16 March 2011

On keeping the agora open... #PatrickSpeaks

See? Isn't five a more elegant number than four?  I've no idea what induced the four Holyrood party leaders and male co-convenor of the Scotch Greenies to congregate, diffidently to fondle a white cardboard box. Bella chortles, the Maximum Eck guffaws - Gray grins - though note Tavish's touching reticence, the tease! By contrast, Patrick Harvie is mustard keen on a parp. No defamation intended. Like Ewan Aitken, I am firmly of the opinion that Harvie should be given the opportunity to put those parping skills to national purpose, and be afforded the chance to put his case to the Scottish people in such televisual debates as are organised by our broadcasters before May's election. That STV and the BBC believe that he ought to be excluded smacks of a grim little Westminsterism that we should vigorously repudiate. Ours is a proportional system. It shouldn't be controversial to suggest that there are various configurations of power which are possible in the many Holyroods that might be elected in May. The Greens, despite their small numbers, may yet enjoy a vital role. But far beyond that, to foreclose discussion in this wholly artificial manner is truly a grim vista - a dreary and distorting media manifesto for contemporary Scottish democracy. These over-zealous wardens of the Scottish agora must be convinced of the error of their ways.

What, you might ask, are the limits of inclusion? 5% of the national vote? List, constituency? What are our settled first principles, from which our debating practices ought to derive? For example, what if, at some future time, a Glaswegian secessionist party triumphed in all nine Holyrood constituencies in the region, but for reasons which will be obvious, didn't stand candidates in the districts of Edinburgh? In or out? Are pan-national candidacies vital? More concretely, what if the redoubtable Margo earnestly petitioned to get her phizog on this time around? Would we briskly turn her out, or add her to squabbling tribe? For my part, I don't think we need delve too far into arcane future hypotheticals to determine that Patrick ought to have his say. Ah, but won't that privilege incumbency? What about Solidarity? The SSP? The Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party? Certainly, appearing on the telly will doubtlessly privilege existing political groupings to a degree - though only because the voters in the last election decided to privilege particular parties themselves, by voting for them in sufficient numbers to return a parliamentarian. It does not strike me as an unreasonable proposition, to take the last expression of democratic sentiment as our starting point.

The Better Nation chapulets have organised an online petition, calling for Patrick Harvie to be included: "Scotland deserves as thorough and as wide-ranging a debate as can be realistically and fairly achieved", they contend. Quite so. Thus far, it has been signed by some 600 folk. If you agree with the sentiments I've outlined here this morning, I'd encourage you to do the same. As Ewan Aitken says, it is only fair.


  1. This is broadcasting hubris.

    Though I'm intrigued by the content of the box. Perhaps a FoI request is in order?

  2. A closer inspection suggests that the rig is actually a giant imitation light switch, replete with screws. A prop for this particular escapade, it seems.

  3. Well spotted Llallands - but what is it switching on?

    The first Edinburgh tram run. Or the second enlightenment?

  4. Ha! A Quixotic scheme worthy of the approaching election time, that...

    "Alex Salmond has twiddled his thumbs. Labour has changed the fuse. I pledge here today, to put all the energies of my mightiest digit into switching on the Scottish Enlightenment II...

  5. You are single-handedly responsible for my having to put dictionary.com in my favourites good Sir. But very glad to see you posting on this under-represented 'agora'.

  6. Jeff,

    Happy to do so. I'm very keen on making these sites for argument and deliberation as broadly peopled as possible.

    On your first point, I'll take that as my being potentially informative, rather than just *ahem* obnoxiously and unnecessarily obscure...