Thursday, 31 March 2011

Candidate? What candidate?

Tom Gordon

THE Liberal Democrats are looking red-faced after an "admin error" left them without a Holyrood candidate for the Clydesdale constituency in South Lanarkshire.
A mix-up over forms meant John Paton-Day failed to lodge the correct nomination papers before Tuesday’s deadline.
As a result, electors in the sprawling rural seat, which includes Lanark, Lesmahagow, Symington and Biggar, will only be able to choose between the SNP, Labour and Conservatives on May 5.
It is understood to be the first time the LibDems have failed to field candidates in all 73 Holyrood constituencies since 1999.
Mr Paton-Day, who is also standing on the South of Scotland regional list, said there had been a mix-up between the two sets of candidate forms.
Although his paperwork for the list was filed correctly, no application for Clydesdale was ever submitted.
"It’s unfortunate but these things happen," he told The Herald.
"Perfection doesn’t exist."
Mr Paton-Day, a councillor for the Scottish Borders ward of Leaderdale and Melrose since 2007, was prematurely included in the list of candidates released by the party on Tuesday evening.
However the official Notice of Poll issued by South Lanarkshire Council’s election office revealed the truth.
Contacted by The Herald on Wednesday morning, Jim Hume, the party’s South of Scotland organiser, had no idea Clydesdale was missing a LibDem.
"There should be someone. It’s news to me."
Following a quick check, he added: "There’s been an admin error and the candidate didn’t get his papers in on time. We will still be fighting a good regional campaign."
Cllr Paton-Day, a professional artist, last year considered leaving the LibDems because he was "angry and disillusioned" over the Westminster Coalition.
He insisted the failure to submit papers for Clydesdale was a mistake, not a protest.
"I can state categorically that the only reason I’m not standing is an admin error, much to my disappointment.
"I remain a committed Liberal Democrat and will work hard to make sure my party is strongly represented in the parliament."
Clydesdale was won by Labour in 2007, with the LibDems coming fourth.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Out smarted

AN American born economist will stand for Labour in Paisley this May.

Evan Williams, 45, beat favourite Ian Smart on the final distribution of votes today, replacing Wendy Alexander as the party's candidate for Holyrood.

Smart, a former President of the Law Society of Scotland, had led the eliminating ballot from the start.

After the bottom three candidates were knocked out, it is understood Smart had 34 votes, Williams 32 and solicitor Mike Dailly had 30.

Dailly's second preference votes then split overwhelmingly for Williams, to give him 50 to Smart's 42.

Given Smart's tendency to go off-message, eg support the release of Al Megrahi, criticise Labour's own policy on knife crime, the outcome will be a relief to many in the party hierarchy.

Here's the Labour press release:
Labour Party members in Paisley today selected Evan Williams to be their candidate for the Paisley seat in May's Scottish Parliament elections.

Mr Williams, 45, is an environmental economist specialising in renewable energy. He currently works for a major technology company and was formerly Head of Economics and Sustainable Development at SEPA for five years.

Mr Evans was born in Chicago to Welsh and American parents, and moved to live in Scotland aged 4. He has lived in Paisley since 1995 with his family.

In 2008, he was appointed by former US Vice President Al Gore to be the UK Director of The Climate Project, in which capacity Mr Williams supports house-hold name influencers to campaign on climate change. He is a graduate of Glasgow Caledonian and Strathclyde universities and is currently Chair of the Scottish Sustainable Development Forum.

Most recently, Mr Williams served as the election agent for last week's Paisley council by-election which saw Labour's vote increase by 17 points.

Labour candidate Evan Williams said:

"I am privileged to be selected to fight this seat, and will fight hard for every vote.

"Now the Tories are back, Scotland needs a government focused on what really matters - jobs, public services, crime.

"If elected I will do everything I can to speak up for the place I am proud to call my home."

Stuart Clark, Labour candidate for Renfrewshire North and West, said:

"While Wendy has achieved a lot in Scottish politics at a national level, she will be remembered in Paisley and Renfrew as a strong campaigner who always worked hard for her constituents.

"With Evan on board, Labour now has a new team for Renfrewshire and we will continue to give the people of this area a strong voice in the Scottish Parliament if they back us to be their MSPs in May."

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Let the people decide?

A BACKBENCH Conservative MSP has broken party ranks and called for a referendum before any extension of Holyrood’s tax powers.  

Margaret Mitchell, list MSP for Central Scotland, said the public had a “democratic right” to decide whether Westminster transfers extra fiscal powers, including those on income tax, to MSPs.
Her amendment will be debated today when MSPs consider their response to the Scotland Bill currently passing through Westminster, which will expand Holyrood’s income tax powers.
Mitchell’s call for a referendum is at odds with the position of Tory leader Annabel Goldie and Prime Minister David Cameron, who want new powers devolved without a plebiscite, as they flow from the cross-party Calman Commission.

The broad wording of Mitchell’s proposal means it could receive SNP support, as it leaves the door open to a referendum on full “fiscal powers” for Holyrood, not just those on income tax.  

Here's the Pro-Calman motion - note it's been endorsed by Annabel Goldie
*S3M-8114 Iain Gray: Scotland Bill - UK Legislation—That the Parliament agrees that, further to motion S3M-7550 passed on 9 December 2010 supporting the general principles of the Scotland Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 30 November 2010, the Bill be considered by the UK Parliament; invites the UK Government and the UK Parliament to consider the amendments and proposals made in the report of the Scotland Bill Committee, and looks forward to considering any amendments made to the Bill with a view to debating them in a further legislative consent motion before the Bill is passed for Royal Assent.
Supported by: Annabel Goldie*, Tavish Scott*

And here's Margaret Mitchell's amendment:

S3M-8114.2 Margaret Mitchell: Scotland Bill - UK Legislation—As an amendment to motion (S3M-8114) in the name of Iain Gray, after “Committee” insert “together with the proposal that a nationwide referendum be held in Scotland on the fiscal powers of the Scottish Parliament on the grounds that the public has a democratic right to decide whether to transfer powers such as income tax from MPs to MSPs”.

Not exactly singing from the same hymn sheet.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Scottish Six

Labour activists have tonight drawn up the shortlist to fill the vacancy left by Wendy Alexander in the new Paisley seat.

They are:
Solicitor Ian Smart, immediate past president of the Law Society of Scotland
Solicitor Mike Dailly, of Govan Law Centre
Edwina Phillips, failed East Renfrewshire council candidate in 2007
Marie Rooney, another of Jim Murphy's activists from East Renfrewshire
Manjinder Shergill, aide to Labour MSP Dave Whitton
Evan Williams, son-in-law of former Labour councillor Olga Clayton

As the son of a former Labour provost in Paisley, Smart is probably the favourite, despite his wonderfully off-message comments, including supporting Megrahi's release and calling Labour's knife crime policy absurd.

There's a husting next week followed by a ballot in time for Labour's spring conference on the 19th, and a nominal Labour majority of 3,811 at the end of it.

Finally, Paul Sinclair, the former Downing Street spindoctor tipped for the selection, was a no-show at tonight's count, and may not even have put himself forward.