2007 - 2020

Both Votes

As part of a new series ‘Routes to independence’ #RouteMap we explore the competing ideas and options for gaining self-determination, looking at parliamentary, extra-parliamentary, conventional and unconventional ways forward. Here Lloyd Melville writes in defence of the both votes strategy as a means to achieve a pro-indy majority at Holyrood.

We are ten months from the most important Holyrood election in the history of devolution. The result will not only determine who governs – but when and how the question of independence will be put to the people of Scotland again. I have no doubt that the constitution will be front and centre in this election, indeed we can be quite sure of it. So that imposes a special responsibility on those advocating for independence, to articulate a message and vision that will deliver a parliament capable of actually achieving independence. There has been a lot of debate around which method of voting is the best way to achieve that – so I’d like to add my thoughts on the issue.

I’ve seen quite a few people on social media (admittedly, social media and the real world are poles apart) suggesting that the Both Votes SNP strategy, which was used in 2011, 2016 and undoubtedly will be used in 2021, was a failure. They suggest this because in 2016, it delivered the SNP 4 regional seats – due to the SNP’s success on the constituency front. Now, this is partly true – however it is important to recognise that the gap between the SNP’s constituency and regional votes increased from 1% in 2011, to 4% in 2016. No doubt this was also a contributing factor in the SNP missing out on regional seats. Pointing to the polls, advocates suggest that ‘because the SNP will win a majority on constituencies alone, the reginal vote should go to another pro-independence party’. Indeed, two former SNP regional MSPs have signalled this too (Kenny MacAskill, MSP for Lothians region from 1999-2007, and David Thompson, MSP for the Highlands and Islands from 2007-2011). MacAskill stated in a newspaper article that “Both Votes SNP doesn’t work.” – which is ironic, given that both of these gentlemen were elected on the Both Votes SNP strategy.

The theory behind this, is that the SNP are polling above 50% on the constituency ballot, and therefore will win a majority on purely constituencies. Now, this might sound plausible, however the same was said in the run up to the 2016 election… and the SNP did not win a majority on constituencies alone. Further, I must state that polls don’t win elections – votes do. While polling showing the SNP potentially winning a majority next year is fantastic, it is a snapshot of where the country is right now. Anything could change in the months ahead – and that is why throwing our eggs in an untested basket, based purely on polling 10 months from the election is dangerous. The SNP could just as easily lose seats on the constituency level as gain them – and would therefore need regional votes to maintain that pro-independence bloc of parliamentarians. Do not forget – in 2011, without the SNP’s 16 regional MSPs, there would have been no independence referendum. Indeed – had more people who voted SNP on the first ballot in 2016 voted SNP on the second, the party would have a majority at Holyrood now.

We need look no further than the 2016 election to see the kind of ‘max the pro-independence majority’ parties in action. RISE, which was mooted as the “challenge” to other pro-independence parties, was launched in order to maximise the pro-independence representation in parliament. Indeed, they presented themselves as the option to hold the SNP’s feet to the fire on the independence question; “Fielding candidates on all eight regional lists across Scotland, the party presented itself as a natural fit for members of the broader Yes movement who fear that the SNP is backsliding on its commitment to independence.” (Libby Brooks, Guardian, 19 April 2016). This is rhetoric I have seen used by individuals and organisations recently, however in 2016, it did not translate into reality. RISE won just shy of 11,000 votes – and if you combine that with Solidarity, who also ran a similar campaign, the two get just over 1% of the vote. It was a catastrophic failure.

Now, if individuals want to start their own parties and campaign for election – that is their own right, and part of the democratic process. Four new pro-independence parties have popped up recently, which will undoubtedly result in splitting a small percentage of the vote four ways. However, I for one will not be gambling with my regional vote. I’ll be giving it to the party that got us a referendum in 2011 – the Scottish National Party. Yes, I’ll be giving both of my votes to the SNP – and you should too, because by uniting around the SNP, we can deliver a referendum, and secure our independence. Why? A few reasons. First, because a majority SNP government got us a referendum in 2011, and even the most ardent unionists know that a majority government in 2021 would shatter opposition to a referendum. Second, because I trust the First Minister – who has campaigned for independence her whole adult life – to deliver that referendum, as well as good government for Scotland. Third, because polls don’t win elections – votes do, and the SNP can win regional seats, even in areas they win lots of, or all the constituencies. I want to delve a little deeper on that point.

In 2011, the SNP was elected as the first ever majority government in the history of Scotland’s parliament. Romping home with 69 of the 129 seats in Parliament, it paved the way for the first referendum on Scottish independence. How did it happen? Well, the SNP won 53 constituencies, and 16 regional seats – even winning a regional MSP in the North East of Scotland, where the party won every single constituency. The SNP would not have been able to secure a referendum on independence without those 16 regional MSPs, and indeed in 2007, could not have formed a government without the regional MSPs won in that election. The party has elected regional MSPs at every election – and when people followed the advice to cast both votes for the SNP in 2011, we won a majority. Those who are keen for a referendum – and I certainly am – should recognise that. Indeed, if we take current polling purely at face value (which we shouldn’t because we are ten months from the election), the SNP is set to win regional seats in Glasgow, and Central Scotland, where we won every constituency in 2016 (and where polling suggests we will win every constituency in 2021).

Finally, I believe we must stand with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has shown exemplary leadership throughout the Coronavirus crisis, and indeed who enjoys a personal rating that dwarfs that of the other leaders. Nicola Sturgeon has fought for independence when the tide has been against it, and indeed when support has increased. She has not compromised her beliefs. She has not given up, even when there looked no hope of achieving our aim. I believe in that determination, that willingness to keep going no matter if you know you might lose. Recent polling has support for independence on 54%, which means the country is now embracing the idea of independence. The First Minister will deliver it – and its incumbent on all of us who believe in independence to help her do that – and it starts with Both Votes SNP.

 

 

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  1. Malcolm Kerr says:

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. A statement of interest would have been valuable, however, given that the author is National Communications Officer for SNP Students.

    1. Its in his authors details, click on the ‘More by the Author’ link?

  2. Bill Laing says:

    ” had more people who voted SNP on the first ballot in 2016 voted SNP on the second, the party would have a majority at Holyrood now.”

    Apart from being a blinding obvious statement, can you illustrate what would have needed to change to backup your assertion?
    How many “more?” It would have to be a lot more to overcome the penalty of winning constituency seats. It may be an unattainable number.

    With a share of the list votes that WERE actually cast for the SNP, the ISP could have also won enough seats to create that pro indy majority

    1. There already is a projected huge pro-indy majority. (?)

      1. L. Campbell says:

        Yes, Mr Small, but the ISP is standing up for women’s rights and against the non Scotland-wide debate on GRA and the accompanying ‘hate crime’ legislation. I have been listening to, and reading, a large number of blogs and podcasts and video casts in the past few weeks, and none actually mentions the elephant in the room of women’s rights: you know, the sex-based rights that those creatures born with breasts, vaginas and wombs are supposed to have on account of the fact that they are particularly vulnerable to ill-treatment, and being sidelined by, big, hairy chaps with penises and testicles and, often, an entitlement bigger than the Empire State Building? Had the SNP stood up for the rights of all those hundreds of thousands of women who have given them their vote instead of trying to push ‘wokerati’ policies under the radar, perhaps none of this would be happening. I am not the only person who has linked the ‘wokerati’ take-over of the SNP and the Greens with the inertia around independence. It is generally a good thing that young people, in particular, interest themselves in preserving everyone’s human rights and advancing all kinds of rights, but not at the expense of already-existing rights and shouting down anyone who disagrees in a nasty, totalitarian way. It all smacks unhealthily of McCarthyite ‘othering’, spreading fear and alarm and silencing those who object.

  3. james gourlay says:

    Piles of rhetoric and pointless statistics and suppositions and obfuscations. The arithmetic of the game is simply that if the SNP get a large constituency vote then they will not get much on the list. Polls suggest that they will get a large constituency vote. If they do not then the number of list seats will not help them a lot. A second independence party standing only on the list seats would make a big contribution to the total independence votes – IF the SNP are still going for independence. A look back on their activities over the past five years doesn’t suggest they are. The idea of repeatedly asking for a Section 30 order doesn’t make sense unless the SNP are simply stalling. Why would they do that? Who knows?

  4. Janey M says:

    I think it’s dangerous to take a one-size-fits-all approach to this. The arithmetic doesn’t care about party politics or constitutional matters. The hard fact is that a good result in the constituency vote within any region means a bad result by comparison in the list vote. For sure things may change before the election but one thing that won’t change is how the votes are counted. It requires a good deal of analysis at national level to take a best guess at which approach is best given where you live. In my own region, SNP 1 and 2 is unlikely to help gain additional seats. In other regions where the constituency results may be less predictable. it may be a better strategy.

    1. L. Campbell says:

      Absolutely agree, Janey. That is why it would make a great deal of sense for the SNP to form a semi formal, but ad hoc, alliance with these other parties that are pro independence. In campaigning bumph, it should not be too difficult to get through to voters in particular areas that the SNP has an excellent chance of gaining the FPTP seat, but a poor chance of gaining a List seat, or vice versa. There is no argument at the moment that the SNP is best placed to deliver independence, but that will not be the case if they dither for much longer. I actually don’t think that it is people forming, or encouraging List parties who have created this mess, who have concentrated on policies at the expense of the wider requirement for independence. That is down totally to the ‘wokerati’ captured SNP. BLiS made the same mistake when they could not or would not remodel themselves as a pro independence Scottish party proper. The underlying theme is independence because many more can see now that there is no other option, and the SNP has been singularly stupid in not understanding that and how the unease in the party was growing exponentially. The SNP has brought this on itself by concentrating on policies that are far from being popular, with no real Scotland-wide debate. GRA was dumped by the Tories when they realized that it would tear the party asunder. Labour is beginning to move away from the same trap, removing at least one of the biggest ‘wokerati’ supporters. All parties have, roughly, half mile, half female support, so how idiotic is it to alienate half your support? I can sympathize with trans people who want a leaner, speedier system, but the long term effects of this legislation will be that women will be moved down a societal category in favour of physical men who need not even use hormone therapy or transition at all, ever, but who will still be able to access female-only spaces. A proper debate is necessary and, perhaps, a compromise can be reached.

  5. Stuart says:

    Would it be possible for an Independence Alliance party that would take a lot of seats on the list to actually join the SNP after the election thus giving the SNP a very large majority. Much the same way Labour and Tories crossed the floor at Westminster during the Brexit votes.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    But if the SNP do get a majority of seats this way (boosted by people voting for an Independence referendum but not SNP policy platform), what are the chances that the following SNP government will still act as if they had a popular mandate for the rest of their policy platform? Doesn’t this seem a little like party-political manouevring to choke off support for other pro-Independence parties? It is certainly not in the spirit of pluralism and cross-party collaboration. Is the talent pool in SNP that rich that it can provide candidates of merit? Might there be meritorious non-SNP candidates squeezed out by this plan? The list option is presumably useful in getting candidates with key competencies into the Scottish Parliament who might not have glistered as constituency MSPs.

    1. L. Campbell says:

      SleepingDog: I think you are right. I believe the ‘wokerati’ element in the SNP would push through contentious polices if they were handed a majority outright. I do not believe and have never believed that their priority was/is independence. I also believe that, was Labour, for example, to be in power, they would migrate to Labour in order to push through their agenda. Quite apart from that, I find their foot dragging very conducive to Westminster’s agenda.

  7. Tim Clancey says:

    How curious that this article does not mention the Scottish Greens once in its discussion of how to achieve a ‘pro-indy majority’ – or indeed the fact that, thanks to the election of six Scottish Green MSPs, we already have a pro-indy majority at Holyrood and have had it since 2016. I suspect the purpose of the article is to make a specific party political case for a SNP majority rather than a more general case for a pro-indy majority. It is ludicrously blinkered at best, and downright dishonest at worst, to ‘make a case’ for both votes SNP by just pretending there exists no serious alternative use of the regional vote.

    1. Fat Boab says:

      Tim Clancy- totally agree. There is already a second party on the list ballot that is in favour of independence. There are some suggestions for yet another party with independence as a main goal- I see No reason for it if that’s its only policy. People need to think positively with their second vote rather than just follow the obvious because they can’t do some simple analysis of their own local region.

    2. L. Campbell says:

      The Greens are pro GRA, too, so many women will not vote for them either.

  8. Scots Ee says:

    WE awready haes the Green Pairty, a pro-independence pairty that fechts fir the environment. Whit’s no tae lik? A see nocht a new Pairty can dae that the Greens cannae.

  9. Malcolm Kerr says:

    ‘Both votes SNP’ is a clear statement that the party hopes to retain power at Holyrood while side-lining independence. The last thing the SNP wants is another secessionist party gaining a toe-hold In Parliament.

  10. Alan Crerar says:

    What a delight to read a thoughtful defence of SNP 1&2. As an SNP member, I voted this way in 2016, and actively promoted the strategy with a big field poster!.

    I am pretty certain that, in my region at least, this was a serious mistake.

    The SNP were extremely successful taking ALL constituency seats. However, on the list, their 130,000 votes (including mine) gained exactly zero seats. So, it seems that every one of those votes could have been cast for an alternative Indy-supporting Party (let’s say the Greens since they were the next largest) without damaging the SNPs prospects and taking 3 or 4 seats from foreign-based parties.

    A question: Under broadly similar circumstances, how many additional votes would be required for the SNP to gain just one seat (I have heard the figure of 10 times – 1.3M – outrageous if true) and whether that is an achievable figure.

    Only once we have definitive answers to figures like these from last time (spoiler alert; past performance is not necessarily a guide to the future) for each region can we plan for the next election. Forming a cat-herding strategy for disparate Yesser groups and individuals would be useful too.

    If ‘SNP 1&2’ was a serious error, we’d all look seriously stupid making the same error again.

    1. Me Bungo Pony says:

      “If ‘SNP 1&2’ was a serious error, we’d all look seriously stupid making the same error again”.

      It wasn’t an error. From a SNP point of view, it was the fact that over 4 points worth (a predictably small proportion) of those who voted for them in the Constituencies split their vote with other parties that cost them their majority. Despite a high intensity campaign to get SNP voters to split their vote with either Green or RISE, only just enough did it to cost the SNP their majority with no advantage in extra pro-Indy seats in Holyrood.

      There is currently 69 pro-Indy MSPs in Holyrood with a SNP minority reliant on 6 Green MSPs to keep Indy front and centre in Scottish politics. Had every SNP Constituency voter also voted SNP on the list …. there would have been 69 pro-Indy MSPs in Holyrood with a SNP majority (according to the Scottish Parliament Swingometer site). So the cause of independence gained nothing out of the splitting the vote “ruse”, but the Unionists got the psychological, headline-grabbing boost of depriving the primary pro-Indy party of its majority and the luxury of claiming the SNP (and therefore Independence) had lost and were in retreat (“Peak Nat” and all that). “SNP 1&2” was not the problem. It was the vote splitting plan that failed spectacularly …. and predictably.

      The SNP currently have 51% of the Holyrood Constituency vote according to the latest poll. If that was reflected on the List vote, there would be a very comfortable SNP majority at the end of it. There would be (according to the site mentioned above) 76 pro-Indy MSPs with a 74/2 split between SNP/Green. If one of the Pop-Up pro-Indy parties manages to get 6 points off the SNP List vote for themselves (highly unlikely) …. there would be 77 pro-Indy MSPs with a 68/2/7 split between SNP/Green/Pop-Up. Not exactly worth the risk of another 2016 “failure”. If the Pop-Ups failed to register any meaningful votes (highly likely) and the Greens were the beneficiary of this unlikely 6 point gift …. there would be 78 pro-Indy MSPs with a 68/10 split between SNP/Green. Again, hardly earth shattering.

      And all this blithely assumes Unionists will be oblivious to all these cunning plans and just stumble blindly into the Pop-Ups carefully prepared trap. If this madness gains traction, they will start gearing up themselves and the tactical voting scam (cheating???) they used successfully in 2016 and 2017 will get ramped up to the Nth degree. It had more or less died a death in 2019 with people moving back to their natural party, but it will return with a vengeance amid cries of “Separatist cheating” if there is a whiff of shenanigans on the part of these Pop-Ups. The arithmetic would become muddied to the extent nothing could be predicted with anything like certainty. According to the Swingometer site mentioned above, with a Pop-Up taking 6 points off the SNP and half the Labour vote going to the Tories, even 51% of the Constituency vote would see the SNP gain only a 1 seat majority. Knife edge stuff. However, in that scenario except with the Pop-Up only taking 4 points off the SNP, the SNPs majority leaps up to 11 seats. It just shows how even small changes can make a huge difference to the outcome. Basically, if the poll ratings hold up for the next 10 months, even without a Unionist pact, the difference between a single digit SNP majority and a double digit majority is as little as 2 points swap on the List vote between the SNP and a Pop-Up. Where is the advantage?

      1. Tim Clancey says:

        Some fair points here, except you seem to be assuming that all of the regional votes cast for the Scottish Greens in 2016 were cast by SNP supporters looking to maximise their indy vote – as opposed to being cast Green supporters who also lent their constituency votes to the SNP as in most cases there was no Green candidate standing.
        Hard to measure the extent of voters who see the Greens as their first preference party I know, but the 8% vote share won by the Greens in the 2014 and 2019 European elections (the only pure PR electoral system used in elections in Scotland in recent years, with no great incentive to vote tactically) suggests that there are a substantial number of voters out there who do view the Greens as their first preference.
        So what I’m suggesting is not that the SNP regional vote was depressed in 2016 by attempts to game the system, but that the SNP constituency vote was inflated in 2016 by Green and other small party supporters voting SNP in preference to the pro-union parties – in most constituencies the only choices were SNP, Tory, Labour and Lib Dem.
        By all means promote SNP 1&2 to your supporters (and that was the dominant narrative in the 2016 campaign, whatever you might say now) – but don’t assume it’s going to lead to a big increase in regional votes for the SNP as a result.

        1. Me Bungo Pony says:

          Fair enough. However, if we accept your point, it means the much vaunted vote splitting plan was an even bigger flop than previously thought. Why would it be any more of a success now? Outside of the Indy-web echo chamber few people will be much interested in the Pop-Up parties pleas for their votes far less interested in them. The most likely outcome will be that just enough true believers buy into it to depress the SNP List vote by enough to lose them several seats. Seats that may well go to newly motivated Unionists busy gaming the system themselves.

  11. Robert Adams says:

    I started voting for SNP from 1969 when I left the army, I have never voted for any other party, I don’t intend to start now so I’ll be giving both votes to the SNP on the day.

    1. Robert says:

      With respect, blind loyalty is a good quality in a soldier but a bad quality in a citizen.

  12. Josef Ó Luain says:

    Giving your second vote to another pro-indy Party, agree or disagree, is a brilliant idea. Too brilliant for some … for the moment, anyway.

  13. R says:

    Babble, babble, babble.
    The voting system just doesn’t work like that. The more constituency seats a party gets, the less each list vote for that party is worth. It’s as simple as that.
    If the SNP won all 10 constituency seats in a region, say, then each list vote for another Indy party would be worth 11 list votes for the SNP.
    The “Both Votes SNP” strategy doesn’t promote independence. It promotes SNP hegemony. We’ve got plenty of that already, thank you very much.

  14. Wul says:

    I want the Greens to have power too. They are a good influence on the SNP and more progressive. (“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” as someone once said)

    People call the Greens “dreamers”, “unrealistic” etc. but they are the only party whose policies acknowledge the reality of a finite planet. It’s the “never-ending economic growth” parties who are the dreamers and fantasists.

  15. T Cross says:

    One of the more disturbing “democratic” weaknesses in the current system is the right given to candidates to stand twice in the same election in the same region. Candidates may put themselves forward for a constituency seat while at the same time have their name on the regional list giving them a double chance. It also means that should the candidate win the constituency seat then votes given them for the region are wasted. Surely the SNP should be confident enough to put up candidates just once for the constituency allowing others to take the regional route. Too many from other parties sit in Holyrood having failed as constituency candidates yet earn their (substantial) salary through the backdoor regional list. I would also argue that regional candidates should receive a lesser salary indicating their reduced responsibilities. Rewarding failure is at the very heart of this unfortunate dottish system.

    1. Bill Laing says:

      I don’t think list votes are allocated to an individual unless that individual is the only member of a party.

  16. kate macleod says:

    Both votes the SNP mean Sturgeon and spouse will be free to implement their right wing economic agenda and climate without question or dissent .
    Some of the ‘Yes Family’ are becoming Blairite enablers.

    1. Scots Ee says:

      This commend is wrang in sic a muckle o weys a dinnae ken whare tae stairt, but it mynds me whit fir a dinnae come here aft. We’d suiner fecht amang oorsels ower the oo in oor naels that cairry the fecht tae the Unionists. It’s gey dooncastin, sae it is.

  17. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    Elites of all persuasions are conservative. That’s how they stay in power.

    Every major corporation on the planet, including governments, every mainstream media outlet, is centre-right/left in its thinking and policies. They’re all conservative with a small ‘c’. This is because power is unavoidably conservative; it likes to keep things pretty much as they are.

    What’s happening in Scotland is no different from what’s happening on the global stage; to invoke the currently fashionable metaphor, elites of all persuasions are ‘gaslighting’ us to protect established power structures and reinforce the cycle of privilege that perpetuates their elite status.

    This conservatism characterises anyone with power. You can barely put a cigarette paper between the people at the top of each party. They all have a vested interest in the status quo, which is why they don’t offer major change in either the state or civil society but only tinkering at best; major change would see them lose their power.

    Look at what happens when someone is ‘too different’ or wants ‘too much’, ‘too quickly’. Look, for example, at Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage in the context of United Kingdom politics. They’re self-proclaimed socialists and nationalists respectively, but they’re not hardline Trots or Nazis. Nothing they propose is particularly far-reaching. And yet, during their respective campaigns, they were regularly painted as nutjobs who were ready to dismantle ‘Britain’ in one way or another.

    These outliers wanted too much change for the establishment’s liking and were, therefore, a threat that had to be dealt with. So, no longer being able to effect the other kind, the establishment effected a moral assassination. Hence the money-led smear campaigns and distorted portrayals by a predominantly conservative mainstream media. Hence the back-stabbing from within their own parties.

    Moreover: corporations, including governments, might give out the right messages, uttering nice socially responsible slogans and so on; but how sincere are these utterances and how much is just savvy marketing?

    How many of these corporations have eliminated the gender pay gap? How many have ethnically representative boards? These aren’t crazy notions; yet all we see are platitudes, targets, and promises.

    This is another aspect of gaslighting: corporations, including governments, want to look like they’re changing things, even while they’re not. So, if there’s enough public pressure, they’ll throw us the occasional bone to turn the hunger for change into a mere peckishness.

    For example, racism and racial discrimination… No one in their right mind thinks racism’s an acceptable thing. Apart from the traditional moral arguments, even the purist of free-marketeers views discrimination is an ‘inefficiency’ in the global marketplace. Yet systemic racism is pretty much everywhere, even after decades of campaigning. What little change there’s been has been drip-fed, a wee law here, a wee poster there…

    Another example: gay marriage, something that makes a lot of people very happy and has absolutely no effect whatsoever on anyone else’s life. It’s taken forever to arrive in the places that now ‘permit’ it; it’s not even on the agenda in the places that don’t.

    In Scotland, even after 13 years of ‘progressive’ government, women are still paid less than men for doing the same job, social mobility has been confined to a wheelchair, the poor die younger than the rest of us…

    Basic fairness isn’t such a wild and wacky idea. But because equality threatens those who are already in power, progress towards it creeps along like a stoned teenager who doesn’t particularly want to get out of bed. The scale of the BLM protests will dwarf any significant changes that will come from them. Taking down a few statues and changing the names of a few streets will not a revolution make.

    Instead of change, the status quo is being amplified. The gap between rich and poor in Scotland’s been growing at a faster rate than ever before, especially during periods of economic crisis. The sitting government in Scotland has used legislation to tighten its grip on power, nationalising most of the formerly independent institutions of civil society. The chances of anything or anyone who’s vaguely anti-establishment getting their mitts on any levers of power are as slim as a snowball’s in hell.

    Even that which is being vaunted as ‘a radical change’, the secession of Scotland from the United Kingdom, would benefit only the status quo. If it didn’t, do you really think it would be allowed to happen? My old Marxian history teacher used to tell his pupils, as a kind of provocation, that Scotland would be ‘free’ only when the Edinburgh bourgeoisie judged it safe to do so. That was 50 years ago. What’s changed since?

    The problem is that gaslighting works. As Mark Twain is misattributed as saying: “It’s easier to fool people than convince them they’ve been fooled.”

    Twain’s hijacker was probably right. Even if the SNP can successfully manipulate the electoral system to return itself as a majority government next year, it will – alas! – still be the government.

    1. Craig P says:

      >> My old Marxian history teacher used to tell his pupils, as a kind of provocation, that Scotland would be ‘free’ only when the Edinburgh bourgeoisie judged it safe to do so.

      Spot on.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Anndrais mac Chaluim, while you may be right about some things there, some oddities strike me.

      Comparisons between Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage on how they portray themselves should reflect on how consistently Corbyn’s politics have been (and if he had managed to take the Labour Party with him on nuclear disarmament, he may well have started dismantling the British Empire when in power), and how disingenuous Farage’s man-of-the-people schtick is (and how inconstant, inconsistent and unprincipled Farage’s political career has been, perhaps).

      Marriage and civil partnerships do affect other people in the UK: they are subsidized (by other taxpayers) and confer certain rights and obligations. They are collectively recognised (otherwise I wonder what the point would be). In the past, subsidising marriage may have been primarily justified on religious-moral and child support reasons. These days, child support may be better delivered by more efficient means. So if, to many of the public, the reasons for recognising, supporting and subsidising marriage have changed over the years, what are the modern justifications to be? Perhaps intermarriage between different groups makes society more harmonious and less riven by dangerous conflict (the plot of Romeo and Juliet), although other divisions like private-school-apartheid may need to be closed too. Perhaps, in our plague years, settled households are the essential unit of protection.

      And the rest of your commentary suggests that you do not ascribe to the view that society is a complex, adaptive system, where the actors (usually people but sometimes other entities) can act and react unpredictably, emergent behaviours rise unpredictably, phase shifts can occur at known and unknown trigger points, and events foreseen or not can have all kinds of effects. It has been noted that sometimes revolutions have happened in the most ‘unlikely’ of places, or that a regime has never looked as strong the moment before people have toppled it.

      To return to your point about toppling statues not making a difference, I think you are missing the iconic power of knocking over a symbol of the old order, as indeed happened when East Germans took hammers to relatively small segments of the Berlin Wall. Why else do the Old Guard in societies spend so much effort on conserving the symbols of their power? Sure, each act is not a revolution in itself, but then Revolution is a phase that emerges, often unpredictably. Not that I favour bloody revolutions, too much can be lost and the new boss may be too like the old boss. But the Revolution-in-Ideas that is just around the corner (maybe)…

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        I didn’t make any comparison between Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage on how they portray themselves. I used them as examples of how outliers are regularly painted as nutjobs by the ruling elites.

        The justification for gay marriage is that same-sex couples should, without discrimination, enjoy exactly the same rights that heterosexual couples enjoy. I made no judgement as to whether the latter should enjoy the rights they do; maybe the Married Couples Allowance should be abolished, I don’t know. But you’re correct in the point you make; rights do come at a cost, and meeting that cost could be construed as a tax on society. This hardly affects my main argument, though.

        I’m sorry that my commentary suggests that I don’t ‘ascribe’ (sic) to the view that society is as you say it is. I subscribe to the view that a society is a group of individuals in persistent interaction with one another and whose interaction is mediated by sets of tacit and explicit rules. Radical change occurs within a society only when the rules are broken. My point was that ‘Elites of all persuasions are conservative [i.e. they resist rule-breaking]. That’s how they stay in power.’, and that gaslighting is one of the ways they resist rule-breaking.

        I don’t underestimate the iconic power of knocking over a symbol. But that’s all it is: the power of an icon; magical thinking, which I discussed over on another thread as a cure for our psychoses.

        Incidentally, I remember Der Mauerfall. My Saxon friends were in despair in June 1990, because they saw the final demolition of the wall by the East German border guards (the rubble was needed for the construction of a new railway) as a symbolic letting-in of the West.

        My friends were part of the Nie-Wieder-Deutschland movement, which opposed West German takeover. The NWD created a forum, comprised of state and party representatives and members of various dissident and civic movements, which they called the Round Table. In consultation with domestic and international experts, the Round Table drafted a constitution for a democratic socialist East Germany.

        The 1990 constitution was, at the time, billed as the most progressive ever written: for the first time in German history the constitutive legal framework for society came from the ideas and the energy of the people whose persistent interactions it was intended to mediate. Central to its proposals was the ligitimatation of the Round Tables and Works Councils that had already been set up in factories and residential areas as a necessary check on the centralised power of the Volkskammer and the political apparatus.

        However, in the Spring of 1990, the ruling Christlich-Demokratische Union rejected the draft at the behest of the West German Chancellor, and the DDR was duly absorbed into the Bundesrepublik.

        So, for my Saxon friends, the iconic power of Der Mauerfall is quite different from that which it exercises over us in the West. For them it symbolises a democratic defeat.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Anndrais mac Chaluim, good point about the varied interpretations afforded by overturning symbols of an old order (I have had similar discussions about the statues recently). I have talked with East Germans who were a little bitter that the upsides of their culture were swept away along with the downsides, and who view British cultures as comparatively a bit backward in some respects (from a friendly perspective); but I was not aware of that constitutional movement. And yes, I meant ‘subscribe’: appreciation for correction of vocabulary failure.

        2. SleepingDog says:

          @Anndrais mac Chaluim, however, I cannot see how your view, that elites of all persuasions are necessarily conservative, is borne out by history or reflective in the modern world. In the past, elites in society have had divisions between factions representing reaction and change (as in the landowners versus the industrialists during the move from feudalism to capitalism). Elites have sometimes been vanguards of revolutionary change. Indeed, early social theorists like Ibn Khaldum saw the move towards conservatism (or corruption) only happen over the third or so generation after a regime change. Some elites have been messianic, and some extremely destructive to their societies (the Khmer Rouge, say). Expansive empires have seldom been predominantly conservative, especially ones which have absorbed the cultural content of the conquered. Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal Conservatives were often only conservative in name. But coming to the present day, the corporate technological elites who are building what Shoshana Zuboff persuasively describes as Surveillance Capitalism are intent on sweeping away a lot of existing social superstructure and replacing it with a new world order.

          1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Elites are innately conservative insofar as they are resistant to any change that would threaten their elite status in society. This is true of elites of any persuasion, whether it styles itself as the vanguard of the proletariat or the natural nobility or whatever. Once any group attains elite status (through change), it will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo against subsequent change.

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