BY EFFIE DEANS
I haven’t been writing much about the Scottish Parliament election lately. This is for a number of reasons. I am not very interested in election campaigning. I’m better at political argument. I have minimal interest in the peculiarities of the electoral system where we have one vote for the constituency and one vote for the list. It strikes me as overly complex and potentially unfair. But it is the system we have until someone changes it. I follow polling like everyone else, but I am more and more convinced that there is something fake about it, even something corrupt. I don’t follow the day-to-day events at Holyrood and frankly could not care less what MSPs do there. So long as there is not another independence referendum in the next few years it is a matter of complete indifference to me how well or how badly the SNP rule with the help of the Scottish Greens and perhaps Alba.
For the same reason I don’t care very much how many Conservatives, Labour or Liberal Democrat MSPs there are. If there are enough to deprive the SNP of a majority that would be great. Still better if there was not an independence supporting majority. But otherwise, it will make very little difference to me if this or that Pro UK MSP is elected or not.
The odd thing about a Scottish Parliament election is that in reality it is a giant poll on independence. This is the issue that all of us vote on. It’s a bit like having a referendum except our Yes or No vote or after Brexit more likely our Leave Remain vote goes through the mincer of voting for various constituencies and lists. This churns out various MSPs. The SNP can either rule on its own or must work with other parties. This does not matter. What matters is how many voters chose independence and how many rejected it.
Let’s say SNP, Greens and Alba win a majority even a supermajority, but they only get 45% of the vote. It will be hard for them to argue that Scottish voters want independence or that they want a referendum now. If they ask the British Government for permission to hold one, the request can be refused because they represent a minority, even if this minority elected a majority of seats. Salmond’s supermajority in that circumstance will be merely unrepresentative or rather a swindle.
What this means is that every Pro UK vote counts. Even if we suspect that the SNP will win a majority and perhaps an overall majority it is worth voting. It is worth putting your cross on a piece of paper even if you live somewhere where a Pro UK party has no chance. We cannot influence the electoral system, nor how many vote for nationalist parties, but we can influence the Pro UK turnout. You may think that it is pointless voting as the SNP will win anyway, but this is completely untrue. So long as there is a Pro UK majority of votes, it will be very difficult indeed for the SNP to hold a referendum and still less likely an illegal referendum. If we are the majority, we could wreck it simply by ignoring it.
There has been a lot of debate about Pro UK strategy and there has been some ill feeling too especially about list votes. I think there are way too many Pro UK parties on the list.
As soon as Alba entered the race independence supporters who had set up list only parties closed them down. Scottish nationalists are much more organised and disciplined than we are. The word goes out that this party is unhelpful and it shuts down. Meanwhile we have loads of small parties all attracting a few hundred or a few thousand votes, none of which will lead to any list seats. Put all of those votes together into one list only party and we would have a far greater chance of succeeding.
It makes sense to have a list only party. It is for this reason that I have supported All for Unity. I think that George Galloway and Jamie Blackett would do a better job in Holyrood than most MSPs. All for Unity has a more interesting manifesto than any of the others that I have read and has candidates from all sides of the political spectrum who would bring something new to Parliament. I believe these people deserve your support.
The alternative is the both votes strategy of Labour the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives even when they know they have no chance of winning a constituency and sometimes a small chance of winning on the list. This strategy is bound to fail. This is why I opposed it. If your tactic is to compete mainly for the list seats, you are bound to come second, which may make you a considerate lover, but it won’t win a majority at Holyrood.
It is easier to win seats on the list if you don’t win any constituencies, which is why a list only party makes sense, but it still requires you to win about 6% of the vote. This is where each of us has to reflect.
1. Will Labour Lib Dems or Conservatives win a constituency in your region?
2. If so, vote for someone else on the list.
3. Will your party get 6% on the list?
4. If not vote for someone else on the list.
I voted Conservative in my constituency and All for Unity on the list because I hope the Conservatives will win constituencies in North East Scotland and also hope that All for Unity will get 6% of the vote. I cannot predict the future about either hope, but it is an experiment worth trying. I have been told that All for Unity have a good chance of winning seats. Other people disagree. We will see. All for Unity would have an even better chance if all of the tiny list parties that have no chance of winning a seat ceased to exist. I would love to abolish the Scottish Parliament, but Abolish the Scottish Parliament Party would have a far better chance of achieving something if its votes went to All for Unity.
Any votes for a list party that fails to reach 6% will be wasted and could have helped other Pro UK parties to win a list seat. Let us all reflect honestly about our chances and vote accordingly. The same goes for constituencies. If your party can’t win, vote for a Pro UK party that can.
We will only know after the election how the various strategies have worked out. But let’s not fall out about it. The battle against Scottish nationalism is long term. We can only defeat it if Pro UK people who support a variety of parties and strategies are willing to work together even when we disagree.
Neither the Liberal Democrats, Labour or Conservatives have the right to complain about All for Unity because they refused to work together by standing down candidates where they had no chance of winning. This would have given us the best chance of winning more constituencies. Tactical voting rarely makes a difference because the main Pro UK parties neither endorse nor encourage it. But even so the thing that we all can do that is likely to make the most difference is to vote for the Pro Party with the best chance of winning the constituency where you live. The SNP will rarely win a constituency with more than 50% of the vote. If we all chose the party best placed to defeat them it would make the biggest difference to the overall number of Pro UK seats.
This is particularly the case if you live in Dumbarton where Jackie Baillie may need all our votes to keep her seat. You don’t have to be a Labour supporter to realise that Ms. Baillie was one of the best MSPs. She is solidly Pro UK and one of Sturgeon’s best opponents. So too anyone living in Glasgow South should vote for Anas Sarwar as he could just possibly defeat Nicola Sturgeon.
The most important thing of all is to vote. I hope all Pro UK parties do well. Every single Pro UK vote adds to our share of the vote. Every one of us should get out and vote and help a friend to get there too.
Our task is to continue to make the argument against Scottish independence. Next, we must demonstrate that we are still the majority. Fewer Scots want independence than a few months ago. Scottish nationalists are divided and we are winning the argument. This is how to beat the SNP. Every Pro UK vote counts. The more we raise the Pro UK vote above fifty percent the more we win, just like in 2014.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.