BY EFFIE DEANS
In theory Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party is good news for independence supporters. Let’s assume that support for independence is 45%. Well if the SNP wins 45% of the vote in the constituency seats, it will win nearly all of them. But this means that it will win few if any list seats, because the number of constituencies you win is part of the calculation for the list seats. But this is where there is the potential to game the system. This is essentially what Alba is doing.
Let’s imagine we wanted to maximise the number of pro-independence seats. The best way to do it is to have two parties SNP1 for the constituency seats and SNP2 for the list seats. SNP2 = Alba. If all SNP1 supporters also supported SNP2 (Alba), the result would be that SNP1 & SNP2 would win nearly all of the constituencies and 45% of the list seats.
What this means is that Pro independence parties SNP1 and SNP2 could win 73 constituencies and 25 list seats, making a total of 98 seats out of 129. This would give them 76% of the seats on 45% of the vote.
This is the point of having different parties competing for the constituency vote and the list vote. This works particularly well for the SNP, which wins nearly all of the constituency seats, but the principle applies also to Pro UK parties. This is the logic behind All for Unity. The way to maximise the Pro UK vote is for Pro UK voters to choose whichever of the Lib Dems, Labour or Conservatives are most likely to win in each constituency and then vote for someone else in the list.
But while there is obviously a genuine difference between the Pro UK parties, the difference between a Salmondite party and a Sturgeonista party is minimal. They have exactly the same aim and everyone involved worked closely together as recently as 2014. They may have a slightly different timetable about independence and different tactics about how to get there, but this is no different from there being different views about how to achieve socialism in the Labour party.
Alba and the SNP are a single party that has fallen out with itself, but if there were to be a second independence referendum they would be on the same side and would soon bury the claymore. On other issues Alba and the SNP are also almost identical. They both hate the Tories, both support the EU and both appeal to the left of centre in Scotland. Alba and the SNP are merely a clash of personalities masking an identity of party. It is this that makes it transparently an attempt to cheat the Scottish people by obtaining an independence super majority with a minority of the votes. It’s the sort of thing that led a party with 37.3% of the vote to become a dictatorship in 1933.
Everything we have found out about the Scottish Government in the Alex Salmond Inquiry suggests that it already has too much power that it misuses, yet oddly Alex Salmond wants to give the Scottish Government even more power to the extent that it would barely have an opposition at all. But it was only the opposition in the Inquiry that attempted to discover the truth of what Nicola Sturgeon knew and when she knew it. If Alba got its way even that level of opposition would be gone because there would be hardly any Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem MSPs.
Would Alba act as an opposition? But it has exactly the same goal as Sturgeon and would do what is necessary to obtain independence. But this is the source of the problem in Scottish politics that independence supporters see the end as justifying the means, e.g. trying to put an innocent person in jail because he got in the way, or failing to release an education report because it might damage the cause of independence at an election.
Does anyone think a super-majority for independence would make the Scottish Government more open, less secretive and less corrupt? But that very super-majority would have been obtained in a dubious fashion in the first place and would itself justify anything else that helped the cause.
The Pro UK response to this ideally would be for Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives to agree on which of them stood the best chance in each constituency. Failing that, Pro UK voters must do this for them. I believe the best tactic after this is to vote for All for Unity in the list seats.
We don’t know how Alba will affect the result of the election. It’s a new party and Alex Salmond is almost as controversial as Sturgeon. We can only fight our battle as honestly as possible. We can at the very least do all we can to maximise the Pro UK vote. The higher the percentage voting for Pro UK parties, the better the moral argument for denying an independence referendum and the more obvious the fix if that high percentage does not lead to a high number of seats.
If independence supporters are going to cheat, the best tactic for us is to not engage with them. They cannot achieve independence with half the population refusing to cooperate. Pro UK parties should not take their seats in the Scottish Parliament if that Parliament’s voting system does not give us fair representation. Nor should we take part in any referendum that such a Parliament might decide it wants to hold. Let the SNP & Alba play with themselves, debate with themselves and feud with themselves. It will be merely sound and fury, signifying nothing.
We cannot change the electoral system for the election in May, but we can change the Pro UK turnout and we can vote tactically and strategically. This will have to be a grassroots campaign. It will depend on you telling your friends and neighbours, encouraging and doing what you can to get the vote out. Above all don’t be pessimistic. If Alba and the SNP succeed in fixing the Scottish Parliament Election, they will not bring independence one step closer. Rather they will demonstrate still more clearly the corruption of Scottish politics. They will succeed in taking away all legitimacy for the Scottish Parliament, which will destroy the only means they have of achieving their goal.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.