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AV – Alba Voice


Here’s why I want to support Bella’s alternative AV campaign.

The last few weeks has seen more strident campaigning by the pro and anti AV people. You may not have noticed, not many people care, not even the campaigners. The Times noted that Labour and SNP candidates would ‘not take a strong view’. It’s difficult to get passionate about an electoral change that most commentators  agree wouldn’t have made  ANY difference to the last six elections at Westminster. Most people forget we’ve already had PR at Holyrood for 12 years, and oh, of course this new system isn’t proportional. So what’s going on?

It’s a smokescreen for change. It’s British politics at it’s dire turgid worst. It’s puerile tinkering dressed up as change. As the people of North Africa are intent on throwing off tyrannical rule and exploring new democracies we are faced with some regurgitated constitutional sick which the Liberals, complicit in the wholesale dismantling of the public sector are – for some inexplicable reason – delighted about.

So why should you – blogger – reader – support our AV campaign to turn the biggest con in half a century into a claim for independence? And what can you do to support the campaign? First if you haven’t already joined  the Facebook campaign GO HERE.

But why? Isn’t First Past the Post an outmoded unfair voting system?

It probably is but the state of our democracy is such that this is like your friend slipping into a coma and as they are ushered past you offering them a nail-cutting. It’s at best an irrelevance and at worst a distraction foisted onto the Scottish electorate belittling and marginalising the Holyrood vote. The specific recommendations of the Gould  inquiry after Douglas Alexander botched the 2007 elections were that there should not be doubled-up elections on the same day.

But the AV campaign isn’t  founded or motivated by the potential for electoral confusion, it’s the fact that the Unionist parties after more flipping  and flopping than Flipper basically stood against the popular appeal for a referendum. This is our chance to protest against that.

As that political manqué Wendy Alexander slopes off into Never Never Land and that old roué Baron Foulkes recedes to enjoy a malt or two in sunny Cumnock it’s worth remembering that it was these people who oppose a referendum. In fact as Labour in Scotland ‘develops’ it’s becoming clearer that opposition to change is the reason for Labours existence. It was the driving force behind devolution, it was the failed drive behind Labours 2001 campaign, and now this Manifesto of Mustn’t and Can’t  is coalescing:

  • We mustn’t get rid of Trident even if it defies morality, international law and economics
  • We can’t (and mustn’t) stand up to the supermarkets
  • We can’t tackle alcohol abuse
  • We can’t allow the people to have their voice on constitutional change

AV is dressed up as political change, the rhetoric of supporters talk abut fairness, democracy and gild their offering with all sorts of radical rhetoric. The fact is that 90,000 Scottish youngsters live in severe poverty, the land is owned by an ancient elite, the media is dominated by a handful of rich individuals spewing out disinformation, we are ruled by a Tory government we didn’t elect. If we want to talk about power and democracy and ‘fairness’ – and recognise these facts to be true, putting energy into a ‘referendum’ on a voting system that will change nothing is not just stupid it’s insultingly wrong.

There is no cost to spoiling your ballot, it’s a claim for real democracy.

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  1. ayewecan says:

    I dont disagree with too much of what you said. But I’ll still vote yes to AV as it would signal my support for electoral reform – and this is the only reform on offer. But with no enthusism or illusion that AV will make any strategic difference save at the margins (but at the very least AV allows smaller parties to avoid tactical squeeze and offers them the opportunity built first preference positive support over time)

    But fear not there is no danger of the AV referendum overshadowing the Holyrood elections here in Scotland – lib dems aside no party really gives a hoot

    But a yes vote might open the door to further reform, a no vote would slam it shut for decades. And just look at the line up on the No side – i’ll vote yes just piss them off

  2. Aucheorn says:

    This AV referendum is totally irrelevant in Scotland if carried it only affects Wasteminster and even then the torys will talk it out ‘cos they don’t want it.

    Independence across the ballot paper. Show your disgust !

    1. ayewecan says:

      Auhern – it’s not totally irrelevant. AV might help break Scottish Labour’s grip on all these of these Westminster seats the hold with 30-40% of the vote, and this in turn will see more SNP vices at Westminster and in general open things up. Why do you think Tom Harris and co are so exercised by it?

      Want to do something totally irrelevant? Write “Independence” on your ballot paper which will be seen by nobody but a returning office and be recorded as a spoiled paper. And if more than 5% spoil their paper for whatver reason Id be surprised -but the margin between the Yes and the No vote might well be around this margin

      And how do you think people will measure the independence vote this May? By votes for the SNP in the Holyrood ballots surely – not by counting the spoiled papers in the AV vote surely? And for certain the SNP vote for Holyrood will be many times higher than the AV spoiled paper.

      So I could half see the point of spolling AV ballot papers were it the only vote on 5th May. This campaign is just daft – it will make support for independence look much much lower than it actually is wheres ( at the margins admitdely) and Yes to AV result will help the SNP and smaller pro indpendence parties, kill the “wasted vote@ line peddled by Scottish Labour for decades stone dead. Just look what AMS and STV has done to Labour at Holyrood and in councils

  3. James Kelly says:

    I must say I agree with Aye We Can. AV isn’t the change we need, but it is a small change for the better, and one that would kill the Labour line “you have to vote for us to keep the Tories out” stone dead. In future the voters could respond “no problem, I’ll give you my third preference, ahead of the Tories”. I certainly don’t want to pass up that opportunity by abstaining in what might be a very tight referendum.

    I also note that, if the reports are true, I’ll be voting in the same way as Alex Salmond. He may be doing it with minimal enthusiasm, but a Yes is a Yes!

  4. bellacaledonia says:

    Can you explain how a yes vote for AV would kill the Labour line “you have to vote for us to keep the Tories out” stone dead?

    The SNP position is quite nuanced on this James – you don’t have to play ‘follow the leader’.

    1. James Kelly says:

      The one thing I can’t be (reasonably) accused of here is playing ‘follow the leader’. If you recall, we had an exchange about this several months ago, and at that point I didn’t have the faintest idea what Alex Salmond’s view was. But if he is coming out for a Yes vote, it does make a difference in the sense that without the SNP’s explicit backing (let alone nuanced opposition) a spoilt ballot campaign stands precious little chance of making an impact. Indeed, as Aye We Can pointed out, it may even harm the cause of independence slightly if a lot of noise is made, but nothing happens on the day.

      “Can you explain how a yes vote for AV would kill the Labour line “you have to vote for us to keep the Tories out” stone dead?”

      I’ve already explained it in the best way I know how to. Voters will know under AV that they won’t have to worry about a first preference vote for any party other than Labour “letting in the Tories”, so long as they give Labour a higher preference than the Tories. Of course in the real world, there are many constituencies in which a vote for Labour is more likely to let in the Tories, and indeed a majority of constituencies where the Tories don’t have a hope in hell anyway, but unfortunately many people don’t realise that and fall for Labour’s fear tactic.

  5. Grahame Case says:

    I’ll be spoiling my ballot paper.

  6. Castle Rock says:

    I’m spoiling mine

  7. cynicalHighlander says:

    ‘Independence’ for me as AV is being brought in in an undemocratic way to suit the major parties not to benefit the people in any way. The Labour party proposed this as they did HS Rail and the ConDems are running with both very suspicious in all ways.

  8. scotnatus says:

    There really is nothing to lose in spoiling the AV ballot. It is simply a sop to the LibDems that is going nowhere. By voting for AV you are being bought off cheaply from real reform.
    You’ll be joining less than 10% of the UK electorate who vote for AV. It’ll be a surprise if more than 50% of the electorate even bother to vote on AV. Of them, Labour will vote against AV to maintain their advantage, especially in Scotland, without which they will never form a future majority UK government. We know the Tories will also vote against. That leaves the Lib Dems and the naive to support AV.

    There is a certain elegance about this protest action:
    The spoiled vote is on a referendum ballot which emphasises the ConDemLab hypocrisy in having their AV referendum but denying one on independence.
    The number of spoiled votes will be made public, ideally by constituency, but surely in total for Scotland.
    A significantly high number of spoiled votes will be a strong political statement both for independence and the lack of respect for the Scottish general election.
    The spoiled referendum paper does not affect the vote on the Scottish general election.

  9. ayewecan says:

    Cynical highlander – you are right to be cynical. And I am – Like you I am well aware of how we ended up with an referendum on a system nobody really wants. But we;ve got one. Vote yes (like me), vote no (Like near all hardcore unionists) or ignore it,dont vote at all. But dont try and start a spoil your paper campaign and thin such a campaign will in anyway assist the cause on independence, particularly on a day where important elections to the Scottish Parliament take place where independence can be forwarded by simply voting SNP.

    Politics is often about putting out clear and simple messages and clear . A half baked *spoil your AV ballot paper and write *independence” on it instaed on your AV paper* would not only be pointless but potentially disasterous in any number number of marginal seats as pro independence or floating voters half pick up this convoluted message and write “independence ” on their holyrood ballot a papers too? Or even register their support for independence by doing what you ask them AND then voting Labour in the Holyrood polls – as they quite like their local MSP etc. People ain’t so daft? – remember last time!

    Seriously, Bella Caledonia and others need to drop this campaign stone dead and well before campaigning starts for real. Were I a unionist agent I could barely have thought up a better plot to confuses split and undermine pro independence voters on 5th May. And pro independence activists are going to do it all for them whilst they get on with the business of winning

  10. scotnatus says:

    aye we can –
    live up to your name and think positively about this protest proposal. It’ll be the old cliche: “nothing ventured, nothing gained” by being complicit in the Onionist’s hypocritical and meaningless reform AV game. We need to be prepared to take reasonable and well mitigated risks to further independence. It’s time to peel the Onion and watch the tears from the ConDems and the Slabs.
    They want a mushroom electorate – kept in the dark and fed shit. We need to really engage with the electorate so they understand the message and act appropriately. There are many ways to get a clear message out by capturing the imaginations of the voters thru new channels of communication other than the MSM. What’s needed is to achieve critical mass (eg on YouTube) and it’ll spread like wildfire. That’s what politics is all about – or do you think we’re too wee and stupid to start to take control of our destiny by organising a protest vote?
    As for risk, this proposal is a a miniscule risk compared to the risks to the politically uneducated and deprived of Libya and elsewhere, whose bold actions may bring them a more meaningful democracy before it arrives in Scotland.

  11. Tocasaid says:

    Interesting arguments and useful as this issue has past me by more or less. I’m gonna blank it.

    A referendum on independence is more pressing.

  12. Vronsky says:

    The best possible outcome for this campaign is that there are a lot of spoiled ballots in the AV vote. Which buys us – precisely nothing. Given numerous possible nasty outcomes (Unionists crowing over a low result, voters spoiling the wrong ballot, AV fails allegedly because of spoiled Scottish ballots) I think a simple risk/benefit analysis suggests that ayewecan is right – drop it.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      The best possible outcome for this campaign is that people see the real distinction between pointless window-dressing-as-change and the real change needed to transform our society our economy and our democracy. AV does none of this, not remotely. It is what Nick Clegg dismissed as a “miserable little compromise” two weeks before the election.

      The best outcome for this campaign is that people shift from a feeling of total passivity in the face of the electoral system which hands down the chance to vote for largely identik parties every four (or five!) years. This is about people taking charge.

      When did we all become so hyper-cautious?

  13. ayewecan says:

    Sorry for banging on, but this conversation has got me thinking – and most specifically back to the Scottish elections of May 2007 and their immediate aftermath with the scandal of tens of thousand of spoiled papers due to voter confusion with the ballot papers, and council elctions on the same day.

    So here we have it again – with two elections on the same day he parallel Holyrood. And what is Bella and other proposing? = a CAMPAIGN to encourage people to spoil their ballot papers! – but only in one of the three of the ballot papers on offer!

    No doubt you, I and all us politically active pro independence bloggers will grasp the detail of message But what about real people? Can we guarantee our message will get across, and if at all, clearly?

    I can easily foresee ( and particularly amongst pro independence minded voters) the message half getting across and some spoiling all their ballot papers, some even just the wrong ones. In addition I can foresee hedgers/floaters saying to themsleves “well I voted for independence by spooiling my AV ballot paper, so ill hedge and vote Labour/libdem in the Holyrood ballot* This will happen – at the margins maybe, but margins win elections.

    And spoiled AV referendum ballot papers will prove next to nothing – the system wont even distinguish between between what type of spoil .

    If there are a high number of spoiled paper just wait for the libs to claim that this was people registering their protest at real PR not being on the ballot paper! And try proving them wrong.

    And finally – wait for it – When we try to re-activate the case for a real referendum on independence, if there are a large number of spoiled papers in the AV referendum, unionists will claim this just shows how inadequate referendum in general are and how it would hence not be a good way of settling the independence question ( they will !!!). OR if there is a low degree of participation in the write in independence spoil initiative – they will say “look, you had your chance to show the level of support for an independence referendum. and look how unenthusiastic people were* (they will!!!)

    So add it all up please – drop this initiative. If people personally still want to spoil their AV paper , fine with me, just do it – write what you want – nobody will ever know what you say But a “campaign” – drop it please. A potential massive own goal on a very important day for Scotland’s future.

    Don;t underestimate how difficult this election will be for pro the SNP and others, dont underestmate the importance of gaining a second term. And this will be much harder that 2007, when Labour had the burden of incumbancy and Iraq – and even then we only won by a ba hair. One seat indeed – North Cunningham , decided on interpretation of spoiled papers! .

    We need this Alba Voice initiative on the same day like a hole in the head.

    Political activism has to be clever as well as imaginative

  14. scotnatus says:

    Dissenters – of whom ayewecan is the most vociferous – consider the main plank of your argument against spoiling the AV ballot in protest.

    Yes, it’s that we can’t clearly communicate the message, and the confused electorate can’t be trusted to get this right.

    So effectively you are saying: let’s blame the ignorance of the electorate and sit on our hands for another election cycle or another generation !

    Or we could inform the electorate that in addition to voting SNP in the best interests of Scotland, whether for devomax or independence, here is an opportunity to send a protest message to say you can’t continue to take our acquiescence in your undemocratic schemes for granted.

    If not now, when and how do you propose to act other than the ritual of voting for *their* system?

  15. ayewecan says:

    Anytime but on the run up to 5th May scotnatus.

    I aint blaming the ignorance of the electorate at all – I am pointing out the the real word stupidy of this campaign, once you add it all up

    Want to further the cause for independence on 5th May? Vote SNP. Th one day every four years straightforward voting actually matter.

    There may also be other tactical decision on split tickets for the greens, sociliasts and independents to get across locally – difficult enough as we all know. In this context adding an “and spoil your AV ballot and write independence on you ballot paper’ message” is not just irrelevant but confusing to the very people we need to influence in the holyrood ballot.

    Indeed self indulgent might I suggest? It wont advance the independence cause by one jot, just make a few independence minded activist feel good about themselves in advance – oh, and potentially blow the entire election for the SNP when the counting starts.

    And sorry for being a dissenter

  16. Kevin says:

    Ayewecan – dissent welcome. But the case you make against this campaign is a very weak and timid one. (The idea that this campaign could “blow the entire election” is just scare-mongering based on nothing more than a Mystic Meg style hunch.)

    This campaign is intended to focus minds on the very issue of Scotland’s independence. So in a nutshell, dissent noted, but this campaign will go ahead and its message will be unambiguous and clear: “Vote for INDEPENDENCE on 5th May”.

    1. James Kelly says:

      I fully intend to vote for independence on May 5th. I simply plan to do it in a rather more direct way than spoiling my ballot paper in a completely unrelated – but important – referendum.

  17. Castle Rock says:

    Off topic.

    Like the new layout Bella but can we have the old header back please?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Hi Castle Rock – yes we’re tweaking our look this week – and hope to re-integrate Bella, thanks.

  18. ayewecan says:

    Kevin I don’t think Im scaremongering – I witnessed close up mass voter confusion first hand last time around, with the outcome in many places effectively decided by spoiled papers. This time the overall result think will be just as tight – if the SNP wins it wont be by much. If it loses I doubt even a wad of spoilt papers in the AV referendum will add any momentum to the independence cause

    The campaigns message will also subconciously encourage abstensionism amongst key groups that need to get out and vote SNP in the Holyrood ballots

    But its a free country, campaign as you see fit. I like the self empowerment ethos behind what you are proposing – a great idea for another day but not in Scotland this 5th May

    And bring back the Bella banner!

  19. scotnatus says:

    ayewecan – I make no apologies for prolonging this discussion since I think your and others’ reasoning, while possibly seeming valid, is actually misguided.

    First, an apparent digression, but please read it with patience.

    I comment from the land of “yes we can”, which post-election was transformed rapidly into the politics of ( in your parlance) “nawwicannae”. Examples: universal single payer health care, Guantanamo Bay, progressive taxation, job creation, etc.

    There are parallels with the SNP minority government which found itself unable to meet its pre-election pledges. Examples: class sizes, and the litany of gray Iain’s list that you well know.

    As you say. the likely general election result will most likely be close, with at best another SNP minority government, unable to fully fulfill its manifesto, including its principal objective. This would be welcome, since there really is no immediate prospect of a successful referendum result giving full independence. Eck and Co know this, but can’t articulate it any more than the unionists can risk Eck pulling off a miracle.

    When Wendy called “Bring it on”, I’m sure Eck almost khaked his breeks at the prospect of an independence/devomax referendum in the current parliamentary session. Much as I desire it, a majority will not make that single leap of faith, especially in the current economic conditions, surely due to get worse this year, thanks to the ConDems and Labor before them.

    The incoming government of whatever stripe will have enough on its plate dealing with minimising the impact of ConDems’ austerity programs and the nonsense of the proposed Scotland Bill. So no likely progress on independence if politics remain as the status quo. This could continue thru many more parliaments unless we can introduce some game changers.

    The journey to independence will surely progress thru multiple stages including fiscal autonomy, devomax, and finally full independence. This process requires the SNP to demonstrate “good governance” over multiple parliaments to persuade the electorate to put aside their fear of dramatic change. It may include periods of SNP in opposition, where they can demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the current quality of opposition. This is Eck’s true but unspoken purpose.

    However, some catalyst is required to shake up the current cosy unionist politics. Otherwise they will continue to ” respect” Scotland with the likes of Scotland Bills, doubled up voting requirements at general elections, and all the other tricks at their disposal, including royal weddings.

    This needed catalyst for political change will not come down from above, but must be from the bottom up. Recent and past political history invariably demonstrate this. Examples on request.

    The AV referendum itself is certainly not the required catalyst, regardless of its outcome. But it offers a rare and valuable opportunity to directly protest (see my earlier posts) and send a clear message to the political tricksters. It doesn’t much matter what voters write on their AV ballot – ” Eck for President” would be quite acceptable. The sole purpose is to have as many spoiled ballots as possible in comparison to the number of general election spoiled ballots. Explain that to voters and help them understand why it’s important to get it right and to be heard.


    Maybe it won’t be successful, but better to have tried and failed, …. (you know the rest).

    You response has a negative WHEN, and no HOW. “Political activism has to be clever as well as imaginative”. Feel free to suggest your ideas. They’ll be welcomed and if better than this proposal, will certainly have my support!

  20. ayewecan says:

    Scotnats says “Maybe it won’t be successful, but better to have tried and failed, …. (you know the rest)…….”

    I do:

    May 2007 ,Cunninghame North result – the one that got the SNP that vital one seat lead over Laboour

    SNP Vote 9,295
    SNP Majority 49
    Spoiled papers 1,015

    Aye – so next time lets encourage SNP voters to spoil one of their three ballot papers and hope all 10.000 plus of them know which one

  21. scotnatus says:

    ayewecan – re your last(?) post

    Aye, right! Hardly a convincing QED response from you.

    The entire electorate will be asked to spoil their AV ballots, not just potential SNP voters. The protest is in the interests of all voters in Scotland for the reasons articulated in the original article and in the comments. Some may argue that SNP voters are more likely to know which one of their ballots to spoil than unionist voters, but I won’t go there. : )

    Let’s agree to disagree …………

    …….. unless, of course, you wish to respond to:
    “If not now, when and how do you propose to act other than the ritual of voting for *their* system?”
    “Feel free to suggest your ideas. They’ll be welcomed and if better than this proposal, will certainly have my support!”

  22. ayewecan says:

    Sorry for no replying more fully to you thoughtful post, but the item has fallen so far down the Bella home page I fear now we are a readership of two!

    I did put the figures for North Cunningham up (and I could have put up a many more) to highlight what I am talking about. I think the figures are striking, and the problem obvious. I am not scaremongering or speculating, just looking at what happened last time with three separate votes on the same day

    And correct me if I am wrong, but the Bella’s ” Alba Voice” initiative IS to appeal directly to SNP or certainly pro indepence voters to spoil their ballot paper by writing “Independence”! or something similar on their spoil. To make this appeal to “all voters” would surely be odd, indeed self defeating since it would allow unionists to argue in the event of a large number of spoils that it had nothing to do with support for independence or an independence referendum?

    One other problem for the Alba Voice initiative is, beyond doubt turnout in the AV referendum is Scotland will be the highest in the UK because, unlike elsewhere it coincides with major elections. So even if a high degree of spoil were achieved in Scotland ( which I doubt), it would still be against the backdrop of the highest overall participation rate in the referendum. So I can see no potential advantages in tbis initiative, just lots of problems – with one very big one which I have detailed in earlier posts. Sincerely, I think the Alba Voice is just not thought though – beyond a desire to “do something”.

    You ask me what is my alternative? With the fear of sounding conventional, how about getting out and campaigning for the SNP or one of the other parties campaigning for independence on 5th May? Already doing it? Then do it a bit more -with the time you otherwise waste campaigning for the Alba Voice initiative.

    For those (myself included) not inclined to play by the party game, there is also plenty to promote the general cause of independence or indeed many other issue ( anti-cuts, trident etc – ) now , during and after May 5th . Online activity can be particularly effective if imaginative and well targeted, as can participation in community protest to highlight the impact of cuts, plus also relentlessly targeting particularly odious or vulnerable unionists on their mirriad of crimes. Believe me I am doing them.

    More strategically still, I do particularly value the role of free thinking pro independence outlets like Bella can offer in this regard. Indeed I personally regard them as key – part of a growing if still smallish “independence movement” with a role beyond that of the SNP and other pro independence political parties. It is from this perspective that I am critical of the Alba Voice initiative because, at best, it’s irrelevant and distracting ( we have much else to productively do), but also potentially directly damaging to the electoral cause of the SNP and other progressives . They will know this, see this. So when the “independence movement” (or Bella in particular) attempts in whatever way to make asks of the SNP and others our bargaining power and credibility will be lower not higher as a result of the Alba Voice initiative. Why? Because it is unhelpful to them , it will irritate them – and as I have spelled out even damage them, and potentially disasterously so . Can I ask anyone in Alba Voice if they have spoken to the SNP, Green SSP and others about their panned intervention, surely a precondition for launching any major pro independence campaign – especially one focused on 5th May?

    I have plenty of ideas, some I can do personally and will , but others can only be done on a collective basis. And her platforms like Bella offer us all the opportunity to do plan and activate people. And as well as pre- May 5th initiatives, I believe post May 5th activities can be equally important, if not more important. The ability of non party independence supporters to influence deal making and much much more should not be underestimated. Indeed as the parties inevitably focus on and exhaust themselves in the run up to 5th May, we should be thinking now about 6th May and beyond, where our opportunities to move beyond electoralism might be many. I want to do this. But sincerely i think it will be more difficult for any” movement” to act with credibity if it has spent much of its energies pre May 5th period promoting the Alba Voiice campaign., particularly if it has the impact I fear ,but even if it dosn’t. Because it will make us look marginal, ineffective and not too clever either.

    As I have said, if individuals want to spoil their AV ballots fine by me. But a campaign, that takes energy and time and resources, which are scare for us all?

  23. Stuart Mackay says:

    It’s been a good debate – and sorry I’ve been offline and unable to take part. I simply don’t accept that people – lots of people couldn’t do the simple thing and vote SNP in the vote and INDEPENDENCE in the referendum.

    I find that just ridiculous.

  24. ayewecan says:

    Stuart Im sure you are right.- “most people” could, but not necessarily everybody and the would be some confusion and slippage at the margins. How big we could debate, but there would be slippage and amongst SNP spoiling their Holyrood ballots. There would also be hedgers who would think they could show their support for independence by writting it on their AV ballot and then Not vote SNP in the Holyrood ballots, maybe because thy liked the Greens or thought the Labour MSP was hardworking, a nice guy etc. Again at the margins I’m sure, but margins matter in tight elections.

    Don’t believe me? Can I suggest you speak to anyone that has ever run an election campaign, most specifically the SNP which has a difficult enough task persuading its own supporters to vote SNP in the both constituency AND the list ballots without this new and unnesseary complication.

    Can I ask directly has anyone behind the Alba Voice initiative spoken to pro independence political parties about this in any detail? I’m not suggesting they should have a veto, but surely their views should be sought and factored in?

  25. scotnatus says:


    Many thanks for your detailed response. I do understand your concerns, but I do believe this unique opportunity that cannot be ignored. You can count the number of referenda held in the UK on one hand, I think.

    The original idea (from this website (?), it’s also on Newsnet, where I first saw it and was introduced to Bella) is certainly imaginative. The question remains, as you ask, is it clever, ie clearly thought thru with particular regards to the risk of it backfiring.

    The original idea seems to have been principally to transform the AV referendum into one on independence – this imho is a simplistic fantasy which cannot be achieved by any obvious means, though it sounds great . Stuart Mackay ends with : “There is no cost to spoiling your ballot, it’s a claim for real democracy. ” I noted, whether deliberately or subconciously, that he did not end with: There is no …….. ballot, it’s a claim for real INDEPENDENCE.

    If you read Stuart’s article and the original St Andrew’s Day, 2010 BC (pun) blog, there is a recurrent theme of protest, sending a message to the establishment, promoting participative democracy, lack of respect for the Scottish general election, and imposing a “meaningless” ( some disagreement noted) AV referendum, while denying a referendum on Scottish independence/greater devolution. These reflect valid grievances.

    As I said in my above comments, I don’t and I really don’t believe that the SNP would welcome an independence referendum in the near future. That would have a very substantial *risk* of putting real devolution and independence off the political agenda for a generation. Wendy was the smartest of a generally not so smart Labour Party.

    I agree with you that the SNP should be asked for their input on the AV protest, and possibly off the record what their *real* strategy is, though I suspect this is closely held to a small trusted group.

    The unionists strategy is to buy us off with their phony Scotland Bill. But if *they* were clever, they’d agree to an early straight forward referendum, yes or no, on independence. It would probably be lost without years of preparation and detailed explanations of what government under independence would look like and function. If there is a majority of anarchists and/or minarchists in the electorate, it might succeed.

    There is no way to prevent unionist voters deliberately spoiling their AV ballots for some of the same grievances, or other reasons, that SNP and like minded voters could do. We can ask the entire electorate to do so based not as a transformed independence referendum but as a protest vote on the grievances listed above, and many others . They can write on it anything they fancy, up to and including “Iain for Pope”. I hope the more enlightened of them would spoil their ballots in support of the SNP comment: “It just shows that the Tory-led coalition government with the LibDems is treating the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland with contempt.”

    I also think it’s important to remember and remind the electorate that following independence and/or devomax, who knows which, the raison d’etre for the SNP will be accomplished in as far as is possible, and the SNP can be expected to divide into multiple parties of various ideologies.

    This is a long way of me saying that by clearly communicating the message to the electorate, we can say close to what Stuart says in his comment, though I’d prefer :
    I don’t accept that people – the vast majority of people, couldn’t do the simple thing and vote their preference in the general election vote and spoil their ballot in the AV referendum.

    Is there a degree of risk? Yes.
    Can it be mitigated? Yes.
    Was there ever any real political and democratic progress made without risk? No.

    PS: I’ve lived in the US since 1983, so my doing my bit for democracy in Scotland is mainly from the keyboard. I did live for 10 years in the Republic of Ireland in the early 70’s to early 80’s, which was when my latent nationalism surfaced as I experienced first hand the benefits of self determination of one’s and one’s nation’s destiny.

    My overwhelming belief is that too many of my countrymen (Scots to remove any doubt) are too risk averse, hence our present predicament in the union. Maybe it’s much to do with economic and financial insecurity?

  26. ayewecan says:

    Scotnatus. Thanks for this background. Certainly I agree with you that too many Scots are risk adverse, and this is one of our problems, My biggest problem with this initiative though is though that it is being presented as risk free – “what have we got to lose?” etc, but it does carry risks – and all for our side.

    Lets just assume Alba Voice does take off and there is a big AV spoil on May 5th (and I doubt this). What are the real risks in this to unionists? They can explain it away in any number of ways.

    And all the focus will be on the Holyrood results anyway. That’s where mine will be, before, during and after 5th May

    Effective campaigning, I think, is about picking the right issues and opportunities – and at the right time

  27. James Hunter says:

    “PS: I’ve lived in the US since 1983, so my doing my bit for democracy in Scotland is mainly from the keyboard.”

    that explains a lot. Thank you for calling, have a nice day.

  28. online votes says:

    Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was once a entertainment account it. Look advanced to far brought agreeable from you! However, how could we communicate?

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