Sunday, 6 September 2015

Alphabet soup

THE Scottish Green Party is not known for its big internal rows, but one continues to brew.
Rather oddly, it hinges on the third letter of the alphabet and involves the party's co-convenor Maggie Chapman.
Here is the story.

A Scottish Greens disputes body is investigating claims of ballot irregularities in the contest that selected the party’s joint leader as a Holyrood candidate.

The Appeals, Conciliation and Arbitration Tribunal (ACAT) is considering allegations that the internal procedures governing the regional List contests unfairly benefited Maggie Chapman.

However, the probe has been delayed after the ACAT co-conveners left their positions on on the Tribunal.

Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone are the only two Green MSPs, but opinion polls have predicted the party could get into double figures after next year’s Holyrood election.

The party’s post-referendum surge in membership resulted in fierce competition in the internal rankings system to determine who topped each regional List for the party.

The number one ranked Green candidate on each of the eight Lists has a good chance of getting elected.

In the North East, party joint leader Chapman saw off a range of local candidates to become her party’s top nominee.

However, the process has since become tainted by allegations of ballot manipulation and favouritism.

A key issue in the internal selection was the order of the candidates on the ballot papers sent to local members.

Being the first name on the ballot – as was the case in the Holyrood election in 2007 when the SNP ran as Alex Salmond for First Minister – is said to provide an in-built advantage.

As previously revealed by the Sunday Herald, a Scottish Green party committee ordered the names by a formula, rather than random selection.

On every List, the order of the names on the ballot was alphabetised by the third letter of each candidate’s surname.

In the North East, this meant Chapman was the first of twelve names, while her main rivals were positioned down the ballot paper.

The only exception to this rule was for surnames beginning with “Mc” or Mac”, where the formula applied after these letters were excluded.

A complaint was made and ACAT is now investigating.

According to the party’s constitution, two non-voting co-conveners administer the Tribunal, which is made up of five randomly selected members of the party.

Party sources say Chapman is part of a socialist grouping inside the Scottish Greens that includes ex MSP Mark Ballard and former Edinburgh University rector Peter McColl.

These leftists are believed to be keen to co-operate with RISE, a new socialist party launched earlier this month.

However, many Greens believe RISE is a potential electoral rival and should be kept at a distance.

ACAT’s role is to adjudicate on internal disputes relating to expulsions, dismissals and other rows referred to it by party members.

Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “The Scottish Greens seems to be getting their organic alphabet soup in a mess with this candidate selection row. They like to present themselves as a different sort of party, offering a fresh approach to politics, but it seems they are just as capable of back room manoeuvres as the so-called established parties.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: "This is an internal matter and we are very confident it will reach a clear and constructive conclusion soon. We are focused on delivering the best ever Green result in the election in May."