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New politics' dawn?

Nick Robinson | 10:35 UK time, Wednesday, 16 May 2007

HOLYROOD: I have come to witness a moment of history.

alexsalmond.jpgIt is the moment when a party of protest becomes a party of power. The moment when a man who was once expelled by his party and later said "if nominated, I'll decline. If drafted, I'll defer. And if elected, I'll resign" takes them into office. The moment when for the first time in Britain, nationalist politicians get to govern.

It will also see the start of an experiment in what some call the "new politics" - post-PR, post-coalition, minority government where every vote rests of a political wing and a prayer.

Alex Salmond's elevation to Scottish first minister is genuinely historic. His failure to gain a majority or to form a coalition means that he cannot - in the short term at least - get even close to the SNP's dream of independence. He may not even be able to implement many of his domestic policy promises. However, he will have the title, the trappings of office, the staff, the money and the platform to prove that Scotland can be run in a different way. If he succeeds Britain could be changed for good.


  • 1.
  • At 10:57 AM on 16 May 2007,
  • Carlos Cortiglia wrote:

If things go the way I think things will go in Britain, Alex Salmond will get an absolute majority pretty soon. I reckon interest rates could reach the mark of ten percent before the next General Election. We only have to wait and see what happens in May next year. If there is another meltdown, the political landscape could look quite different. The Lib Dems, that should be making inroads, are faltering simply because they seem to be Labour under another name and the Conservatives are in no shape to make a difference, so the SNP is bound to move forward.

Minority government? Scottish Devolution? SNP calls for Independence? Every vote rests on a political wing and a prayer? This isn't new politics, it's the 1970s all over again.

  • 3.
  • At 12:03 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

The more Alex Salmond succeeds the more he will confirm the union, and the more terrifying the threat of the United Kingdom being Balkanised will appear. Carry on Alex. Who knows, the Republic of Ireland might return to the fold. Funnier things have happened.

  • 4.
  • At 12:12 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

I'm not sure that government by minority or slight majority is as bad as we seem to believe in the total-control-is-the-holy-grail-of-politics era that's existed ever since Thatcher (and possibly only since her second term).

Many earlier Westminster governments (many great governments) governed with minorities or slender majorities - and in the past even a 'landslide' majority was not in the control of party bosses in the same way as it would be now because MPs were just a lot more inclined to disagree, to resign, and to cause trouble for their own leaderships.

If Morgan and Salmond can be effective First Ministers despite the potential slip ups, the devolved institutions could prove to be the triaing ground for politicians a whole lot more nimble, skilled and able than anyone who was trained in leadership by the cruise-control Labour monolith ruling in London for the last decade.

  • 5.
  • At 12:29 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • robert morgan wrote:

if the Scotts want full independance then let them have it and finance it themselves, without being subsidised by British taxpayers, but i think most of them realise it would be a mistake.

  • 6.
  • At 12:39 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • Neal Terry wrote:

Well, at least if we devolve into 4/5 nations that would give us a decent voting block in the future to rival the Balkans at Eurovision. Perhaps the Scots like us even less than the Serbian distaste for Bosnians...

  • 7.
  • At 12:42 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • derek barker wrote:

The late D.Dewar was given the name "FATHER OF DEVOLUTION" many prominent politicians have backed "DEVOLUTION" G. Brown for one,but the question is what kind of devolution did they back?,one that centralizes poltic's to a chamber in the capital city,or one that enpower's the local communities,my guess is that it is the second of the above options and some-where along the way "DEVOLUTION" was re-designed by political animals,who wanted no more than a political job.I do fear for poltic's in general,minority government will be a disaster.I would urge the Scottish parliament too steer a course to devolve power to the 32 council in Scotland and abolish central government.

  • 8.
  • At 12:44 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

I feel so envious of the Scots. Those of us south of the border can only dream about a government that isn't run by either of the increasingly identical two main parties.

I wish the Scots well and offer my sincere hope that their new government proves to be genuinely different from the normal wastes of space that we have as politicians.

  • 9.
  • At 12:59 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

What isn't readily appreciated in Scotland is the extent to which, in England, full Scottish independence - and not much short of it - would now be welcomed by English electors. Quite apart from bemoaning 'the Scottish whinge', English people are becoming more rabidly nationalistic in Mr Salmond's terms at the same time, wanting - if not quite 'England for the English' - every penny of English tax to go to use in England and to be governed by English MPs, if not quite yet by an English parliament. Whatever you think about these views - how rational they are, how far they can lead to a credible constitutional position - that is the reality. Mr Salmond could find it easier to get his way by making more of that 'Scottish whinge' in the months to come. Somehow, I think that's a challenge he is more than equal to.

  • 10.
  • At 01:23 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • confused wrote:

why is it that people are always talking about scottish independence? there was no invasion of scotland, the act of union was negotiated and ratified freely - what scotland want is to secede from the union not declare independence.

  • 11.
  • At 01:29 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • AMJ wrote:

Mr Salmond will have his hands full, not only is it a minority government but his party, the SNP, are split on a large number of policy issues.

The first question I ask,
Will Mr Salmond go ahead with a referendum bill or brake his manifesto committment.

The second is
Will he resign if it fails in parliment or the country as he has demanded of government ministers.

  • 12.
  • At 01:59 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • Richard Vann wrote:

Ask me if I am bothered if the Scots rule the Scots, and the Welsh rule the Welsh and the Irish rule the Irish. Probably they can see London spinning perpetual nonsense and wish to steer clear.One should not try to foist one's own madness on someone else.

Also Nick - if you're in Edinburgh and want to know what real people think, come along to the Uni of Edinburgh library: there are plenty of people here who'll give you their two pence on the elections/Alex Salmond (I'm currently revising for a Politics Exam).

Nick, an important constitutional question: if Mr Salmond so rightly believes in a devolved country of Scotland, will he resign his seat as an MP at Westminster to concentrate on Scottish affairs in a Scottish Parliament?

As AMJ (#3) correctly points out - will Mr Salmond come out and deliver a referendum that was the serious plank of his manifesto, or will he avoid the issue for 'stability's sake'?

  • 15.
  • At 04:35 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • gwenhwyfaer wrote:

confused (#10): I can't help but think that England acquired Scotland in much the same way as Apple acquired NeXT...

  • 16.
  • At 09:52 PM on 16 May 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

As many powers are still decided at Westminster, the SNP would be silly to give up on our representaion there. It is obvious that many on this forum have no idea about Scottish politics, so try this one, after 12 months Alex puts to the vote that he intends to hold a referendum, the vote is lost and the Lib_dems main objection is out of the way clearing the stage for a deal.

  • 17.
  • At 11:40 PM on 23 May 2007,
  • Steve D wrote:

The question of how England "acquired" Scotland is complicated. especially as a Scottish king "acquired" the English throne 100 years before political union, Scotland was traditionally an ally of England's (then) enemy (France) and Mary Queen of Scots was crowned (on her mariage to the dauphin) "Queen of France, Scotland, England and Ireland" (the last two being rather provocative for her cousin Elisabeth).

History is history. Not only has England been a threat to Scotland, but vice-versa applied. However, now is now. History informs today, but the past and the reality today are different, if you live in the real world. Nationalism (whether Scottish, English, or any other) is based on preserving past rivalries not current realities.

  • 18.
  • At 08:19 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • jim evans wrote:

Dear Nick

I suspose Camerons Honeymoon ended the day he became Leader, the Old guards noses were well and truly put out of joint.The Geriatrcts of the Tories, are as Dinosaurs were, susposed to be extint, BUT, "THIS IS WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO THE THREE PARTY SYSTEM."
It is a Political vacumn in which the
Historical Establishment survives.They are ALL out of Date, out moded, and a relic of days gone bye.
Politics needs modernising the three party system is useless, and perpetuates short term political ends, in which the Establishment enables itself, at the cost of real radical and political reform,Britain needs Modernising , its a relic of days gone bye, lets have some real change, if Nationalism is the way ahead Bring it on in.

  • 19.
  • At 10:47 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • brian feary wrote:

its time for Cameron to stop critisising and put up his proposals, or is dreaming of being in number ten . and has nop idea what he will do when he gets there ,

  • 20.
  • At 11:56 AM on 06 Jun 2007,
  • Ian Williams wrote:

I wonder if there would be any merit at all in forming a political(?) party which campaigned for the electorate to vote for any candidate at a general election other than the Conservative, Labour or Lib-Dem candidates. Would that restore a form of democracy and not another 'me too' form of government? i.e preventing the professional politicians getting in and continuing with their meddling and wastefullness.

  • 21.
  • At 05:10 PM on 15 Aug 2007,
  • Carly wrote:

I live in the North Of England I have scottish and Irish and English ancesters. I would feel it a shame that the UK would split up the Britid Army would be no more passports would have to be changed. I think all this is a waste of time and tax payers money would be worth well spent. Let me remind Scotland that there parliment was funded my English taxpayeres money.

  • 22.
  • At 09:11 AM on 21 Aug 2007,
  • J.WESTERMAN wrote:

It about time that the citizens of the UK told the politicians, who are trying to split off their bailiwick, to go elsewhere to to enhance their importance. I would not put it past them to install passport control at a fortified Hadrian's Wall.
It is ridiculous to suggest that administrative matters cannot be adjusted to avoid a split.
There are thousands of Scots and half-Scots (like myself) who have lived in England for years and just regard ourselves as part of the population: which we are! We have no wish to regard ourselves as foreigners when holidaying or on business in Scotland.

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