Your correspondent had barely dispatched yesterday’s report on the Scottish elections –noting that the SNP and Liberal-Democrats would, everyone presumed, come to some sort of deal — and retired to watch the snooker in one of the dozen or so East End pubs where the Kray Brothers killed someone, when, Cazart! Kapow! the news came down the wire that the Big Yellow Party (the Lib Dems colour is a sort of sickly hydrogenated-margarine shade) had refused to join a coalition, baulking at SNP leader Alex Salmond’s push for some sort of referendum on Scotland’s national status by 2010.

It may be a bluff, but it doesn’t look like it (if it were they would have dithered coyly for weeks). So Salmond has now said he will attempt to form a government as a minority –47 SNP members and two Greens in a 129-seat parliament.

This is still subject to numerous challenges regarding the poll. Not only has a team of US observers said the ballot confusion was “unacceptable to a modern democracy” — ie. it was almost as bad as an American election — but it has now emerged that a 1000 or so ballots that travelled by boat from the Islands were damp on arrival. Which suggests they were open, which suggests tampering.

Leaving aside the charm of a franchise where actual votes can still be subject to the elements, the combination of a chaotic process and the absence of a party with anything amounting to a majority may mean that the election will have to be held again — either court-ordered, or in 28 days’ time, if no clear first minister and government has emerged.

And if Labour could get the Cunninghame North result — an SNP win of 48 votes –reversed, then they could retain control, and would get the backing of the Lib-Dems. If that happens and you’re Scottish, bury your silver.

Peter Fray

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