This has been met with outrage by some Nationalists, including SNP MSP Anne McLaughlin who feel that this is disrespectful to Scotland:
The result of Scotland's general election in May this year is to be delayed for around TWO DAYS. Scotland will be left in limbo from 5 to 7 May not knowing who their MSPs are and, more importantly, not knowing who will be governing Scotland. And all this at a time of great financial uncertaintyOk, let's take a look at what she's saying. Is it really going to matter that much that we won't know who our MPs are until the Saturday? I actually don't think so. The financial markets really don't care about what happens in Holyrood, and, despite dire warnings of meltdown, they coped remarkably well with the wait for the Coalition to be formed in Westminster. Financial concerns are just not an issue. The mechanics of Government will carry on and ministers will stay in office until a new Government is formed.
In fact, I think that a delay in the Holyrood count is not a bad thing. By the time polls close on Thursday, political activists, candidates and leaders are all knackered. Rather than being tucked up under the duvet with a mug of Horlicks, they then have to pull on some smart clothes and head to the various counts. In every election so far, those counts have gone on pretty much all night. At some time on Friday, we know the make up of the Parliament and then some of these people, who've had hardly any sleep in 36 hours, and not that much for the month before, have to start making rational decisions about who is to govern.
In each election so far, it's taken about 10 days to sort things out. In 1999, the election was on 6th May, but the Coalition between Labour and the Liberal Democrats wasn't formed until 16th. In 2003, the election was on 1st May, yet the coalition wasn't formed until 14th May. The negotiating teams for the parties, who were comprised of people who had been knocking on doors for a month and had topped that off with a sleepless election night, had then gone straight into a whirlwind of meetings. These meetings routinely start at 9am and some nights went on until 3am. And all this for 10 days to 2 weeks. How wrecked do you think these people are by then?
I think that this year, we get the chance to give everyone a break on the Friday to catch up with some sleep, and have a chance to catch their breath and recharge their batteries before embarking on what is likely to be a lengthy process. Even in 2007, it took the SNP nearly two weeks to get Alex Salmond sworn in as First Minister, and there were no negotiations involved.
I found it quite amusing that Iain Gray, Scottish Labour leader, is having a strop about the delayed count. Given the mess the Scotland Office, under Labour control, made in 2007, you would think he'd have the sense to keep schtum. His comments that we won't know who the first minister is until the weekend after polling day are, as I've shown above, completely disingenuous given that it never has been confirmed for quite a while after.
It really is the most practical way of dealing with counting both elections and has benefits for us in Scotland.
There are some who have an issue with the referendum being held on the same day as the Scottish elections. I'm not one of them. I think that it's sensible and thrifty to do it all at once. Maybe people who complain ought to go and vote in the States where people will often have to choose Federal and all sorts of local representatives as well as giving their opinion on all sorts of propositions. Have a look at the array of ideas voters were offered in the 2006 mid term elections to see what I mean.
The important thing is that these election counts are conducted in an orderly manner. You have to remember as well that they are counted by real people and we can't expect them to work through the night on Thursday and stay up all day Friday too. That's just not fair.
I think we should take a closer look at the benefits of a one-off delay in the Holyrood results and not just throw our hands up in horror because we perceive a slight that isn't there.