The world's most-read Scottish politics website

Wings Over Scotland

Frigging around the rigging

Posted on April 27, 2017 by

There’s no particular reason to post this today, other than that it’s only come to light this week and today happens to be the 20th anniversary of the article below.

While it’s often said (mainly by nationalist types) that the Scottish Parliament and its electoral system were specifically designed to prevent the SNP from coming to power and holding an independence referendum, there’s been very little in the way of explicit evidence to back that statement up.

The 27 April 1997 issue of the Scottish Sun, though, had it in spades.

So we thought we should save it from Twitter’s fleeting attention span for posterity.

“Labour has rigged the election system to its planned Scottish Parliament so the SNP can’t take control of it, a party chief admitted yesterday.

And the assembly will never be allowed to organise its own referendum on independence.

The voting system – a mix of first-past-the-post and proportional representation – would mean that no one party is likely to have overall control.

When asked if that was to prevent the Nats taking power, Labour’s Scottish general secretary Jack McConnell said: ‘Correct’.

Campaign boss Henry McLeish said: ‘There is no way we are going to allow the separatists to use a referendum to wreck Scotland’s first parliament in 300 years. A devolved Scottish parliament will have clearly defined powers. There will be no question of extending those unilaterally.’

Mr McConnell said: We are not, and the Scottish people would not be prepared to allow the nationalists to wreck Scotland’s first parliament in 300 years by constantly trying to get that parliament to change into something else.’

He said a Scottish Parliament would be established to improve and legislate for Scottish education, health, local government, legal system, crime and the economy.

He said: ‘So we are not prepared to allow a group of nationalist wreckers to try and turn that parliament into a constantly evolving referendum for their option which has consistently failed in 13 general elections.'”

Since then, of course, the “nationalist wreckers” have won FOUR general elections on a platform of independence. But the winning conditions of the game have changed. Perhaps Labour had a lucky escape, albeit not in the way they planned.

In six weeks another general election will be held in which the underlying narrative will in many people’s eyes be a return to the SNP’s old terms – win the election and have a mandate for independence.

It’s quite possible that that election will return NO Scottish Labour MPs at all, and it’s all but certain that it will see the once all-powerful party slump to a very distant third place in Scotland. And yet, the party would have us believe that “a generation” has not yet passed between its attempt to lock the SNP out of power forever and Labour’s collapse into total irrelevance north of the border.

The most commonly-used definition of the word is 25 years, which would take us up to 2022, past (at least) three more general elections. And yet in just four-fifths of that time, Scottish politics has changed beyond all recognition, far beyond anything that anyone in 1997 would have dared predict in their wildest dreams.

When you look at it that way, the Unionist parties’ attempts to frustrate democracy for an arbitrary number of decades on the grounds that they won a single vote in 2014 is a curious and indefensible exercise indeed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 27 04 17 18:56

    Frigging around the rigging | speymouth

47 to “Frigging around the rigging”

  1. Alban Fry

    The Northern Ireland Act sets a limit of one referendum per 7 years. That seems an adequate time frame – perhaps, in a spirit of generosity, we might stretch to 10 unless there’s a ‘supermajority’.

    But 25, nae chance. And of course, Brexit creates a unique circumstance that puts all that in the bin anyway.

  2. Hamish100

    This is the fault of the SNP to paraphrase Lord Ermine McConnell. The SNP refuse not to get elected.

  3. Iain More

    There is more than one way to rig the system, its called the UK Postal Vote and Proxy Vote. Then there is the very questionable voting methods.

    The Yoons will also attempt to use the STV voting system to keep the SNP and other Pro Indy types out of control of the majority of Scotland Councils.

    STV isn’t proportional either. If my memory is correct the SNP didn’t come close to getting the numbers of Council seats that their share of the first preference votes merited?

    Democracy doesn’t exist in the UK and when a system that was designed by the Yoons to keep the SNP locked out of Holyrood fails the Yoons then the same Yoons squeal like stuck piglets.

    Now if the SNP can mobilise it vote for the Council Elections and get them to vote to lock out the quizzers from Scotland’s Councils, the Yoons will start to bitch again.

    The SNP failed to mobilise its vote in Council Elections of 2012 and in many arts of Scotland people are paying a heavy price for that. You just need to look at Argyll, Aberdeen, Moray, Falkirk, Glasgow and others to see the abominations that are Yoon control. Corruption and incompetence are rife.

  4. Orri

    Reading the “Scottish” Conservatives manifesto for the local elections shows is doesn’t actually mention independence except in Davidson’s? preface. So despite what they say they? know they can’t gain any means of opposition to a S30 request there.

    The only two places where a manifesto pledge for or against an S30 are at Holyrood and Westminster. Holyrood have passed a motion in favour, although no official response seems to have been given.

    Westminster is kind of interesting in that the legitimacy of any individual being elected on a platform outright opposing Scottish self determination is contrary to the already conceded agreement made by the UK as part of its UN membership. Territorial integrity might be there last refuge but Scotland has a claim to being a treaty partner rather than simply a region.

    As such it might be worth checking whether the Conservative manifesto specifically mentions independence or not. If only the Scottish one does then beating them shows we reject that and by implication endorse a second referendum. On the other hand at a UK level they’ll have stepped beyond legitimacy unless somehow their resultant majority relies on seats in Scotland and even so that’d be contentious to say the least.

    The SNP on the other hand can quite simply state their intent to support a S30 request from Holyrood. They might also lay claim to the position of Deputy Secretary of State for Scotland who is the one meant to pass the request on to the Privy Council.

  5. thewaterbeastie

    Apart from the fact that the ‘Generation’ quote is shamelessly misrepresented, taking it literally means we have a backlog of constitutional referenda to catch up on…. 😉

  6. K1

    It is precisely because ‘Scottish politics has changed beyond all recognition’ that the unionists are happy to ‘frustrate democracy’.
    It’s not ‘unionist’s democracy’ ye see? It’s ‘SNP democracy’ they’re trying tae defeat.
    Scotland’s wants the ‘wrang’ kind of democracy.

    Once ye unerstaun that, it aw fa’s intae place 😉

  7. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “STV isn’t proportional either. If my memory is correct the SNP didn’t come close to getting the numbers of Council seats that their share of the first preference votes merited?”

    Your memory is not correct. The SNP got 32.3% of first preference votes and 34.8% of seats. Labour similarly got just slightly over the share of seats their first-pref votes merited (32.2% of seats on 31.4% of the vote.) STV is very proportional.

  8. dakk

    You can tell from McConnell and Mcleish’s arrogant tone that they did not think in another 300 years that Labour would be shunned by the Scottish people for the corrupt destructive quizzers they are.

    That’s why they are taking it so bad.


  9. Peter Barjonas

    My 2nd generation iPad arrived 4 years after the 1st generation.

  10. Macart

    Amazing isn’t it? Takes a fair bit of arrogance to simply come out and tell people we’ve rigged the rules deliberately.

    Mind you Labour and fixing results…(see under 40% rule)

  11. Capella

    Unionists are not democrats. What does that make them then?

  12. Breeks

    While Scotland was being conned with rigged elections from cheap Labour politicians, the Norwegians were 7 years into their oil fund.

  13. Alan Rooney

    I voted for that b@stard and he sold out his own country for an unequal union while pretending to protect Scotland. Shame on him. Hope someday we find out exactly how much money he made for betraying his country. We will never forget.

  14. sinky

    STV ignores unionist suspect letter bomb sent to snp offices

  15. Truth

    @Alan Rooney

    I’m no fan of McConnell, but to be fair to him, he basically told Gordon Brown and Menzies Campbell to get to fuck with their backroom deal for another lib lab coalition in 2007.

    He reckoned the SNP were the biggest party and should get a crack.

  16. Robert Graham

    STV very proportional and bleedn stupid if a long explanation is required in order to understand it .
    A simple test would be right now ask 100 scottish voters if it’s understood by them you would be lucky to get a coherent answer from 5 . and thats being proportionately generous .

  17. Ruglonian

    Excellent point Peter Barjonas 😉

    This is the 21st century, and we are in the midst of a technical revolution that history will view in line with the agricultural and industrials in terms of societal progress.

    It suits some to talk about ‘victorian values’ and the likes more than to look forward and embrace change.

    We don’t need to conform to that tired old narrative – I chose Apple generations and politics 2.0 😀

  18. Ken500

    Instead of keeping the SNP out. It lets the 3rd useless, embarrassing rejects in. Manipulating the electoral system. So more folk do not bother to vote. Their vote is diluted and does not count. Having to vote for candidates/Parties they can’t to get the candidate/party they support in. The 3rd reject troughers just regurgitate again and again. Voters can’t get rid of them.

    Democracy? Useless Unionist style. They contaminate and try to ruin everything and everyone.

  19. pool9

    I still lived in Scotland in 1997. Amazing that Labour politicians could be so obvious in their intentions, in a national newspaper no less.

    I have no recollection, at that time, of thinking about that issue or what it really meant, that Labour were happy to try to fix the voting system so one particular party would not be able to achieve its aim. It just never made an impression.

    I didn’t read the Sun, right enough, but I suspect this story was not given heavy rotation by Aunty Beeb at the time, else it might have got through.

    Nice catch Rev. Much appreciated.

  20. Ken500

    McConnell and McNeish still sitting on the fence. In the secrecy of the Ballot Box voting YES to Indy. A total embarrassment. Taking £Billiions out of Scotland to feather their own nest. Disgusting individuals.

  21. Proud Cybernat

    Rigging it to the detriment of the PEOPLE for the benefit of THEMSELVES. That’s Unionist politicians, especially SLabour. Like this arsehole SLabour leech:

  22. Gullane No4

    Glad to know that my votes helped break the system.

  23. Muscleguy

    I left Scotland with my family aged 6 in 1972. I moved back here with my family at the end of 1998 and have been here since.

    This meant I did not qualify to vote in the referendum which set up the parliament though as a Scot/Kiwi in London I also knew the electoral system was set up to keep the SNP out.

    I’m something of an electoral system nerd having been of the generation back in NZ which forced the politicians into changing the voting system to MMP after a ‘National Conversation’ pre-internet on electoral systems.

    This meant I was puzzled why, unlike in NZ where the Lists are national, the Lists in Scotland were regional. Which probably meant I looked into it in a bit more depth than you.

  24. Dr Jim

    Once again tonight we hear the First Ministers amazing skills as an impressionist
    Yes indeedy as the FM speaks Brian Taylors voice comes out
    Ruth Davidson chunters away and we hear every word she accuses the FM of, same with Dugdale and Rennie and even wee Patrick but when it comes to the FM (or should we just call her Gerry Adams from now on) we hear Bryan Taylor deciding to reinterpret for us (how nice of the BBC to help us out there)because the one thing we don’t want is to hear the First Minister of our country, God forbid that eh

    Of course before that over on STV we get the talk of a leaders debate which will take place on that channel and we are shown a nice picture of smiley faced leaders Davidson Dugdale Rennie and Harvie but in all the thousands and thousands of pictures of the FM the only one they apparently could find is an angry faced one

    BBC decided they’d better report the bomb threats and the suspected Anthrax packages filled with Tory bile sent to SNP MPs and MSPs and their offices but made such a bumbled mumbled dribbling deliberate mess of reporting it nobody would have been any the wiser as to what Andrew Kerr was talking about
    Which was I believe exactly the result they were going for

    So far the Independence movement has been more peaceful than a Brownies picnic in the Bluebell woods now we have the nasty side of the Unionists who can’t stand the idea of actual democracy so some have decided to do the usual Unionist thing and force their kind of rule upon us by the threat and use of violence, how things never change with Unionists eh

    Over to Ruth Davidson for a quote who condemns it in Scotland but supports it in the English Daily Mail

    Too much some might think, it wasn’t the Yes movement who came up with the phrase The Ulsterisation of Scotland now was it that as we all know was Davidsons team or was it Murdo Fraser and his Queens 11

    The Unionists have been cautioned before on their violent behaviour by police Scotland so if the media are going to report on it

    Get it right or you’re part of the problem or the result of it doesn’t bear thinking about

  25. pool9


    You absolutely did look into the electoral system in more depth than I did!

    I remember wanting a devolved parliament, voting for it, and being pleased to get it, but was strangely incurious about how exactly the representatives to that parliament would be elected.

    Obviously I’m not proud of that now, and could claim being in my 20’s, first real job which had me working a ton of shifts, and being more interested in pints and nights out than politics as my excuses. Which I kind of just did.

    I’m bemused by how out of touch I was then. I’ve talked before about how I did not realise the cocoon of propaganda that surrounded me and subtly shaped my opinions regarding the SNP and Independence back then. I would not be surprised if this was another example of that. Hopefully I’m more clued in now!

  26. Valerie

    @Dr Jim

    The reporting of the package at John Nicolsons office in the Sun, is the lowest, most disgusting fabrication. They reported it as biscuits.

    John Nicolson has continually tweeted the Sun telling them their story is fake, and the Police confirmed the package contained chemicals.

    The level of hatred and disrespect is being ramped up. We simply can’t get the basic truth reported. If this had been Indy zoomers, all channels would be blaring it for days. We’d probably have troops sent in.

    I’m so sick of this shithole.

  27. Robert J. Sutherland

    Robert Graham @ 18:20,

    Don’t know why you are running this one-man campaign over social media to denigrate STV. (Which is not the voting system relating to the main article anyway.) Is it merely a determined attempt to advertise your own comprehension bypass or do you have something else in mind?

    Explanations about how it’s all worked out are mainly for electoral obsessives (many of whom hang out on sites like this). Which is fair enough as far as it goes. As the old saying goes, if you don’t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

    But for the ordinary person placing a vote, it’s as easy-peasy as 1-2-3.

    I mean, really, how hard is that?

  28. clan rossy

    Labour absolute shower of ("Tractor" - Ed)ous bastards.

  29. RogueCoder

    Hi folks,

    One week left to got on the IndyKit 2.0 fundraiser! We really, really need your help. I know you’re being asked for a lot at the moment for elections, but we have to keep the #indyref2 grassroots momentum going!

    Thank you!

  30. manandboy

    To understand tne Unionist state of mind is to know that they live in fear of Scottish Independence. It is that same fear which is the Tories’ most potent electoral weapon. The very sight of the word ‘Independence’ is enough to send every No voter scurrying to the polling stations to stop what is perceived as the greatest disaster which could befall Unionism – its demise.

    The Conservative leaflet which arrived today encapsulates this fear.

    Nowhere on the leaflet does it refer to either the Council elections or the General Election in June. Nor does it refer to any Tory policies. The Tories are not afraid of these. Just Independence, which has never seemed more likely.

    The whole of Unionism is afraid right now, as they see the death of the Union looming.

    When my wife sees a big spider in the room, she simply cannot stop talking about it in a very agitated way. Nothing will induce my wife to calm down and resume normal conversation until the spider has been ‘dealt with’.

    Independence does the same thing to the Tories.

  31. Robert Peffers

    @pool9 says: 27 April, 2017 at 7:22 pm:

    ” … in my 20’s, first real job which had me working a ton of shifts, and being more interested in pints and nights out than politics as my excuses.”

    Nothing to be ashamed of, pool9, you were no different from the vast majority of other Scots.

    In those days, when party political broadcast from any party came on the TV, the generating companies had to be warned beforehand to flash up the fossil fuelled generators.

    This was because there was going to be a big surge in demand as Scots went to their kitchens to make a hot drink and get a snack before the entertainment came back on the picturkist.

    Now three things have changed.

    TV programmes are crap, politics has become far more interesting while renewable electricity means they don’t need to worry about how long it takes to flash up fossil fuelled furnaces in power stations any more.

  32. Marcia

    Rigging by the Establishment is nothing new. BBC are rigging the News with pointless visits of May visiting empty factories and no-one can ask questions. What is the point of May.

    I see the Greens are not getting to take part in a STV debate of the Scottish Party Leaders. I don’t think it should be them. It should the Westminster reps instead, Robertson, Murray, Mundell and Carmichael.

  33. Robert Peffers

    @Valerie says: 27 April, 2017 at 7:29 pm:

    ” … John Nicolson has continually tweeted the Sun telling them their story is fake, and the Police confirmed the package contained chemicals.”

    Now, come on, Valerie, the truth is that an SNP sticker on a unionist office door is a damned site more dangerous to the union than a chemical warfare package in an SNP candidates office.

  34. galamcennalath

    I paraphrase, TMay says “Brexit negotiations are going to be bloody awful so vote for me”.

    Perhaps she should ask herself, who got us into this mess? Voters should ask that!

    The Tories deserve to get booted into the long grass for a decade or two, but by invoking a Dunkirk backs to the wall spirit the South British will do the opposite!

    “Theresa May has accused EU leaders of preparing to “line up to oppose us” over Brexit, as she made an audacious appeal to Labour supporters to “lend me their vote” to strengthen her hand.”

  35. Breeks

    Galamcennalath says:
    27 April, 2017 at 8:09 pm
    “I paraphrase, TMay says………The Tories deserve to get booted into the long grass for a decade or two, but by invoking a Dunkirk backs to the wall spirit the South British will do the opposite!”

    Dunkirk spirit is good; bugger off back to Blighty and leave the Scots behind in Europe.

  36. ben madigan

    A quote from the archived article
    Galamcennalath just cited:
    “Ms May added: “So we need the strongest possible hand, the strongest possible mandate and the strongest possible leadership as we go into those talks.”

    AFAIK it makes absolutely no difference to the EU negotiating team if Treeza has a majority of 1 or 600.
    It makes no difference whether Conservatives or Labour are heading the UK government

    “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”

    What will make a difference for Scotland are clean SNP sweeps on May 4th and June 8th

  37. Rock

    Unintentionally they made the Scottish parliament democratic because they designed it to be nothing more than a “talking shop”.

  38. yesindyref2

    @Robert Graham
    STV for the voter is incredibly easy. All you do is just number the candidates in order of preference – 1,2,3,4 etc.

    If you want to make sure all of your vote is used, put a number against all candidates.

  39. Robert J. Sutherland

    galamcennalath @ 20:09,

    It takes a special kind of brass neck (a speciality of the Tories both north and south of the border these days, but only sustainable thanks to a brain-dead collaborationist media) to create a historic **bleep** [censored] =ahem= disaster of epic proportions then claim that they are the only ones strong enough to overcome those devilish cunning furriner johnnies.

    That’s why I drew a parallel recently between Thatcher/Falklands and May/Brexit. (Or even earlier, Eden/Suez, although that particular démarche in the good old fifties backfired rather spectacularly.)

    Create a crisis out of nowhere then hope to harvest the bitter fruits of the chaos.

    And the Tories have the damned cheek to simultaneously attempt to brand us “divisive”, “separatist” with “tunnel vision”.

    Well, as the famous Delphic inscription advised, know thyself, May and Davidson.

  40. Robert J. Sutherland

    Breeks @ 20:32,

    Oh a nice one, that! =sizzz=

    Was watching the Tour de France a year or two back, and as it wended its way down the northern coast, the helicopter view showed an interesting sight: three flagpoles respectively flying the Tricolore, Union Jack and Saltire. It was St.Valery. All too typically, the English commentators didn’t have a clue and just let it pass unremarked, but the locals have never forgotten us.

  41. Artyhetty

    Just, wow. This got past the good people of Scotland didn’t it. Still does with some. 🙁

    Maybe, being an outsider, so to speak, the injustices, and abuse of Scotland by the unionists, is that bit more obvious, and in fact, blatant.


    Brilliant comment, hope you don’t mind I copied it for future reference. The assault on Scotland, and any notion of democracy in Scotland, is just astounding. The britnats have all the levers of power, it’s called money. Money corrupts, certainly when it comes to the UK and britnats.

    Why the heck are we not seeing the current attacks on the SNP, ie, very suspicious and potentially dangerous packages sent to their offices, not being reported on the UK news!

    I worry that this is the tip of the iceberg. Seriously, are the police and security services on the case! They absolutely well should be!
    Imagine that was the yoons’ offices being targeted?

    Utter disgrace that this is actually being played down, and essentially, ignored. The yoons are a despicable lot. This could even still, be false flag, so next we will see false flag attacks on yoons’ offices. Ruling nothing out at this stage.

  42. TheStrach

    The systems used to elect our representatives to the Scottish Parliament and for local elections may not be perfect but they are light years better than first past the post (FPTP). They also produce outcomes which are very proportional and therefore in my view fair.

    FPTP used in General Elections has delivered Tory governments we didn’t vote for covering 57% of my life and will almost certainly do so again in June. It has enabled hard right wing Tories to force their extreme policies on all of us.

    Despite the intentions of Labour it didn’t stop the SNP emerging as the main party in Scotland and indeed the voting system may well have helped. Under FPTP would the SNP have had the chance to show how good they were in the earlier years of the Parliament?

    Look at the General Election where in England the smaller parties such as the Greens never get a look in. If we had PR for General Elections the UK would be a very different place. Unfortunately, Labour like the system because it used to mean they got a shot at government now and again. I can’t see that happening for a very long time, if ever.

    Of course, Scotland can avoid the fate of Tory hegemony by voting for independence. I do agree we need independent election monitoring when the referendum is held.

  43. Legerwood

    Marcia 8.03

    Good idea to get the MPs from each of the parties to debate –
    Robertson, Mundel etc. then they would have to include the Greens in the form of Caroline Lucas.

    The Scottish Green party is separate from the English and Welsh party but they do cooperate so an argument could be made for her presence. And the three unionist MPs are not members of truly Scottish parties, are they?

    I think it is just unbelievable that the Greens are not going to be included in these Scottish debates

  44. ed

    Th SNP have a mandate for a declaration of independance, they have to issue this declaration now, we have nothing to lose, call TMs bluff and watch what hapens , it should be exiting. a dam’d site more exiting than the sharade that’s going on at the moment, Treaty of Union and all that. This little ramble might look ridiculous to some but history shows it’s the only action that loosens Englands grip on her colonies.

  45. Peter McCulloch

    Its good to see it confirmed in black and white that Labour rigged the electoral system to ensure that only unionists remained in control of the parliament at Holyrood.

    British democracy in action

  46. K1

    Steady ed…dy, we’ve no come this far tae lose the rag at the last minute…ah’ve a great deal of faith in Nicola knowing whit she’s dain, it’s comin’ fur aw that, cool heads are required and remember vote tae ye boak at the council elections 😉

  47. F McGregor

    I have always been amazed by how much our Scottish Govt has achieved in the last ten years with so little at their disposal. Imagine what could be won if there were no devolved powers but straight forward government in an independent Scotland.

Comment - please read this page for comment rules. HTML tags like <i> and <b> are permitted. Use paragraph breaks in long comments. DO NOT SIGN YOUR COMMENTS, either with a name or a slogan. If your comment does not appear immediately, DO NOT REPOST IT. Ignore these rules and I WILL KILL YOU WITH HAMMERS.

↑ Top