Alex Massie

In Praise of Minority Government.

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Oh dear. I'm afraid I must take issue with Fraser. He claims that last week's budget entertainment at the Scottish Parliament demonstrates the weakness of minority government. Maybe so, but I'd prefer to see it another way: minority government protects the public from the worst excesses of parliamentary rule. And where Fraser considers last weeks' eventsĀ  a "fiasco" and a "shambles" I see them as nothing more than politics as usual.

Sure, there was some horse-trading as the SNP tried to find the 65 votes it needed to pass the budget. But this is normal. Has Fraser ever had a look at the House of Representatives in Washington? There was plenty in the budget the Grenn party disapproved of (roads!) so why on earth shouldn't they ask for a sweetener in return for their support? This may, as Fraser says, be the "tail wagging the dog" but it seems preferable to the kind of parliamentary dictatorship we see at Westminster. Four of the scariest words in the English language are "We have a mandate".

Does Fraser remember - I'm sure he does and with a shudder to boot - the days of the Labour-Lib Dem coalition at Holyrood? They had a majority in parliament and look what it got us: one piece of appalling, enraging legislation after another. The present situation in which no single party is able to impose its Agenda for Misgovernment upon the country seems vastly preferable.

True, this means there's little chance of meaningful or radical reform in some areas (eg, education) and there may be times when every party throws a couple of bad ideas into the communal parliamentary stew but in general terms a minority government means less legislation and, furthermore, ensures that whatever legislation is passed should have been subject to rather more scrutiny than is the case when the government hacks troop obediently through the division lobby, scarcely even aware of what they may be voting on. In any case, the general presumption must be that less legislation equals (marginally) better government.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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