Three Mavericks Who Could Hold the Keys to Power

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), May 6, 2007 | Go to article overview

Three Mavericks Who Could Hold the Keys to Power


ALEX SALMOND may have won the election but the key to power may lie in the hands of three maverick MSPs.

Even if, as expected, the SNP leader brokers a deal with the LibDems it would still leave the coalition two seats short of the 65 needed to take outright control in the 129-seat parliament.

And the fragile scenario means two Green MSPs - Robin Harper and Patrick Harvie - and former SNP renegade turned independent Margo MacDonald could become a crucial trio.

It is thought likely former teacher Harper will join a rainbow coalition.

However, his relations with gay rights campaigner Harvie present a problem.

The unpredictable nature of both men's opinions, coupled with a fundamental split in their grassroots leanings, means it is unlikely they will be able to cement a convincing double-act.

This effectively means Holyrood now has three independents, as former SNP darling turned foe, MacDonald has indicated she won't be in any party's pay.

Last night she said: 'I was elected as an independent MSP and I won't compromise that no matter what happens.' Embarrassingly, when key issues are debated the Government could have to go cap in hand to all three begging for the casting two votes to make a majority.

MacDonald presents the most humiliating-challenge for Salmond. Once an SNP icon, the wife of former politician Jim Sillars left the party in disgust in 2003 after being placed fifth on the party's list.

She made her name by winning a shattering victory in Govan, a Labourstrong-hold, in a 1973 by-election.

A naturally inclined left-winger, the 64-year-old failed to retain the seat in the 1974 General Election. She then became deputy leader of the SNP in 1974, a post she held until 1979.

During the Eighties she made a name as a forceful presenter of various radio and television shows but returned to the SNP fold in 1999 when she was elected to Holyrood representing the Lothians. But her outspoken views and failure to toe Salmond's uncompromising political line saw her star wane within the party until she eventually quit to become independent.

Now, having won her Lothians seat on the list system, she is once again about to go head-to-head against Salmond, a man she's known to truly despise.

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