The new MSPs are to be sworn in by the old presiding officer, George Reid, this week. Then the MSPs are to elect a new presiding officer. Under the Scotland Act there is a statutory obligation that the presiding officer is to be chosen at the first meeting of the Parliament. However, with the seats so close will any party wish to give up an MSP? If the SNP give up an MSP then the two leading parties are tied. It has been suggested that the parties may refuse to nominate anyone meaning that the first meeting will not have taken place. However, there is a potential solution to the impasse. How about Margo? MArgo McDonald, former SNP MSP and MP left the SNP after some bitterness a few years ago. Margo has been returned in the past two elections as an independent. She was also a stern critic of the Holyrood funding debacle. Will Margo allow herself to be put forward? For the parties within the system this has an appeal. Their numbers will not be affected. Alternatively, putting one of the main critics of the cosying of the parties in the last Scottish Parliament in charge of the PArliament may be enough to force one of the parties to blink and nominate someone. Alternatively, Annabel Goldie (who performed creditably in the elections according to the media – while losing one MSP) may allow herself to be nominated meaning the more radical wing of the Scottish Conservatives (the full fiscal autonomy brigade who are more nationalistic (small “n” not pro-independence)) can take over.
The next key date is 14 days after the election. The standing orders of the Scottish Parliament require there to have been a vote on the choice of First MInister within 14 days of the election – otherwise we’re opening up the potential of a new election. Whatever the results of the negotiation between the parties (and the Lib dems have indicated they won’t work with nuLab and will not enter a coalition where a referendum on independence is on the agenda (which as I’ve explained previously does not seem to me to be an unreasonable position to take when the majority of MSPs and popular vote in the election are for pro-union parties), the Tories have refused to work with anyone, and the SNP constitution bars it from negotiating with the Conservatives which would give a majority of MSPs) the parties will certainly nominate their own leaders for the post of first minister satisfying that test.
The next key date is 28 days after the election. If there is no executive in place approved by the Parliament at this point there is a new election called (which only the SNP and Conservatives could probably afford). The Conservatives have indicated they favour a minority government regime – so will likely abstain in any ballot, unless the individuals cause them great offence in which case any individually nominated minister could be voted down (depending on the nature of the motion put forward by the governing party).