WATCHING the BBC try to cope with the local election results yesterday, it was more obvious than ever that our state broadcaster remains – even after 15 years of Scottish councillors being chosen by proportionality – unable to understand and unwilling to recognise the validity of the different electoral systems in different parts of these islands. It is, in democratic terms, still an analogue observer of a digital age.

Part of the problem, of course, is the subservience of BBC Scotland to its bosses in London. That situation is now as bad as it was in the mid-1970s when the late Alastair Hetherington, a hugely distinguished journalist who, as editor, had transformed The Guardian, was invited to become controller of BBC Scotland.

Hetherington tried to assert Scotland’s right to tell its own story and to have that story properly reflected by the whole BBC. However, after three years of struggling with an intractable London-centric BBC bureaucracy, he was ignominiously sacked by the then director-general, Ian Trethowan.

Almost as compensation, Hetherington was given the task of managing BBC Radio Highland, a job which he took seriously and in which he helped that part of the BBC structure develop its distinctive voice. However, the BBC as a whole in Scotland was put back in its box by its distant but controlling management. It has remained there since and even its editorial judgment is now subject to second guessing from south of the Border, a situation that is bound to result in, at the very least, a degree of self-censorship.

The National: GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 12:  A general view of the BBC Scotland headquarters at Pacific Quay on November 12, 2012 in Scotland, United Kingdom. Tim Davie has been appointed the acting Director General of the BBC following the resignation of George

But the issue goes wider than just the hollowed-out nature of BBC Scotland, no matter how glitzy its headquarters. The whole media understanding of politics in these islands is distorted through the lens of Westminster, where, in an unreformed and archaic system, simple majorities rule and where winner takes all is not just a game-show mantra but the accepted norm.

The best argument for a modern voting system is Westminster itself. In December 2019, with only 43.6 % of the vote, the Tories secured 56% of the MPs and an overall majority of 80. Even the depredations of scandal have not significantly reduced that imbalance.

That majority allowed the Tories to overturn the Parliament Act, which limited the power of a prime minister to call an election at any time. Consequently, Boris Johnson might well decide to cut and run before the full effect of the awful and worsening economic circumstances (deeply rooted in Brexit of course) take hold.

On the basis of the local election results, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to wrong-foot Labour once more and stagger home with a much smaller, but still working, first-past-the-post majority.

Contrast that to the proportional Scottish Parliament. No party has an overall majority, but two parties working together are managing to deliver a range of important innovations and stable government, to their mutual benefit and (more importantly) to the benefit of all the people of Scotland.

But that government can’t just decide, when the going is good, to gamble on an election making them even better. It is in fact very hard in Scotland to engineer an early Holyrood election outwith the five-yearly cycle – and it would be still harder to justify it to the electorate.

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As I was writing this, the local results were still coming in, but although the SNP will be the largest party in several areas, it was unlikely to secure an overall majority in more than Dundee. Labour, likewise, while to be congratulated for their success in West Dunbartonshire, were most probably not going to repeat the feat. In fact, it should be remembered that in 2017, no political party came out of the local elections with a majority in any of the 32 councils.

In almost every part of Scotland, the single transferable vote system will guarantee the same this time, and therefore also guarantees that the actual varied wishes of voters will be the basis for what comes next. Compromise between the previously warring parties will be required in order to secure first of all an administration that can command enough support to agree a programme, and then a period of stability during which that programme can be delivered.

That situation represents the reality of public opinion much more than first-past-the-post outcomes, For example, many people in Scotland, one could say, support and trust the SNP in government, but significant numbers wish to see different approaches nationally and in their local area.

Environmental issues are of ever greater urgency and importance, while public disquiet at the effects of Brexit and the scandals at Westminster is more and more to be heard.

The National: The Scottish Tories lost 62 seats in the local electionsThe Scottish Tories lost 62 seats in the local elections

So the Greens go up and the Tories go down. Politicians do themselves and their communities no favours if they don’t recognise such truths and if they don’t then see them as the foundation for local policy development and implementation.

This is, of course, an attempt to escape the binary which can bedevil rational and reasonable progress. However, in Scotland there is still unfinished business in that regard.

One thing is still very much is an either/or and that is the choice of how we are governed – in other words, the constitution. Regrettably, that faultline works against the type of realistic and necessarily consensual politics which proportionality should deliver.

That is another good reason for accelerating the drive towards the referendum, so that we can resolve the issue and, with independence, move on to a more normal way of ordering our local – and national – affairs.

This is another faultline which the BBC fails to see, as do most of the Unionist media. Scottish politics only seems to be about irreconcilable differences because the basic premise on which live our lives has still to be agreed among us all. In order to reap the benefits of a relevant media, as well as a modernised governance, we need to do that now.