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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
SNP row over election plans
John Swinney
John Swinney is appalled at party in-fighting
An outspoken nationalist has accused a fellow MSP's supporters of plotting to have her ousted from the Scottish Parliament.

Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said it was obvious that transport spokesman Kenny MacAskill opposed her selection as a candidate for the elections in 2003, and his supporters had been working to that end.

Her claim was made as the Scottish National Party published its rankings for candidates on the regional lists.

Ms MacDonald has been ranked fifth for the Lothian region, despite ranking first in the same list for the 1999 elections.

The further down the list candidates appear, the less chance they have of being elected.

Margo MacDonald
Margo MacDonald: "System is destabilising"

An SNP spokeswoman said Mr MacAskill would not comment on the claims.

The published list shows that Ms MacDonald's former place has been taken by Mr MacAskill, with second and third places going to Fiona Hyslop and Doctor Ian McKee respectively.

SNP leader John Swinney said Ms MacDonald had indicated she would fight a "first past the post" constituency.

Nationalist candidates attended hustings meetings in each of the eight regions across the country last weekend.

But the process has been overshadowed by Ms MacDonald's claim that Mr MacAskill did not want her to remain in parliament.

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme she also criticised the list system and said the general public not party managers should choose MSPs.

"I do not know the result but you can tell if there has been heavy handed tactics being deployed and I am long enough in the tooth to recognise them when I see them," she said.

System overhaul

"It is true that Mr MacAskill has been anxious that I shouldn't appear on the list and his supporters have been helping him in this objective.

"I think the nature of the system is very destabilising with regards to the parliament. That is why for a long time now I have been critical of it."

She said the parliament should agree to amend the Scotland Act that would bring about open rather than closed party lists.

Kenny MacAskill
Kenny MacAskill: Accused by colleague

At present a place at the top of the list virtually guarantees a seat in the parliament, while a low position means it is almost impossible to be elected.

The voting system is so complicated that it has taken the Electoral Reform Society almost two days to work things out, but some existing MSPs could be ousted.

Mr Swinney is believed to be so appalled by the bitter infighting the selection procedure has caused that he is set to change it to "one member one vote".

'Quite clear'

He said: "Margo (MacDonald) is fighting a first past the post constituency in Edinburgh South," he said.

"She has told me and made it quite clear publicly, that she views that constituency to be winnable and I encourage her very much in the task."

As party leader Mr Swinney said he had responsibility for judging who would be suitable as an SNP candidate.

At the parliament elections on 1 May, 2003, electors will have two votes on separate ballot papers.

One is for the constituency seat, with election by the first-past-the-post system and the second is for candidates elected from regional lists based on share of the vote.

At the last parliament election in May 1999, 28 of the SNP's 35 seats were awarded via the regional top-up list.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Brian Taylor reports
"Margo MacDonald blames her rival Kenny MacAskill"
SNP MSP Margo Macdonald
"It is true Mr MacAskill has been anxious that I shouldn't appear on the list"
BBC Scotland's Kirsten Campbell reports
"There is speculation over who will lose out"
See also:

01 Jun 02 | Scotland
17 May 02 | Scotland
02 May 02 | Scotland
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