13 May 2007

We're getting somewhere!

Enfin! Holyrood looks like it's close to having a Presiding Officer, in the shape of Alex Fergusson, Conservative MSP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale. Controversially, he might still take the Conservative whip, something neither George Reid nor David Steel did. Steel did, however, take the LibDem whip in the House of Lords. That impasse looks broken, however.

Next, Coalition. The SNP and Greens have a 'co-operation agreement'. The two agree on opposition to new nuclear power stations (they did anyway), support for independence and a referendum (they did anyway), and early legislation to deal with climate change (incidentally, I've always wondered how you actually do this - you can halt the man-made causes of climate change but you can't halt the change itself, so this is basically like making death illegal).

In practical terms, the Greens agree to vote for Alex Salmond as First Minister, and for his ministerial team (which, assuming he comes through on Wednesday, will be smaller than under the previous Executive). In return, they get one of the SNP's Committee Convenerships, and will be consulted on the Legislative Programme, Budget, and big policy announcements. The SNP also agree to be nice to the Greens, or rather, "to give sympathetic consideration to issues raised by the Green Party in Parliament, including via Motions and Members Bills."

It's a very loose model, far looser even than the Confidence & Supply proposals initially floated last year, and neither side has really played a blinder here: the SNP do not have guaranteed Green support for Budgets and Confidence motions; the Greens don't get all that many policies that weren't on the cards anyway. The SNP do have two extra votes for their Ministers, though (always useful), and the Greens get a bit of extra prominence via a Convenership. The major positive, however, is that this could be a template for a new arrangement with the LibDems, or even the Tories: the key to the agreement's success is its looseness.

But are the LibDems truly up for doing a deal? Rumours abound (via Richard Thomson) that a strop by Tavish Scott and Mike Rumbles could be the real cause of the LibDems' rejection of SNP advances, and that a power struggle is now on in the Party, and it looks like Nicol Stephen lost it: he is reported to have wanted to enter a Coalition, while Tavish Scott was the LibDems' Ian Paisley. Or rather, the LibDems' Ian Paisley of the 1970s.

Speaking of power stuggles, the knifes are starting to point at Jack McConnell's back. Successors are now being openly discussed, with Wendy Alexander, Margaret Curran's Hands and Andy Kerr all being mentioned. Even John Reid is being supported!

No comments: