There is no moral obligation for largest party to form country's ruling executive

Your report (27 April) reveals a surprising degree of ignorance in a Liberal Democrat leader about proportional voting systems and the possible outcomes.

Nicol Stephen is plain wrong to say that the largest party, possibly the SNP on this occasion, will have the moral authority to form a ruling executive, either in coalition or as a minority. It will not necessarily be so.

Given that the context of the election has, sadly, been conducted almost entirely about what parties think regarding Scotland becoming independent it would be perfectly acceptable if, following the result, the unionist parties have a majority and then wish to form a unionist coalition.

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I'm not saying it's my preference, as I would rather see the Conservatives join with the nationalists to dislodge Labour, but, depending on the result, there could certainly be a clear moral case for a unionist government.

Mr Stephen should recall that in West Germany in 1976 the CDU/CSU party grouping won 48.6 per cent of the vote and 49 per cent of the seats - beating the next largest party, the SPD with only 42.6 per cent of the vote. This did not prevent the FDP Liberals keeping the SPD and Helmut Schmidt in power. In the subsequent election of 1980, the CDU/CSU was again the largest party, but still the FDP chose to form a coalition with the SPD. There was no outrage, no wringing of hands, no wrath from the electorate that Alex Salmond has suggested would happen if the largest party is denied power in Scotland.

If Alex Salmond is content to put independence at the heart of his campaign, talk constantly about how independence would reverse decisions on reserved matters, such as Trident and the Iraq war, and float different ideas regarding an independence referendum he can hardly complain if, together, the unionist parties argue against these notions and are then able to form a ruling majority.

It may be a different coalition from the outgoing one, but a unionist coalition, even one with the Conservatives sitting outside it but allowing it to govern, would be entitled to claim moral authority in such circumstances.


Mountcastle Terrace