Telt ye! It was all so predictable. The fact that Amateurs for Independence launched this exercise in futility apparently without taking account of the fact they were never going to persuade established parties to “unite” with them demonstrates just how ill-thought-out the entire exercise is. Just one of the problems with the Cult of the Cunning Plan was always that we would inevitably end up with some unknown number of ‘parties’ all vying with each other to see who could take the most votes away from the SNP and the Scottish Greens. The parties that have kept the Brits out of power for 14 years. The parties responsible for giving us a pro-independence Parliament. It’s easy enough to see why Dave Thompson might think this was a good idea. It’s difficult to understand why anyone else was taken in by the slick but vacuous sales patter.
If I had entertained any doubts that Acronym for Independence was never going to lure the established parties into their web, those doubts were very effectively dispelled when I was treated to the unedifying spectacle of their representatives participating in an online debate a few weeks ago. Dave Thompson sounded like a cross between a game-show host and Tony Blair on speed. Sloganese is a language totally unsuited to conversation. To be fair, there may have been some content mixed in with the looping string of glib catch-phrases, but my ears went numb after about a minute so I would have missed it.
The representative of the Greens must have got her dates mixed up as she seemed to think she was doing a party political broadcast. But at least she actually said something – even if it was all jarringly out of place in what was supposed to be a discussion on the subject of the Holyrood voting system.
The representative of ISP hadn’t been invited but turned up anyway. What I remember most about listening to him and the other two squabbling was thinking they sounded just like the three British parties in Scotland used to sound before they all found a shared interest in preserving the Union at any cost to the people of Scotland. All they squabble about now is who hates the SNP most.
There was never going to be any Alliance for Independence. The ‘Alliance’ bit of that was floating face down even before the British Electoral Commission confiscated its water wings. The ‘competitiveness’ of the participants in that debate clearly precluded the possibility of any lasting relationship.
We have ended up where the more healthily sceptical among us always supposed we would. It now appears that there will be at least two separate factions of the Cult of the Cunning Plan contesting the regional part of next year’s Scottish Parliament election. There may be others that have yet to appear on my radar. There may be others still gestating somewhere on the fringes of Scottish politics. Two is already one too many for the cunning plan to work. The fear is that it may be two too many for the SNP/Greens arrangement to do what it has been doing for the past 14 years.
Among the many fantastical claims and lurid promises made by the Cult of the Cunning plan is the oft-repeated guarantee that it won’t do any harm. Call me a cynical old so-and-so, but if the lady selling me a new television keeps assuring me that it won’t burst into flames as we watch some Polish police procedural series on Netflix, I grow increasingly concerned that should I purchase this TV then there is a very real chance that it might burst into flames as we watch some Polish police procedural series on Netflix. Perverse? Perhaps! But I’m only human and inclined to the same wary tendencies that kept my ancestors alive long enough to become my ancestors.
The reality is that the Cult of the Cunning Plan poses a genuine threat to the SNP/Greens arrangement which has kept Scotland’s cause alive for 14 years. OK! OK! I know it has been in a politically-induced coma for the last six years! But at least it’s alive! It can be reactivated at any time. But not if those bent on killing Scotland’s cause get anywhere near the life-support machine. The SNP/Greens arrangement has been very effective in keeping the murderous Brits away from the switch. And the arrangement looks secure for the 2021 election. It is certainly not threatened by any or all of the British parties that squat in Scotland’s Parliament like malignant cuckoos. (I know I’ve used that one before. But I like it. Who’s writing this thing anyway!?)
The main threat to the SNP/Greens arrangement comes not from the British parties but from Alphabet for Independence and the various parts of that hoped-for alliance that was never actually on the cards. I defer to pretty much everyone when it comes to the crunching of numbers. But while I may be no John Curtice, I can handle basic arithmetic with a certain degree of confidence. It is especially gratifying, therefore, that my conclusions have been confirmed by people for whom psephology is more than a spelling challenge.
To explain it so that even I can understand, the danger is that the Cult of the Cunning Plan might take enough list votes to deprive the SNP and/or Scottish Greens of seats but not enough to take any seats themselves; thus putting in jeopardy the arrangement which keeps Scotland’s cause alive. Obviously, the risk increases the more separate factions there are bickering over whatever share of the vote falls to the Cult of the Cunning Plan.
There is an effective, informal threshold for gaining seats on the regional ballot. A point below which the chances of gaining a seat disappear more quickly than George Galloway’s dignity. A process which makes ‘snaw aff a dyke’ look sluggardly. That point sits at around 6%. Which also happens to be the most generous upper limit to the share of the vote for the Cult of the Cunning Plan that is considered realistic by people who don’t do powerful drugs. What this means is that if a single faction of the Cult of the Cunning Plan were to break through that threshold they might be rewarded with a seat which might compensate to some extent for any seats lost by the SNP and/or Greens due to the Cult of the Cunning Plan taking votes from them. But if that 6% is divided between or among two or more factions then the chances of any of them winning a seat fade to black, while the chances of SNP and or Scottish Greens seats being lost remains the same.
That noise you hear is James Kelly (SCOT goes POP!) rolling his eyes at my explanation. But I don’t think he’d disagree with the essence of it. The difference is he’d be able to show his working.
Now we have it confirmed that nobody is rallying to the Anything beginning with ‘A’ for Independence banner, that should be an end to the distracting sideshow put on by the Cult of the Cunning Plan. But I predict that it won’t be. I’ll be back in a week or two with my own catch-phrase. Telt ye!