BY EFFIE DEANS
The current Pro UK electoral strategy amounts to the Scottish Conservatives continually banging on about independence to scare the Pro UK vote into voting for them. Labour meanwhile tries to ignore independence in the hope that former Labour voters forget that it is still officially a Pro UK party. The Lib Dems hang on in the North, but are now a dismal fifth, with no prospect of that changing. Everyone else is nowhere.
The key lesson we learned after the Scottish Parliament Election is that it is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, for a new party to win any seats. The Liberal Democrats won 137,152 (5.06%) of the list votes, but did not win a seat. No one else was close.
There were twenty other parties plus a number of independents, but even Alba with Alex Salmond was 100,000 votes short of winning a seat. The highest placed Pro UK list party All for Unity had the advantage of George Galloway who is regularly on Television. It had Jamie Blackett who worked extremely hard and who writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph. It had others like me working behind the scenes. But still it only got 23,299 votes (0.86%).
There were a variety of reasons for this, but the primary one is that lack of media exposure. Unless a new party takes part in the TV debates it might as well not exist. The BBC and STV create a closed shop which no one can break into so long as coverage is limited to the five parties that already have seats. The justification for doing so is that Alba and All for Unity didn’t merit a place at the debates because they got so few votes. But how is a party to ever begin if it is strangled at birth by lack of TV oxygen.
What media coverage All for Unity got was relentlessly negative with certain journalists just following orders to protect Conservative list seats. Fair enough. Politics is brutal and every party has the right to defend its seats. But if our task is to protect the territorial integrity of the UK, something like the All for Unity strategy will have to be adopted eventually. We cannot simply repeat the Lib Lab Con strategy that guarantees defeat because each of them campaigns for both votes everywhere.
The Conservatives argued that if the SNP won an overall majority, it would have a mandate for indyref2. It was an effective vote winning strategy. But it was also extremely short sighted and stupid. The SNP might have won an overall majority. Only marginal changes would have given them one. An overall majority with our voting system is difficult to achieve, but it is not impossible. Next time the SNP may succeed.
It is arbitrary anyway in a parliamentary democracy to require the SNP to win an overall majority in a system designed to prevent one. What matters is that the SNP cannot logically win a mandate for a reserved issue in an election to a devolved parliament. A coalition majority is all that is needed for a devolved issue.
The Conservatives, by allowing the possibility of the SNP gaining a mandate for independence, were risking the future of our country in order to gain a few extra list seats in the Scottish Parliament. But having gained a reprieve Mr Ross proposes five years of the same strategy. He will campaign for the Conservatives to form the next Scottish Government while knowing in his heart that it is simply impossible that sufficient Scots will vote Conservative to defeat the SNP. Even if per impossible the Conservatives won all of the Labour votes in Scotland, they still would still not beat the SNP.
There are two ways to defeat Scottish nationalism. Firstly, we must unite as much as possible. Secondly, we must take over the Scottish Greens.
If there is to be a list only Pro UK party (and this is up for debate) then there has to be only one. It may seem good fun setting up your own party and playing at politics, but it is simply stupid that there were so many Pro UK list parties. If all of the Pro UK list parties had merged and pooled their efforts there just might have been the chance for us to get some media coverage and we would have been in touching distance of winning a seat.
All for Unity is the best placed, so it would make sense for it to be the Pro UK list party. But let’s get all of the leaders together to fight it out, decide who has the best chance and let’s all back that one party.
So too it makes zero sense for people to stand as independents. The number of votes for all of the independents combined was not enough to win a single seat. Unless you are someone very famous and with a lot of money that is not going to change.
With a single Pro UK list party, we might be able to influence the Lib Dems, Labour and Conservatives to at least stand down in those seats where they cannot win. Ideally in my view these three parties should merge to become a single Pro UK centre party. They are not ideologically that different anyway. Mr Anwar and Mr Ross are both centrists, the only thing that stops them being in the same party is tribalism. If there were no Tories in Scotland there would be nothing left for the SNP to hate and much of the motivation for independence would be gone. With a different Pro UK list party we would have good chance of maximising the Pro UK vote, which might just defeat the SNP and make Ross or Anwar First Minister.
Unless the SNP wins an overall majority, it will depend on the Scottish Greens. The Greens are a Scottish nationalist party masquerading as an environmentalist party. There is no logical reason why environmentalism should require Scottish independence. Green politicians in Europe and other parts of the world are not arguing for the break up of their countries. Moreover, many Green voters in Scotland do not support independence. If enough Pro UK Greens could get involved with the Scottish Greens it might be possible to change party policy on independence. If that proves impossible a Pro UK Green Party could split the Green vote and give Pro UK environmentalists a party to vote for. The Scottish Greens are the soft underbelly of Scottish nationalism and are perhaps the best chance we have of depriving independence supporters of a majority.
If there are going to continue to be numerous Pro UK list parties splitting the vote and making it impossible for a list only party to win even one seat, then it would be better if we all just voted Labour Lib Dem or Conservative. But that is to concede defeat for the next election and the one after that. Only a united Pro UK vote can defeat the SNP. We need an alternative Pro UK voice that can put pressure the established parties, because this is the only strategy that can win. But the last thing we need is yet another new Pro UK list party, we need them all to be disbanded except one. It’s time we were not selfish about this.
The party best placed to become the Pro UK list party is All for Unity. We need money, famous faces, media coverage and above all we need unity.
If there continue to be multiple Pro UK list parties and continual squabbles with Conservatives over the scraps of list seats it will be hard to motivate people to campaign for anyone over the next five years. All Pro UK people need to find a common strategy that has a chance of winning. If we don’t we might as well concede defeat now. We might as well conclude that we do not even want to defeat Nicola Sturgeon.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.