn't it 80.1% of those who voted Doug and not 80.1% of the total electorate? We're getting into 1979 waters here.

subrosa said...

Strange how England never has its council elections on a general election day or even a referendum William. Wonder why.

subrosa said...

It does indeed RA. Yer a man after my ain hert.

subrosa said...

Exactly Tris. The Holyrood elections will be ignored by the media because Westminster has the power to monopolise the media and I can hear it now. 'The referendum is far more important than elections to the wee pretendy Scottish Parliament'. Can't you?

DougtheDug said...

Hi Subrosa,
You're right. It was not 80.1% of the Scottish electorate but 80.1% of those who voted.

My comment was about 2011 but if putting an AV referendum campaign on at the same time as the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2011 is cocking a snook at the Gould report then putting the General Election on at the same time as the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2015 is making a mockery of it.

For Clegg and Cameron Scotland is a faraway part of Greater England which is having local elections in 2011 and 2015 and though the Gould report was produced by the Electoral Commission it was produced for the Scottish Government not Westminster.

Clegg and Cameron may have heard of the Gould report and they may have read it but they certainly haven't followed its recommendations though of course it's as equally likely that they have neither heard of it or read it or have a clue what its recommendations are.

The important part to remember is that the Gould report does not think that having two simultaneous elections causes confusion in the polling booth as he lays the blame on the design of the Parliamentary Ballot paper. "Our analysis of the face of the images of the rejected ballot papers viewed by the Returning Officers provided strong evidence that combining the Scottish parliamentary ballot papers onto one sheet was primarily responsible for the high level of rejected ballot papers."

However Gould thinks that running two simultaneous campaigns for two different elections is a very bad idea. All this considered, we are convinced that combined elections are not only a disservice to the local councils and candidates but also to the electorate as well. In essence, the local government elections are not simply about ensuring a reasonable number of voters show up at the polls on polling day. More important is that they engage with the campaign in a meaningful manner and make a knowledgeable decision on their ballot paper."

If Gould thinks that Scottish local elections and Scottish Parliamentary elections running at the same time are bad I would love to hear is opinion on running a Scottish Parliamentary election at the same time as a referendum on the UK voting system followed by Scottish Parliamentary election run at the same time as a Westminster election.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

"Strange how England never has its council elections on a general election day or even a referendum William. Wonder why. "

Did I imagine voting for my local council on May 5th this year, SR? This happens plenty of times. It's generally bad for the Tories and good for Labour locally when this happens as Labour voters are lazier than Tory ones. They will vote for council elections if a general election is held on the same day though. This explains why Labour took some councils (including mine) from the Tories - as last the council elections (in my area - London) were held in 2006.

Despite this I think it's a good thing to have as many of them on the same day as possible. Much more cost efficient and much more convenient for the electorate, too.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

Whoops - May 6th, even...

subrosa said...

Ooops IPP, yes I forgot, there were some council elections the same day, but it's not like here when all council elections are the same day.

Cost effective it may be but it's confusing to some as you say. Here the confusion is also good for labour.

Maybe it's convenient for the voters but it's not good for campaigns and discussion. All that gets lost in the melee, although you may think that's a good thing. ;)

Idle Pen Pusher said...

Do you really think we're asking each other too much to make two separate decisions on the same day?

If anyone is 'confused' about whether or not he supports switching the electoral system to AV because he's also being asked, on a separate piece of paper, which candidate(s) he supports for a local election, I really shudder to think just how simple he must be in the first place.

I'm afraid for me the advantages of reducing costs of holding elections and reducing the inconvience to electors in terms of the number of times we expect them to trot out to the polling station outweigh any advantages of making it comprehensible to such people. I do take your point about focussing on one issue though...

subrosa said...

Aye Doug, I remember reading the Gould report and the blame being put firmly on the design of the second paper.

Didn't the SP quote the Gould report when wanting the council election date changed next year Doug? I think so.

Like you, I wonder if the ConDems have even heard of it.

subrosa said...

Have you read the Gould report IPP? Doug has some of the information about it (see above).

IMO, having a UK wide referendum on the same day as the Scottish elections will severely diminish the Holyrood campaign. That's not good for Scotland.

subrosa said...

IPP, let's not forget the last Holyrood election had electronic counting for the first time, so add that to the combination of council elections and the outcome wasn't going to be pretty.

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