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Here is how some press commentators responded to the prospect of coalitions resulting from the system of proportional representation employed in the Scottish and Welsh elections.

ONCE AGAIN, Scotland has been used as the United Kingdom's testing ground, a political Salisbury Plain on which potentially explosive policies can be detonated, while the government in Westminster remains at a safe distance. Last time the Scottish were subjected to policymaking by trial and error was when the Tories introduced the poll tax north of the border a year before it arrived in England. Now the Celtic fringes are the scene for a constitutional experiment, as they learn to live with new parliaments elected by proportional representation. So far, events in Edinburgh and Cardiff have confirmed the worst fears of the opponents of this fashionable system designed to produce a "fairer" result.

Edward Heathcoat Amory, Daily Mail

SOME BEWILDERED Labour MPs are talking as if the prolix wheeling and dealing of coalition-making is unfortunate, unforeseen collateral damage. But this is precisely the intended outcome. Sharing power is the name of the game...

It seems to escape their notice that party policy is itself a back-room compromise from parties that are already broad coalitions, sweeping up Dennis Skinner and Lord Gilbert, or Ken Clarke and Alan Clark. So what did they want? A one-party state in both Wales and Scotland? It is abundantly clear that the voters went out of their way to prevent it...

Polly Toynbee, Guardian

THE LONDON reaction to the Scottish election results had me fuming. First, there were all these headlines about Blair being knocked back, embarrassed, humiliated, etc, by the fact that Labour had failed to win an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. For goodness sake, pay attention. Blair and his party voted through an electoral system for Scotland explicitly designed to make it all but impossible for anyone to win such a majority....

That is democracy. That is devolution. If the Liberal Democrat and Labour teams can produce a joint programme, it will not give 100 per cent to all their supporters. But it would be a programme which, overall, has the backing of more than half of Scotland's voters, with both parties having to drop the things that they alone wanted, against strong hostility from others. It would, in short, be a majority programme. Could someone, then, please explain to me why this is worse, or less democratic, than a minority programme backed by less than half the voters? It is time, I think, to stop squinting at Scotland through the distorted glasses of Westminster prejudice.

Andrew Marr, The Express

IF BRITAIN is to avoid the drain on its political culture suffered by Spain and Canada - in which much leadership time is taken up brokering agreements between different parts of anomalous federations - the Scottish Parliament must respect the idea of Britain as well as the idea of Scotland. Yet the latter cannot be taken for granted any more than the former. A 58 per cent turnout for the first Scottish Parliament for almost 300 years does not speak of huge enthusiasm. The rhetoric of a "new politics" has been confined to the political and intellectual classes.

John Lloyd, New Statesman

FATE HAS handed the separatists in Scotland the perfect election result: a decent showing at the polls, strong representation in the new Parliament, and the unchallenged title of Principal Opposition. Clean of power and clear of compromise, they march into an assembly where their main rival in opposition is about to wrestle itself into a messy tangle with the governing party....

Alex Salmond is beautifully placed to exploit the absurdity at the heart of an arrangement which requires a devolved administration simultaneously to shake a fist and hold out an outstretched palm towards London. This must either discredit Scottish Labour, or drive it separation's way....

A federal United Kingdom in which four self-governing nations pool such functions of government as they freely choose has logic. Total independence has logic. The Union had logic. The rancorous mess into which [the election] results ushered us has none.

Matthew Parris, Spectator

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