It seems Scottish Labour's very own Prince of Darkness can't even let the dust settle on the election result before practicing the dark arts once again. Iain Macwhirter's jaw almost dropped to the floor last night when McTernan claimed that an independence referendum wouldn't happen on the grounds of illegality. McTernan loudly protested that this wasn't a political point, it was simply a matter of "fact". Which, however deluded, I was prepared to accept as an honest view until I spotted that he'd touched on the same issue from a slightly different angle in his latest Scotsman column -
"This leaves Labour with some stark choices. They need a candidate for presiding officer - a crucial position, given the SNP commitment to a referendum bill. The Scotland Act clearly states: "The following aspects of the constitution are reserved matters … 1 (b) the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England". The presiding officer has to assure themselves that any government bills are within vires before putting them before the chamber in Holyrood. Labour's Hugh Henry looks like the right man for this job."
Tell me, John, if an independence referendum's illegality is simply a matter of 'fact', why on earth would Labour need the 'right' Presiding Officer to interpret the matter in a favourable way?
I've no idea if Labour would be crazy enough to heed McTernan's advice - as Iain Macwhirter pointed out, it's these destructive neanderthal attitudes that helped to take the party into the wilderness in the first place. But I hope SNP members are at least alive to the danger, and bear it in mind as they vote in the secret ballot for the new Presiding Officer next week.
I've just caught up with the news that Tavish Scott has resigned as Liberal Democrat leader. In one sense I'm actually quite surprised, because a party that's been reduced to a rump doesn't have a lot of options. Well, to be precise, they now have four options, and by a process of elimination I presume it'll have to be either Liam McArthur or Willie Rennie.