There are two criteria for the Burdz choice for our next Presiding Officer.  That it be a woman – and a separate post on why and potential whoms is available for viewing at A Burdz Eye View.  And that it be anyone but Tavish.

And if that sounds and seems awfy personal then that is because he made it so.

Back in 2007, Nicol Stephen, then leader of the Liberal Democrats, was minded to go into coalition negotations with the newly-elected SNP Government.  But at the Lib Dem group meeting, he was met by vehement opposition from two MSPs in particular, who were smarting at Alex Salmond’s defeat of one of their own, Nora Radcliffe, in one of their heartlands.  They were so opposed to even talking to the SNP about a possible coalition that they threatened to resign if discussions went ahead.  I am reliably informed that one of them was Tavish Scott.

Further back in the mists of time, I attended one of the many receptions held in 1999 by various lobby and interest groups to welcome and of course, nobble MSPs.  This was the COSLA one and no I wasn’t elected but at the time, but was one of a handful of SNP people with experince of working with COSLA, having served on cross-party task forces.  Few knew who I was.  So I happened to be standing in a group of folk at the centre of which Tavish was holding court.  The discussion focused on the months ahead and how the new Labour-Lib Dem coalition executive would govern.  Thinking he was among friends – and how naive was that – Tavish guffawed that he didn’t care what they did so long as they stuck it to the SNP and Salmond.  I think sweary words might even have been deployed.  Everyone roared with laughter apart from the two COSLA officials either side of me who were very discomfited by such partisanship – no really – and were embarrassed on my behalf.

For years, Tavish Scott has harboured an inexplicable but visceral, almost pathological hatred of the SNP and of Alex Salmond in particular.  For these reasons alone, he cannot be allowed to become Presiding Officer.  Oh he’s entitled to hate whom he likes, but a Presiding Officer needs to have very little baggage or at least not wear his true feelings on his sleeve.

George Reid infuriated the SNP by being amenable and even friendly to people from the other parties.  He had worked on the Group that put in place the procedures and structures for the new Parliament, working closely with Henry McLeish, its convenor, amongst others.  And he set his sights on becoming Presiding Officer and behaved accordingly from 1999 onwards.  As Presiding Officer he was as harsh on the Nats as on others whom he deemed to have transgressed.  But he did the job that was required of him and he did it well.  I doubt that Tavish Scott who has shown few such avuncular tendencies over the years could do likewise.  Leopards do not change their spots.

But there are other reasons, just as pertinent.  This is a man who has just led his party to its biggest electoral defeat in years.  Yes, the coalition with the Tories down south did not help – at all – but as I blogged at Bella Caledonia, the Scottish people punished the Lib Dems for breaking their compact with them too.  And now he wants to be rewarded for such ignominious failure with the second biggest job in Scottish politics?

Moreover, if he steps into the non-political Presiding Officer role, he leaves his rump of Lib Dem MSPs utterly without influence or role.  To secure a place in the Parliamentary Bureau which determines the business of the Parliament and where deals are struck to ensure business flows, a parliamentary group must have five members.  A Lib Dem group of only four MSPs would lose its entitlement to any say whatsoever in the day to day goings on at Holyrood.

You might argue, plausibly, that with 69 MSPs the only group going to have any say in what happens at the foot of the Canongate for the next five years is the SNP.  But Alex Salmond has already said publicly – whatever plans and thoughts he may have privately – that the SNP will be inclusive and wants to win hearts and minds.  With such a large majority – he has more MSPs than all the other groups put together – he can afford a little magnanimity in triumph and also during the lifetime of the Parliament.  The Bureau is likely to be where deals can be brokered on opposition debates and even on members’ bills.  The SNP will not be averse to business coming forward from other party manifestoes that fits well with its own commitments.

Given that the Liberal Democrats are the only other party to support local income tax, they could become the policy’s parliamentary champions and members’ business might be a way of testing the waters and teasing out some of the issues surrounding a change to local taxation.  That might suit the SNP very well.

But without a seat at the table, the Lib Dems will not be able to put such a proposal forward, nor shape any part of the next five years.  Reduced to a rump, they will become increasingly irrelevant and meaningless.  At the next election, without any exposure through parliamentary and media activity, they might disappear altogether.

Tavish might be minded, given the events of the last few days, to start looking after number one, but the burd reckons he owes his party and its members more than that.