Scots advise on hung parliament
SCOTTISH civil servants are being asked by their Whitehall counterparts for advice on how to run a coalition and a minority government, amid growing speculation of a hung parliament after the coming general election.
Civil servants in Edinburgh have been brought in to help explain the way they have worked since devolution when, first, a Lib-Lab pact ran the government, and then an SNP minority administration took over.
The move comes with the Conservative lead over Labour now closing to as little as five points in some polls, giving fresh pointers that no party will win an overall majority. If this were the case, the largest party at Westminster would either try to operate as a minority government, or form a coalition pact.
Holyrood officials who have gained experience of both since 1999 are now part of detailed Whitehall preparations aimed at ensuring a smooth transition, should a hung parliament occur.
Whitehall has had no experience of a hung parliament since the February 1974 election when Labour and the Conservatives won almost the same number of seats. The Scottish experience is now being studied amid fears a badly managed hung parliament could trigger panic at a time of huge economic instability.
One source said: "We would be foolish not to be looking at the Scottish example ahead of the election."
The planning comes as the Tories were forced to deny reports David Cameron had set up a special unit to prepare for a hung parliament.
The latest Ipsos Mori puts Labour just five points behind the Tories, 32 versus 37 per cent, with the Lib Dems on 19 per cent.
That gap represents the smallest margin between the two front-runners since December 2008 when Gordon Brown was handed a bounce in the polls following his response to the financial crisis.
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