I watched the 4 main party leaders debate on TV last night. Strangely, the leader who most dismayed me and had me slapping my forehead going "No, no no! Answer the bloody question!" was the one whose party I'm primarily voting for - the Lib Dems' Nicol Stephen. He might be the only party leader I'd shag but he hasn't impressed me on the campaign trail and was pathetic last night. We could really use Charlie Kennedy right now! First Minister Jack McConnell was little better - the man has surely had a charisma bypass. Alex Salmond swept the floor with them - oratory is his forte, but I just don't trust him and I'm independence-sceptic. Interestingly it's not as good a bet that Alex will actually win his list seat on Thursday, so we could actually get sour-faced Nicola Sturgeon instead! Annabel Goldie has been the dark horse this year - she has stood her policy ground and generally eschewed the hysterical "Save the Union" tactics employed by Labour. One of my mates is even voting for them on Thursday, albeit in what seems a tactical move. I'd even say the Tories don't deserve to do badly at the polls but they probably will despite the leader.
My reasoning for voting Lib Dem isn't as perverse as the last paragraph might hint. I abandoned Labour in both UK and Scottish flavours in time for the 2001 General Elections, though I can see that they are (at heart) quite different parties if only Jack wasn't so keen to be Blair's poodle. But I've been voting Lib Dem in all the elections of this decade as they currently best suit my political beliefs. It's not that I agree 100% with everything they come up with - their recent pledge to introduce an hour a day's physical exercise in schools was a soundbite that would have alarmed my schoolboy self - but the party I disagree least with.
I'm also not moved by accusations that the Scottish Lib Dems are mercenary, dropping or bending manifesto promises once in coalition power. As the very junior partner since 1999 there's no chance they'd get everything they wanted but they have still wrested some significant concessions from an unwilling Scottish Labour Party - notably the controversial introduction of PR for council elections, which will commence on Thursday and result in many Labour scalps. Besides, I respect pragmatism over dogma.
Even if I were voting tactically just to oust my Labour MSP (quite possibly the ugliest politician going, not that it's relevant) the sensible choice is Lib Dem in Dunfermline given their shock gain of the Westminster seat last year.
Again this is not to say I dislike all of the other parties' policies either, indeed the Lib Dems and the SNP share quite a few, hence why everyone expects an SNP/Lib Dem coalition develop in some form. Plus my second vote in recent years has always been for the Greens, as I feel there needs to be a principled environmental voice at Parliament, even if some of their aims are a tad unrealistic. They are also, coincedentally, the most vocally pro-gay of the parties.
And I may well be staying up into Friday morning to see the results roll in. I'm not as alarmed as I was about the SNP becoming the largest party and getting into power here as I feel the electorate's appetite for independence really isn't there and I don't feel that will change enough in time for any referendum in 2010. I think the SNP have also realised that over the course of the campaign. It will be an interesting challenge for the devolution settlement though and it may well hinge on who's in power in Westminster at the time of the referendum - the thinking goes that the SNP are hoping the Cameron Tories will be in charge so as to encourage a decoupling by a hugely antipathetic Scotland but it may be a coalition headed by 2 Scots.
So there it is. I'm not particularly trying to sway anyone, but wanted to explain my own reasons for sticking with the Lib Dems again.