I voted today in the local council elections. Being something of a politics and electoral systems geek, I always enjoy voting. Especially when it is the Single Transferable Vote, introduced for Scottish councils in 2007.
STV is by far my favourite electoral system, because it is roughly proportional, it gives you multiple representatives (a good thing where a single representative, like with our MPs, may be hated or mistrusted by a signficant minority), and allows you to make preferences rather than a stark, absolute choice. Politics is about relativity rather than absolutes, and our voting system should reflect that too.
The problem today, however, came in with deciding who to vote for. I believe our council to be thoroughly deficient, filled mostly with second-rate councillors who lack much in the way of vision and creativity for this city and the wider region. That’s evident in some of the terrible planning decisions made over the years in Inverness, plus the spectacular lack of leadership in representing our city externally.
From the poorly-managed development and transport infrastructure of our city, to backwards decisions like Inverness’s absurd and repressive midnight curfew, and then of course the disgrace that was the decision about the completion of the city’s bypass that I’ve blogged about before (and will do again in the coming weeks).
Inverness getting its own local authority, like most of Scotland’s other cities, would be a good way of starting to address this mismanagement; would directly-elected mayors. That’s one constitutional issue where I am impressed by developments in England.
More than anything, then, the council needs fresh blood. Last time in 2007, when I was living in Glasgow, I gave my first preference to the one SNP candidate and second preference to the Greens. This time around, as part of the SNP’s nationwide push to win more councils, they are putting up two candidates in a lot of places, including my constituency here in Inverness – one an incumbent, the other a new face. The latter got my first preference.
Disappointingly there is no Green candidate to then transfer to, the only other party standing besides the untouchable Labour, Tory and LibDem options being the terrifying Scottish Christian Party. So my second vote will go not to the incumbent SNP member, but to an independent candidate who is standing again, for whom I have a great deal of time and who I consider an exception to the rabble of incompetence that purvades Highland Council. It’s the first time I’ve ever rejected the opportunity to vote for an SNP candidate in any election. What’s happening to me?
The SNP are working hard, I understand, to win Highland Council, as they are in many places, not least in the well-publicised battle for Glasgow City. STV being a bit more complicated to count, however, means that the results will not come through until later on Friday by which time I will be away for the weekend. Perhaps I’ll blog again next week reflecting on what could be some very interesting results. It’s an exciting time in Scottish politics, and while I don’t hold to the view that these council elections are a litmus for the independence referendum, today’s vote will certainly have an impact on vital local services in the years to come and the relative strength and confidence of the political parties.
Whether or not it will improve the quality of decisions being made about Inverness, however… well, hope springs eternal.