Saturday 2 April 2016

Avoiding a parteienstaat is another good reason to split our votes in May

Actually, not acting seems to be the order of the day in Scotland, with seemingly every request for information being turned into a grinding battle of attrition as the commission drags it feet at every turn. So when RISE, a minor Trotskyite party which supports independence, asked for just four e-mails from two people back in September 2015, they still do not have an answer today.

To make matters worse, Rosemary Agnew then wrote to RISE, telling them that she has put on hold all such information requests that might be critical of government ministers until after next month's elections are over. In other words, a state functionary is seemingly acting in the interests of one particular political party, and to describe that has unhealthy for the body politic is putting it mildly.

We do not have a word in English to describe this type of set-up, so political scientists have borrowed from the German when they talk about a parteienstaat system. It is what happens when the state bodies are controlled by the political parties or interest groups, and although troubling to many Germans, their system has the advantage of having more than one political party in the mix. We don't, as our parteienstaat is controlled by just the SNP.

You can understand why state functionaries like Rosemary Agnew don't want to pick a fight with the government. She will have to deal with the same group of ministers after the election is over because no sane person believes that the SNP will lose.

Nor should they, because they are the best of the bunch, but that does not mean that our support for the party should be cult-like and uncritical.

For that reason, I repeat what I said in yesterday's posting, that the need for people to split their vote on the 5 May 2016 is important for our democracy. By all means vote SNP for your constituency, as I will, but I will also vote Labour for the list, even though I know how God-awful they are at present.  I believe that the need to turn back the encroaching Scottish parteienstaat is that important, and there are my two window posters to prove it.

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