Some might think to themselves “the sheer hubris” of a potential first time MSP taking a run at the Job of presiding officer, but like everything in politics, it sure does help to give it some context. The first thing I would say is, why not? Perhaps a working-class unpaid carer (one of the most underrepresented groups in Scotland) who has spent 10 years working with benefits claimants and people in serious distress, might actually bring a completely different viewpoint to the presiding officer’s chair. I have as much chance as anyone else, the fear of possibly losing is no reason for not trying, as they say. So why the hell not!
There are some very good reasons why an independent would be perfect for the position.
What gives you a mandate, you’re standing on the regional ballot.
We often like to say that those elected on the list are “unelected” or “elected by default”, and while that statement might hold true for parties because people vote for the party, not the person on the regional ballot, it is not true of independents.
Indeed, standing on the regional list for an independent is harder than standing on the constituency ballot (mathematically speaking) and because their votes are not divided proportionally with other candidates (because they run alone) that makes votes for them the same as it would be as if they ran in the constituency list. Therefore an elected independent on the regional ballot has the same mandate as any constituency MSP.
All presiding officers are independents.
You might not be aware of this fact, but deputy presiding officers retain their party colours, whereas the presiding officer themselves must give up their party colours to hold the position. The presiding officer is supposed to be neutral, therefore when they take the position, they give up party affiliation.
The other side of the coin is that the presiding officer breaks the tie but doesn’t usually vote themselves. So put simply, if the SNP or Alba or the Greens were to put forward one of their own MSP’s to be presiding officer, you end up with a situation where they lose one of their MSP’s having dropped their party affiliation AND one of their votes.
This is the reason that Ken MacKintosh was Presiding Officer over the past term because the SNP didn’t want to lose one of their votes on the floor. As an independent, I have no colours to give up.
A ready-made independent being elected by MSP’s (with a mandate from the electorate to do so) means that the SNP, Greens and Alba would have a pro-independence presiding officer rather than a unionist, without having to sacrifice one of their own MSP’s and subsequently, one of their votes.
Another intrinsic benefit of having a presiding officer who is pro-independence, is that come time for the SNP’s referendum bill to be put before parliament (or similar), the presiding officer has to make a declaration under section 31 of the Scotland Act 1998 to say it is competent to pass. Who do you know who has been arguing for the past year and a half about the ins and outs of the competency of the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a second referendum without Westminster consent? #PeoplesAS30
There are also very few parliamentarians today who remembers every provision of the Scotland Act – I do, namely because it’s what I have lived and breathed for the past year and a half – that should come in pretty handy.
On the matter of arguments between the Yes parties, and between yes and no, I’ve managed to walk a very fine line between the two of neutrality. That makes me perfectly placed to be a referee in parliament.
I also weigh heavily towards the sovereignty of the people to hold Government and Parliament to account, and that’s exactly how I would approach the position if elected to be the presiding officer. Something which has been, unfortunately lacking, in Scotland’s parliament and politics in general.
Parliamentarians and Politicians like to say they respect mandates from the electorate, so rather than going into parliament and then announcing my intention to stand as PO, I am announcing it now, so if elected to parliament, I am doing so with a mandate to run for the position – and we’ll see if the parliamentarians respect that mandate.