Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and that is the test of generals.
– T. E. Lawrence
Scot Goes Pop and Wings Over Scotland have some fantastic pieces on the prospect of the “Vote SNP on the constituency, Another Pro-Indy Party on the list” scheme being promoted by various pro-independence parties. It is natural that the Greens, Solidarity, and RISE (the next stage of the Radical Independence Campaign) would want to promote their own parties, especially in the Scottish elections. I’ve often mentioned my desire for a new kind of politics, a collaborative rather than competitive model where parties work together to make things better rather than the opposition hounding the government for every tiny thing. As such, for a long time I’d been an advocate of the “vote SNP in the constituency, Greens/SSP/Yes Alliance in the list” method for next year’s Holyrood election. However, having read into the actual formula used to calculate list votes, I now realise there’s much more to it than I previously thought.
So is that it, then? Just keep voting SNP every chance you get until independence, and leave the Greens, SSP and other pro-independence parties and candidates to their own devices? That doesn’t sit well with me either. All pro-indy parties and groups worked their socks off to get the official vote to 45%, and they all experienced surges in support following the referendum.
What can be done?
I voted SNP/SSP in my very first election 12 years ago (jings), but in the absence of SSP or Green candidates in 2007 and 2011 I went double SNP. After the referendum I, along with what is now the vast majority of members, joined the SNP. Beforehand I took great pride in my neutrality, before realising just how important independence was to the future of our people. So ultimately, I’m SNP for one reason and one reason alone, and it’s the first item on the SNP manifesto. As a result, I’ll be SNP/SNP this year, and every year, until independence, for as long as I’m a member of the SNP.
The problem is that while the SNP will always be pro-independence and campaign for independence, they have evolved over the years into a true party of government. They no longer sought to serve and represent pro-independence Scots, but all Scots, even those opposed to their ultimate goal. Hence why the SNP did not unilaterally declare independence when they gained a majority in 2011 or even a majority of Scottish MPs in 2015; hence why they accepted the official result of the referendum; hence why they have not yet stated their plans for any future referendum. The SNP may be the political arm of the independence movement, but they are also the party of government for Scotland, which has a whole host of responsibilities besides campaigning for independence.
It would be easy to suggest the Greens and RISE simply rely on the support of sympathetic SNP members to grant their list vote to them: after all, they have commonality of purpose in seeking independence, all are to the left of the unionist parties, all oppose Trident and austerity, all support electoral reform and renewable energy. Well, as far as I can see, why should the Greens and RISE even need to rely on a helping hand from the SNP when there’s almost 50% of the Scottish electorate still to work with? The vast majority of the 50% who didn’t vote SNP in the General Election voted New Labour (24.3%), Conservative (14.92%) and Neo Lib Dems (7.5%). The Greens, SSP and others combined only amounts to 1.65%.
The recent TNS poll is significantly smaller, but still represents a big chunk of non-SNP voters: 35% for the constituency votes (20% New Labour, 12% Conservatives, 3% Liberal Democrats), leaving a mere 3% for Greens and others; and 38% for the regional votes (20% New Labour, 12% Conservatives, 4% Liberal Democrats), with only 2% for other parties, but an 8% drop in SNP votes compared to the constituency is reflected in 8% for the Greens.
So yes, you could say a (for example) 5% swing to the Greens could significantly increase their seat numbers on the list – but why does that have to be from the SNP? What this tells me is that New Labour is still in terminal decline, and we’re whittling down close to the core vote for those parties. The General Election turnout for New Labour was 24.3%, but we’ve seeing Holyrood vote forecasts for 19% – how much further can it go before it plummets past even the Tories? The Conservative vote has hovered around the 15% mark for decades now, even though the recent election saw the lowest percentage share the party’s had in Scotland for a century and a half. The Neo Lib Dems are in crisis following the Carmichael debacle and the attempted SNP smears in the wake of Charles Kennedy’s death, and it’s astounding to see the party continuing to freefall in its own former strongholds.
It is the Labour and Liberal vote I feel RISE and the Greens should go for from now until next year. The SNP should not trust the riptide of the SNP surge to continue forever, and while we’re still seeing new members and support, we can’t expect to reach 100%. I feel that the majority of people who would consider joining and voting for the SNP have already done so: what remains in the Labour and Liberal electorate are either so tribal they cannot bring themselves to vote SNP, or simply do not agree with any of the mainstream parties. Any switherers in the Unionist parties who haven’t made the great leap to the SNP aren’t likely to do so at this late stage.
Much as it pains me to admit, there are some people who – gasp – won’t vote SNP. I know, right, who are these weirdos? Yet in all seriousness, this is the way it is. Plurality is part of the human condition, and this naturally extends to politics. I met several folk on my canvassing trips who planned on voting for another party in 2016 – usually the SSP in Inverclyde, that old Clydeside still has some red in it! – and to be perfectly frank, I think the personal factor was instrumental in Inverclyde’s case. Our MP was often called the “Yes candidate” – whether that was a good thing or not depended on your point of view – and I’m certain a major reason the SNP gained an 11,068 majority here is because Yes Inverclyde saw one of the biggest No to Yes gains in the country, even if the official count fell short by 86 votes.
I get on great with the local Greens and SSP, who I met and worked with during the referendum campaign. I miss them a lot when I’m out at SNP branch meetings, leaflet drops and campaign meet-ups. I can understand some feeling let down or frustrated, be it Greens & SSP who want to do this “vote lending in kind,” or SNP folk who blame the Greens for letting David Coburn and David Mundell in. As for RISE, you just have to look at 2003. So rather than seeing the Greens, RISE or Solidarity cannibalising the SNP vote, I’d like to see the Rebel Alliance concentrate on doing what we did during the referendum – continue to promote the case for an independent Scotland, while showing people that there’s more to independence than the SNP. The Greens and RISE can reach people beyond the SNP: it’s those people that the Greens and RISE need to further the cause.
Right now, a lot of people in the SNP are wondering just what to do about Indyref 2. Plenty in the SNP have their own ideas for timing: some want it in the 2016 manifesto, others want to wait a few years, others think it cannot be before 2020. Not a single one of them has faltered in their desire for independence – the only disagreement is on how to win it. Yet as far as I can see, they all agree on one thing: that to win independence, we need the support of the people. And while the SNP have still – somehow – been soaring in popularity and support, that does not equate to a significant rise in support in the polls.
Make no mistake: I’m for independence above everything else when it comes to politics. That is why I’m a member of the SNP: it’s frankly a happy coincidence that I agree with so many of their policies. If I felt more strongly about environmental issues, I would be a member of the Greens; if I was more internationalist, I’d be with RISE. (It just so happens that I think both environmental and social policies can only be truly implemented with independence, but that’s by the by.) Every vote, every canvass, every action I take from now until independence will be spent furthering that goal. We cannot afford to slip up. It’s little short of miraculous we’ve come this far so soon after the cataclysm that was September, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to risk it all by messing up at this most crucial election.
The polls do not yet reflect a consistent pro-independence majority. The SNP already have at least half the population’s support, and as much as 3/5ths according to some polls. If the Greens, Solidarity, and RISE can harness even a fifth of the 50% who did not vote SNP in May, then not only would they gain votes for their parties without risking the vital pro-independence majority needed, but they would make the case for a second referendum all but irrefutable as the pro-independence majority rises and rises.
Why settle for divvying up what we already have, when there’s so much more still to gain? The Greens, Solidarity, RISE and the SNP still have a huge number of voters unconvinced of the case for independence. We won’t get our independence by sharing what we already have among us – we have to fight for more if we want it all.