I am puzzled. Why would SNP MSPs vote their own party out of office? Stuart Rodger assumes they will. As do many others making grandiose claims about the efficacy of a supermajority. None bother to try and resolve the conundrum. We are expected to just go along with the assumption. We are not expected to think about it. We are certainly not expected to question it.
Unfortunately for Stuart Rodger and the rest anybody who does take the trouble to think about the claim that a supermajority makes it possible to force an extraordinary general election and make it a plebiscite will quickly realise that the claim is nonsensical. A product – or symptom – of the fantasy politics to which some have turned in an effort to fill the void left by the SNP’s failure to pursue the restoration of Scotland’s independence.
The problem for Stuart Rodger and the rest is that while in their fantasy politics there is no such thing as parliamentary procedure and arithmetic is always accommodating, in the real world what may be possible is constrained by statute and standing orders. And arithmetic can be very inconsiderate indeed.
For the parliament to be dissolved at least two-thirds of MSPs must vote for the proposal. But the proposal must first be tabled and seconded and accepted by the Presiding Officer. One of the multitude of questions Alba supporters adamantly decline to answer is who would propose the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament? Who would table such a draconian proposals knowing that it was doomed to fail?
It is all but certainly doomed to fail. This is where the awkward arithmetic comes in. Two-thirds of the total number of MSPs is 86. Alba is standing only 32 candidates. Even in the vanishingly unlikely event that every single on of those candidates was returned, the party is still massively short of the 86 votes required. The next question to go unanswered is, where are the other 54 votes going to come from?
The Scottish Greens? Perhaps. But even if all of them decide to vote to dissolve a parliament in which they are likely to have some influence over the Scottish Government, on the best estimate I’ve seen that would only be another 11 votes. Leaving half of the required number still to find.
SNP ‘rebels’? Perhaps. But how many of those are there likely to be given the SNP leaderships ability to ensure the predominantly Sturgeon loyalists are selected as candidates? I think we may safely assume it’s going to be nearer 3 or 4 than 43. But let’s go wild and double that figure. Let’s say there are 8 SNP ‘rebels’ willing to end their political careers by supporting what is effectively a vote of no confidence in the SNP administration. That’s us up to a very, very optimistic 51 of 86.
With 35 votes left to find there’s nowhere else to turn but the British parties. Even with the best will in the world it’s difficult to see why any British party MSPs would support a resolution dissolving the parliament. What possible motive could they have? Especially given that the purpose of the dissolution is to facilitate a vote that they are fervently opposed to. Although, while we’re on that subject, we might ask another awkward question. Even if we some end up with enough votes to dissolve the parliament and force an extraordinary general election, I know of no way this can be made a plebiscitary election without the cooperation of the sitting administration and the Presiding Officer. If those making these claims about what can be done with a supermajority are aware of how this can be done that is the kind of information they are not keen to share.
Will 35 MSPs from the British parties vote in favour of dissolving the parliament so as to facilitate a vote which might well lead to the end of their ‘precious’ Union? I’m guessing none will. But even if half of them accidentally press the wrong button when it comes to the vote it still wouldn’t be enough. Or is Alba envisioning a parliament in which the British parties hold more than 70 seats?
Over to Stuart Rodger for some answers. Normal respiration should be maintained in the interim.
The above was originally posted as a comment on a guest article on Iain Lawson’s blog. I had hoped that YOURS FOR SCOTLAND being the website of the Alex Salmond/Alba fan club I might get some informative or at least intelligent responses to the points raised and questions asked. Alas, all I got was snide remarks and abuse. Here’s an example of what you can expect if you engage with Alba members seeking to know more about the party and it’s plans.