Voting For A New Britain: Smaller parties could be Holyrood king makers

View From Scotland

THE NATIONALISTS describe it as "Scotland's first general election", and with two and a half weeks to go that is exactly how it is being fought - black propaganda, abuse, leadership crises, stunts, resignations and wild statistics. And this was supposed to be the dawn of New Politics.

The Independent's soundings, from the drawing rooms of Morningside to the tenements of Govan via the farthest hills and glens, suggest the electorate has already taken a view. They may not be too clued-up on the actual powers of the Scottish Parliament, and certainly not on the workings of the new voting system, but most know the future direction of their country is at stake.

"They believe it's independence they're voting on and they're very clear whether they want it or not," said Gaille McCann, a Labour councillor in Easterhouse, a poor eastern suburb of Glasgow. "Many old people are extremely frightened about it."

Scots will be voting for a 129-member parliament to take control of the existing functions of the Scottish Office - education, health, transport, local government and law and order. The Parliament also offers a bridge to independence, if the Scots choose to take it by voting SNP in sufficient numbers.

The use of a proportional representation voting system is likely to result in no party having overall control of the parliament. Opinion polls suggest Labour will win about 60 seats and the SNP around 40. The Liberal Democrats could get 15, the Tories perhaps a dozen. Tommy Sheridan, the Glasgow councillor and former poll-tax convict, is predicting up to 10 seats for his Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). Wildly optimistic perhaps, but a fringe party with only a handful of seats could conceivably hold the balance of power.

If Labour emerges as the largest party, Donald Dewar, as First Minister, will look to the Liberal Democrats for a coalition partner. But if the SNP does well it could be Mr Salmond who makes the marriage overtures. Before the campaign it was not an unlikely prospect. Not far adrift of Labour in the polls, all the SNP seemed to need was a burst of patriotic fervour in the final days, fanned by the party's king over the water, Sean Connery. The SNP is normally a media-savvy operation, but the wheels have fallen off the party campaign.

Mr Salmond gambled by proposing Scots stump up a penny in the pound more on tax than the English to bolster public services, and attacked the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia as "unpardonable folly".

SNP policy is to hold a referendum on independence if it wins sufficient power at Holyrood. But the promise was played down in its manifesto and there were hints Mr Salmond might let it slip altogether.

While the SNP leader has lost his cheeky-chappie bounce and strain shows on the faces of his team, the Labour machine looks formidable. Scottish Labour has been beefed up by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, his adviser Ed Milliband, who temporarily resigned from the Treasury to help at the party's Glasgow headquarters, and Douglas Alexander MP, a former Brown speech writer.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935