yes1“Nicola Sturgeon for First Minister.”

This is what appears on the regional – or ‘list’ – ballot for the SNP. At best, this is disingenuous – at worst, however, this is deliberately misleading. I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was particularly passionate about a party that was seeking list votes due to it’s progressive stance on LGBT+ issues – yet, today, opted to give his second vote to the SNP instead. Why? Because he thought that he was voting for Nicola Sturgeon to be the First Minister.

The entire point of the voting system that we use in Scottish parliamentary elections – that is, the Additional Member System (AMS) – is proportional representation: to ensure that single party dominance does not prevail and, thus, that we do not end up with another rotating two party system, as is so prevalent across Western politics. The system is designed for plurality; for a diverse and representative parliament – and this is where, despite protests to the contrary, voting tactically – using both your votes sensibly – can actually be worth it. Our second vote gives us a chance to vote for a smaller party that we agree with – one that couldn’t necessarily achieve seats in the constituencies.

Every poll shows that the SNP will clean up in the constituencies, rendering a second vote for the party almost useless. Let me explain. An SNP list vote is divided by the number of constituency seats won by the party – so, in Glasgow for example, where it is highly likely that the SNP will secure the majority of constituency seats – the vote will be divided by nine (constituency seats) plus one. Therefore – an SNP list vote will be worth one tenth of a Labour vote. That’s right: one Labour list vote in Glasgow will be worth ten SNP list votes. So, #BothVotesSNP will ensure that unionists will be plentiful in Holyrood.

We have an opportunity here, in the first election post referendum, to create a parliament that is truly multicoloured and rich in diversity. Throughout the Yes campaign, we all spoke a lot about change – but what’s really going to change if we return a parliament that looks very much like it does now?

We have an opportunity here, in the first election post referendum, to create a parliament that is truly multicoloured and rich in diversity. Throughout the Yes campaign, we all spoke a lot about change – but what’s really going to change if we return a parliament that looks very much like it does now?

Let me take you back a couple of years. In early March 2014, I awoke from a 36 year slumber – once completely disinterested in politics, I began to notice a people’s movement growing in front of me. What was special about this movement was that it was less about the political class and more about the working class. It was held up and driven forward by everyday people who wanted a better future for themselves, their families, their neighbours. This was something that I could buy into: this was something that I could believe in.

I was proud to be a part of the movement for Scottish independence. However, it seems that too many have now fallen into a situation whereby they have become somewhat enchanted by one party’s ideas and ambitions. The grassroots diversity of the Yes campaign is exactly where the strength of our movement came from and, so, it is sad to witness a large section of us travelling down a singular road and becoming rather smitten in the process, not appearing to accept – or even coherently debate – any views to the contrary of the SNP’s narrative.

This, from my experience at least, contrasts completely with the entire tone and feeling of the referendum. I believed in a different kind of politics and I sold that to people. Now, however, it seems that far too many do not want to stick their head above the parapet and ask any challenging or pertinent questions – particularly in relation to the current election. This, in itself, is the polar opposite of what the Yes movement represented.

It seems that many have fallen out of one box and directly into another; whereby the dominant, party peddled narrative regarding how to vote in May is being accepted as a cast iron method to further the cause for independence.

Well, it isn’t.

The reality is that the SNP are not the only party that are pro-indy. Now, there are others – all of whom offer their own vision as to what an independent Scotland should look like. If we have a parliament that is top heavy with Yes advocating parties of varying colours, at the cost of unionist MSPs, it is not only stronger for democracy – in that it creates a broader parliamentary force which represents a cross-section of the Scottish electorate, as opposed to everyone hedging their bets on the SNP, but it is also stronger for the independence movement for this exact same reason.

It is a given that following the election, the SNP will dominate Holyrood, but I want other parties to be surrounding them and propping them up – not only when it comes to pushing for another referendum, but in ensuring that the rhetoric of social justice, equality and progression is translated into legislature and policy within the duration of the next parliament.

Further, if the UK government see that we have returned a parliament with cross party support for independence, then it is another kick in the teeth for them.

We witnessed throughout the referendum campaign that the Yes movement was so much more than the SNP – and I want to see this reflected in Holyrood. Let’s look at fracking, for example. While the SNP have quite a vague position here (Nicola will have private meetings with Jim Ratcliffe at the same time as the party bans discussion of fracking at their conference), RISE and the Greens are much clearer in opting for an outright ban. Wouldn’t it be much healthier to have other parties holding the SNP to account on issues that they do not necessarily want to discuss?

We also saw the tactics of the mainstream media throughout the referendum, and we know now that if they want to take shots at the Yes movement then they aim their gun at the SNP. The benefit of having several other pro-independence parties in Holyrood is that they will need more guns, and an awful lot of ammunition.

By all means, democracy – thankfully – dictates that everyone is entitled to use their vote in whichever way they want. We are fortunate to have our voting system in place – a system designed to offer us a more representative parliament. Now, I know that the SNP have taken the position of asking for both votes – and I understand why, but that is their prerogative. That is the nature of party politics. Hence, I appeal to the membership and not the party itself.

Please, think about the Yes movement. Think about being tactical, think about the strength in diversity and pluralism. Think about sending another shockwave all the way down to Whitehall.

Let’s seriously damage unionism within the Scottish parliament. Vote for another pro independence party on your second ballot paper, and let the Yes movement rise in strength together.


Liam Stevenson, is the candidate for RISE Central Scotland.