AND THE BAND PLAYED ON....

Three weeks on from the earthquake poll and the ground refuses to stay steady.  Today the Electoral Reform Society told us that the 2015 UK general  election came up with "the most disproportionate result " in history.  With proportional representation,(via the single transferable vote) they argue that UKIP would have merited  54 seats, the Greens 2 more than their solitary seat, and the SNP 34 rather than their still astonishing 56.

They make the point that the current UK government is in office thanks to not much more than a third of the electorate plighting their troth to them, and, damningly, that 22 million voters put a cross against a losing candidate. One seat, South Belfast, was won with just under a quarter of the votes cast.

So yes the system is broke and does need fixed even if there is a debate to be had over which system would most accurately reflect the public will.  Radio 4's Today programme contrived to have a debate this morning on much of the above without managing to mention that one British parliament, in Holyrood, already functions with a form of PR which has resulted in the smaller Scottish parties, including the Tories and the Lib Dems having a voice which at least partially reflects the support they enjoy.

But from a Scottish perspective  there are other equally valid questions to be asked. Many of us  have consistently argued that the devolution settlement should not require to send 59 representative to Westminster only for many of them to fare well in the world thumb twiddling championships.  What concerns most voters most of the time are questions relating to their health, housing and kids' education all of which are Holyrood policy areas.  

A majority are opposed to Trident, and most of us would greatly prefer not to be dragged into illegal wars, but it's doubtful if the views of the member for Glasgow South East are much sought when the Foreign Secretary is on the line to the US Secretaries of State and Defence. 

So, regardless of how far along the road to federalism or independence the latest Scotland Bill takes us, it seems fair to note that there is no longer a case for a bus load of Scottish MP's of any hue trundling down to the Commons at vast expense. The quality of the intake is not the issue; the numbers are difficult to defend.

For this is not to decry the personal credentials of the latest crop to arrange themselves on whatever section of the green benches they have wrestled their way on to. Some of the maiden speeches of the first timers have been thoughtful, coherent and inspiring. But when the novelty wears off, they will have more than enough time to reflect that their qualities are being somewhat under-deployed. Giving so many of them roles as policy spokespeople is fine, but it confers a hollow status when you're not in power or the official opposition.

Making their mark on the select committees will mop up some intellectual energy - the Scotland one will be noticeably different now that the belligerent Ian Davidson is no longer occupying the chair - but  there will be very little which could be confused with a full time job.

The short term answer to this in the case of the SNP will be for the MP and MSP for each area to work in tandem, sharing the load and offering their local  electorate greater support.  One of the many self inflicted wounds of the Scottish Labour Party was the not even remotely disguised disdain the majority of the Westminster contingent displayed towards their colleagues in Holyrood, and indeed towards the parliament itself.

They failed to watch the centre of Scottish political gravity shifting, failed to recognise that no one party should harbour a sense of entitlement, and, as Johann Lamont was to dramatically observe in public, became a de facto branch office of a London labour hierarchy which was fast losing its own way.

And, as we have just found out, the SNP voting coffers were subsequently stuffed with the endorsement of tens of thousands of Scots who would, until relatively recently, have self described as life long Labour supporters. 

However the SNP does not escape the displeasure of the Electoral Reform lobby, since they note that the party wound up with 95 per cent of the seats on 50 per cent of the votes.  In fairness the SNP continues to support ditching first past the post, even though it has just been a spectacular beneficiary of its  unfairness.

There is, of course, no proportional system which  absolutely delivers fairness - all of them, including the Holyrood version have flaws - having list system MSP's harbours the risk of creating not just tensions with the constituency MSP's, but they are often accused of having a lesser link to the voter.  Nevertheless it has given us a more balanced chamber by far than FPTP could have delivered, though 2016 will bring new challenges to the equation for those parties who did badly this May.

And of course proportionality has the the ability to deliver unpredictable and unwelcome outcomes...I give you David Coburn, now a UKIP MEP for Scotland, and an alarming example of what happens when a minority party puts up a candidate who gives every impression of being unelectable, but who trots off to Brussels thanks to his party's share of the vote.  Let us hope his merry European adventure will be a short one, and a sharp lesson to electors who don't bother to do their homework before deploying their cross.

A final thought: rumour has it that that nice Mr Gove may have found a way round letting Scotland and the other constituency nations of the UK frustrating Tory attempts to ditch the Human Rights Act in favour of a British Bill of Rights whose purpose seems to be to get rid of most of them.  Mr Gove, it is suggested, has a great wheeze to hand which would introduce an English Bill of Rights instead...which would not, of course, require endorsement by the other UK parliaments and assemblies.

Allied to the Conservative attempts to introduce English votes for English laws by tweaking the standing orders rather than introducing full scale legislation,  this gives us an early illustration of how they plan to try and  re-write the rule book to push on with controversial initiatives.   EVEL is proving a singularly appropriate acronym!