Why #BothVotesSNP = more Labour MSP’s.
The latest TNS poll was a whopper of the biggest kind, it shows that the SNP are on course to win just about every constituency seat in the country, and by doing so give itself a strong majority at Holyrood without even needing to look at the list seats.
Before we get to the numbers I want to say something and it’s important that it is said. Some SNP members/supporters have accused the other pro independence parties of splitting the vote: I think this is unfair and highly damaging to the movement as a whole. Lets look at it another way, why have the SNP not offered to stand aside on the list for the other pro indy parties? As we all know this would clear the way for a huge pro indy majority at Holyrood. Some people have suggested that this tactic could result in as many as 100-110 pro indy MSP’s.
Why don’t they then? Because, why should they? This is a democracy after all and political parties are free to challenge for any seats they want. Also the pro-indy parties don’t agree with each other on several issues so are unlikely to endorse each other. What they do all agree on is that Scotland should be independent, this is why it is just as reasonable for the other pro independence parties to stand against the SNP on the list. A healthy democracy needs healthy competition.
So on the list system.
What is becoming evident by these polls is that the more constituency seats that the SNP win the less lists seats they will win, and the more that Labour/Tories will win in their place. This is because for every constituency seat won by a party their list vote will be divided by the number of constituency seats won + 1.
Let’s take Glasgow as an example: somewhere we can surely all agree the SNP will clean up and take all nine constituency seats. This will mean that the SNP’S list vote will be divided by 10 (9 seats + 1). Now I’m not going to go into the detail of who will get how many votes, but what I will say is that an SNP list vote is worth significantly less than a vote for any other party (pro indy or otherwise). There is no denying this fact. No matter how many votes the SNP get on the list each of them will be worth a fraction of their full weight. Labour and Tory votes however will be, and the same is true of the other pro indy parties.
The myth that by voting for another pro independence party more unionists will get in is just that, a myth, and it needs to be quashed and now. The truth is it’s much more likely that voting SNP on the list will result in more unionist MSP’s. Don’t take my word for it, go look at the TNS poll. Labour are still picking up 33 list seats out of 56, even with the SNP taking more than 50% of the list vote they only get 6 list seats.
This question of tactical voting also works both ways: by asking the pro indy movement to use both votes for the SNP as it’s the best way to gain independence and keep the unionists out, you are advocating a tactic that is an insurance policy for the SNP getting a majority government, but is also a guarantee that the Scottish Parliament will look similar to how it is now. A majority SNP block and unionists – mainly Labour and Tories – with around 25-35% of the parliament, with a handful of other pro-indy MSPs. Scottish politics, despite the referendum, will not look much different from how it did after the 2011 Scottish elections.
It’s hard to see how people can argue against this: yes if everyone votes SNP twice they might just get an extra 4-6 MSP’s, but if they vote for another pro indy party then we could end up with an extra 10-15, depriving the unionists of 10 seats meaning that the parliament may well end up with nearly 100 pro indy MSP’s. (And if you are worried about the SNP winning a majority through the constituency seats alone, you really shouldn’t be – find me 9 seats that the SNP aren’t going to win on the constituency. It’s possible to point to 3 or 4 that could be tricky, but not 9.
I’m not going to tell people how to vote: I really believe people should vote for what they believe in and what sort of Scottish Parliament they want to see. If you prefer your politics SNP v Labour then #BothVotesSNP might make sense because it will keep both parties strong and challengers weak. But I do want people to stop for a moment and think about whether Scottish politics and the independence movement will be better if it lacks any electoral diversity. For me, I want to see the debate move away from the traditional faultlines of SNP v Labour and move to a more progressive outlook. As Herald columnist Iain Macwhirter, said in October after the SNP’s huge conference in Aberdeen, the SNP “needs critical friends more than ever. It has no shortage of critical enemies.” It would be a twisted irony if those that most despise what Scottish Labour has become are the ones who keep their critical enemies intact in spite of their critical friends.
I’m a supporter of RISE because I think the parliament needs the voices of the radical independence movement at Holyrood – but whether you’re RISE, SNP, Greens or no party at all – if you believe in the values of the independence movement and are disgusted by the role the unionists play in Scottish politics, we’ve got to get past a level of partisanship that says diversity doesn’t matter in the face of unionism, when in this election diversity is the only way, mathematically, that unionism can be made significantly weaker and the voices of independence significantly stronger.
The strength of the independence movement was in its diversity; going forward this doesn’t mean much if it is not reflected in the Scottish Parliament. We only have to look across to Catalonia or even Portugal to see what can be achieved when our parliaments have a multitude of progressive parties to vote for.