Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rules are rules, but not when they don't apply

With the starting-gun for the UK general election finally about to be fired, it's a bit rich to see Labour's Paul Martin in the Herald demanding that the SNP government should not break the 'purdah' rules in the forthcoming weeks - ie. that major policy announcements should not be made in an election period. The first problem for Martin is that it's far from clear that such rules even apply to the Holyrood administration during a UK campaign. The article notes -

"As a General Election approaches, Whitehall goes into so-called purdah and the machinery of the Civil Service can no longer be used for making announcements which could be construed as electioneering.

The same applies to the Civil Service in Scotland ahead of a Holyrood election.

However, the rules are less strict when it comes to what each administration can do during the other’s election period, amounting only to advice from the heads of the Civil Service."

And can anyone seriously imagine the UK government bothering to adhere to these 'rules' during a devolved Scottish election? If anyone complained about the timing of a government announcement, they'd get a familiar haughty response along the lines of "perhaps the SNP feel that the governance of the whole United Kingdom should shut down for a few weeks just for their convenience".

So there's equally no reason why the governance of Scotland should grind to a halt for a month just for Labour's convenience. And frankly, given the outrageous stitch-up that threatens to completely exclude the SNP from much of the highest-profile TV coverage of the election campaign, I'm not going to be terribly impressed by any sanctimony provoked by the SNP making a little use of the one very small advantage they have over the London-based parties during the campaign period.

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