Salmond has had hardly the time to celebrate the greatest moment of his political career and of his party’s history, that trouble kicked off. The most likely coalition deal, SNP+LibDem+Greens, already appears to be off. The Liberals aren’t interested, and understandably so. They took a sore beating, both here in Scotland and down in England. The tendency, in Scotland, appears to be to blame the poor performance on having been in government with Labour for too long. Opposition pays much better in electoral terms, the LibDems seem to have decided – eight years too late. That’s a pretty weak argument, given that the Liberals have possibly done worse in England, where they have always and only been in opposition, than in Scotland. But even if the argument doesn’t stand, they might be right all the same: staying clear of government for the next four years might improve their electoral performance next time around. So the Liberals are out: for now, anyway. Indeed, Salmond might make an offer that they can’t refuse, such as the post of First Minister for Stephen; but that’s unlikely. I tend to think that Salmond prefers a shot at leading himself a minority government rather than letting someone else lead a majority government.
No other option appears feasible: a deal with the Tories would have the same problems, namely the independence referendum, than the one with the LibDems; plus the fact that Tories and SNP are further apart in terms of policy. Cameron would not allow it anyway even if the Scottish Tories were to suddenly grow interested in it. A Grosse Koalition with Labour is even less likely: it would guarantee stability and it would probably allow Salmond, just like Merkel in Germany, to lead the government, because of the higher number of seats. But given the sort of campaign Labour lead in the past weeks and months, that kind of arrangement won’t be forthcoming – not to speak of the fact that obviously Brown cannot show himself to be compromising with the devil, otherwise the task to be re-elected at the next general elections will become just short of impossible.
A minority government is bad news for Scotland; change and reform are already difficult enough for a Parliament elected through PR – even though only partially so. This way, we would be in for a four-year-term that would do not much more than prove right those that opposed an independent Holyrood Parliament in the first place as a waste of money and time. With the added drawback that not only things wouldn’t be decided in Scotland, but they would not be decided at all – because now they are the responsibility of Holyrood. So a deal is in the interest of Scotland. But a country’s interests can move politicians to a compromise only when they match their own.