‘The decision is pragmatic and sensible’

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ONCE upon a time, everyone said there was no way Alex Salmond could win an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

And much the same has been said about the Nationalists’ chances of taking outright control at the City Chambers in May. Now we know for sure there will be no repeat of that stunning success.

It always seemed an ambitious, not to say daring, approach for the SNP to consider putting up enough candidates to secure an overall majority at the city council.

Immediately before the last council elections in 2007, the Nationalists had only one councillor in Edinburgh. The introduction of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) and the SNP’s strong national result helped them win 12 city council seats at the last time of asking, and the party has since gained one more from the defection of a Liberal Democrat.

But to jump from being the third biggest party to winning an overall majority with 30 or more seats would have been a tall order.

And it is by no means clear that the First Minister’s popularity or the SNP’s national success will automatically translate into electoral victory at local authority level.

So the party’s decision to scale back its ambition looks pragmatic and sensible.

But it does highlight a serious flaw in the STV system, which involves three or four-member wards and voters numbering candidates in order of preference. It means parties must gamble on how many seats they think they can win in each area. If they put up two candidates, they risk splitting the vote and not winning any seats. But if they put up only one, they could find they get enough votes to win two seats but can only be given one.

In a close election, that initial calculation can make all the difference. It can’t be the best basis on which to build the cross-party coalition which will inevitably run the city after May.

Rings cycle

IT took a while, but they have seen the light. The massive Olympic Rings which the Evening News successfully forced off the side of Edinburgh Castle will instead be sited on the far more appropriate location of The Mound under plans lodged today.

It’s a sensible solution and we fully support the move as a way to build excitement around what is sure to be an incredible event. By lighting the rings at night, it will be a truly imposing – though thankfully temporary – landmark.

And, of course, it will be the perfect place to celebrate the haul of medals we expect Chris Hoy and co to bring back north.