The crunch!

It struck me as I was writing this morning’s article about the so-called ‘People’s Action on Section 30″ that there are parallels to be drawn between those fervently cheering Martin Keatings on and the people lobbying frantically for the so-called list parties. I was prompted to recall an exchange I had yesterday in the SNP Members for Independence Facebook group. (It’s a private group, so no point in providing a link.) The conversation was started by someone I’m not aware of being acquainted with. She posted a critique of the ISP’s realistic chances versus their fantastical expectations. Needless to say, her contribution resonated with me. The following are my two contributions to the exchange.

Comment 1

Thanks for that Lindsay. It is gratifying to see someone injecting a bit of political realism into a debate that tends towards the fantastical.

It seems to me that it was no part of your purpose here to defend or advocate the SNP1&2 voting strategy. You are simply pointing out the facts and reasonable assumptions. This is required as a hopefully effective antidote the fantastical thinking which disregards inconvenient fact and allows assumptions that are anything but reasonable.

I too have refrained from actively lobbying for the both-votes-SNP option other than to note that as a default strategy it has served Scotland’s cause well. It has kept the British parties out of power for 14 years. Something which should be the first priority for all who support Scotland’s cause given the catastrophic harm that would be done to both our nation and our cause should the British parties regain the control the voting system was supposed to guarantee to them.

I have previously gone no further than noting that both-votes-SNP has self-evidently been an effective default strategy. This is because I recognise that circumstances differ in various regions and constituencies and that there may be other voting strategies which are more appropriate to those circumstances.

Not everybody appreciates these differences, however. Voters are not all political anoraks peering over screeds of voting data in an effort to discern how they might most effectively use their vote(s). Those ‘ordinary’ voters may be looking for a way to use their vote(s) such as to aid the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence and/or keep the British parties away from power. Because they are not political anoraks this strategy must be simple. SNP1&2 has the advantage of being as simple as anything might be while almost invariable serving the desired purpose and only vanishingly rarely doing any harm.

SNP1&2 is the ideal default voting strategy. Which is why it was adopted by the SNP in the days when such choices were made pragmatically and on the basis of political/electoral utility. It can be defended and advocated solely on that basis.

If in doubt, give both your votes to the SNP is NEVER bad advice.

But what about the 2021 Scottish Parliament election? I don’t think anybody would deny that this year’s election is ‘special’. It may be no exaggeration to say that it is the most important election any of us will ever be involved in. It is certainly the most significant and portentous vote since the 2014 referendum. Given the special nature of this election, what might this imply for the SNP1&2 voting strategy? Is it still the ideal default? Is it less ideal than otherwise in these special circumstances? Might it be more than just an ideal default strategy on this occasion?

I would contend that the circumstances of the 2021 Holyrood election make both-votes-SNP the optimum voting strategy. To appreciate this it is necessary to have a clear understanding of what those circumstances are and what constitutes the best possible outcome of the election from the perspective of Scotland’s cause.

No other considerations are relevant. We must be entirely focused on what best serves the objective of restoring Scotland’s independence. If there is anything else on your agenda then you really need to rethink your priorities. This is no time to be indulging frustration with or anger at the SNP. It is certainly no time for putting partisan loyalties, policy agendas or egos before the urgent need to defend Scotland’s democracy and identity from the British Nationalist onslaught which is already in train and which will only increase in intensity over the coming months.

This comment is already overlong. So I won’t explore this matter further. I may use this post as the basis for a blog article. That would be a more appropriate place to explain and expand on my reasons for commending SNP1&2. I end with the following thought for your consideration.

The both-votes-SNP voting strategy being the tried and tested default it would require a very substantial argument ideed to persuade me away from it. It SHOULD require a powerful argument to persuade any independence supporter away from such a thoroughly tried, tested and proven option. The self-styled alternative independence parties – or ‘list parties’ – offer no such argument and should persuade nobody.

The tactic being used by these parties is quite common. All political parties resort to it to some extent. The difference being that where it normally forms only a part – and often a very small part – of the prospectus being presented to voters, in the case of these ‘alternative’ parties it as almost all they have.

A glittering generality is an emotionally appealing slogan or sound-bite or narrative so inextricably and unavoidably bound up with highly valued concepts as to have persuasive power without reference to supporting evidence or rational argument. The ‘alternative’ parties’ prospectus is one big glittering generality.

They paint a picture that is bound to appeal to anybody who wants Scotland’s independence restored. But there is no substance to it. The picture needn’t even represent reality. It need not depict anything that is actually achievable. The emotional appeal is all that matters. The emotional appeal is all there is.

Because there is nothing else, they have to keep polishing the emotional appeal and adding ever more shiny baubles. And increasingly they are obliged to attack those who question the glittering generalities because the glittering generalities can only be defended with yet more – and more fantastical – glittering generalities; which only prompts further questioning.

If you are one of those who question the prospectus offered by these snake-oil peddlers you will know what I mean. You will have been told that you are too stupid to understand the voting system and/or incapable of understanding basic arithmetic. Should you not be deterred by attacks such as this you will be accused of being an undercover “yoon” who prefers Unionist MSPs to pro-independence ones.

Next time you encounter one of the ‘alternative’ parties’ supporters flogging something that’s too good to be true, ask yourself whether there might be the most obvious reason for this. Try to get past the emotional appeal and think about glittering generalities.

Comment 2

Nothing to disagree with there, Lindsay. I would only add that “if you want to vote for ISP as a counter party to the SNP, as a party to hold their feet to the fire and keep them honest” then you should first of all satisfy yourself that you can have a reasonable expectation of them doing this. And that it is what should be done.

Having thought things through I can envisage no credible scenario in which the snake-oil peddlers will be able to influence the SNP at all. Especially if, as they claim to want, the SNP has a solid working majority.

I am satisfied that there is no credible post-election scenario in which an MSP from any of these snake-oil parties could be anything other than either superfluous or powerless.
Try asking them what they are actually going to do. Don’t accept cliches about feet and fires. Ask what they hope to contribute in practical terms to the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. I’ve asked repeatedly. All I’ve received in response is yet another rehash of the glittering generalities. Yet more abuse. And the same old cliches.


In the first comment I declined to expand on why I reckon SNP1&2 to be the optimum voting strategy in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections. This was because the comment was already quite long and I wanted to cover the stuff about ‘glittering generalities’. I made the point that this election is ‘special’ and that it is the unprecedented circumstances which make both-votes-SNP the optimum strategy rather than merely the best default strategy. I’d like to expand on that a little.

I don’t think anybody would argue that this year’s election isn’t ‘special’. Although there may be differing views as to what makes it so. My main reason for considering the election to be special is that I think it may be the last chance we have to take a stand against the forces of British Nationalism. We certainly have to assume that it is our last chance. We can’t afford to pin our hopes on there being another.

The election may be special because it has been declared a plebiscite on the question of restoring Scotland’s independence. But that is not my preference. I am rather dubious about the whole idea of a plebiscitary election. I consider it very likely that the best outcome we might hope for is that it would put us right back where we are – needing a free and fair referendum by which to exercise our right of self-determination. My contention is that the election should be used to elect a government with an unbreakable commitment to a #ManifestoForIndependence. That is to say, a manifesto in which the (SNP) government is bound by a solemn undertaking to take certain actions within a specified time-frame.

Suggested Manifesto for Independence

The specifics of that manifesto are what we should be discussing. The primary aim at this time must be to force the SNP to adopt something very like this. If the party doesn’t give an adequate commitment to appropriate action then it is doubtful if they will do anything if/when elected. And it is likely that many voters who see independence as the main issue – rightly in my view – will simply not turn out.

This election is special because, regardless of whether or not it is a plebiscitary election it will be an election in which we must seek to elect a government for a very specific purpose. And give it an extraordinary mandate to help it achieve that purpose. The fact that the arithmetic means it must be the SNP that forms this government is, in a sense, incidental. It is the government and not the party that must be our focus.

And it is perfectly appropriate that it should be the SNP. That’s what it’s for. That it has become the only viable party of government is a supplementary consideration for those of us who seek the restoration of Scotland’s independence. The SNP didn’t drag us along on its quest for power. We, the people, pushed the SNP to the vannguard of Scotland’s cause. We put the party where it is for a purpose. It’s up to us to now ensure first that the party is properly committed to that purpose then that it is properly equipped for the task.

What do I mean by properly equipped? I mean armed with a mandate such as will give even the arrogant British political elite pause for thought. A massive mandate. An unprecedented mandate. We’ve done remarkable things with our voting power before. It’s time to give our farewell performance. Let’s finish with a bang that will shake Scotland loose from the jealous grasp of that hag Britannia.

What would constitute such a mandate? There are two measures involved – seats and votes. More precisely, the proportion of votes cast. That is what defines the mandate.

We know that the SNP will be the party of government. There’s not really a lot of point in qualifying that statement. That’s just how it is. So the mandate must go to the SNP if it is to be held by the government. This too is a matter of simple logic. It is folly to suppose that votes given to other pro-independence parties will be counted as part of the mandate. At best, they will be reckoned less than votes for the party of government. Don’t get on my case for this. It’s just the way politics works in the British state. If we want a different kind of politics we will have to beat the British Nationalists in their own terms first.

It rather goes without saying that we want the government which is going to take us to independence to be as strong as possible. It is going up against the British state. If it isn’t a bit of a monster it stands no chance. That means we must maximise both seats and votes for the SNP. Because once the party has won all the seats it can the only other thing that adds weight to the mandate is votes. The proportion of votes matters. That means every vote counts. Don’t let anybody tell you your vote is ‘wasted’. The only wasted vote is the vote not cast.

The ideal outcome of the 2021 Holyrood election is an SNP government with a solid working majority and over 50% of the vote in both ballots – regardless of the number of seats won in the regional vote.

The only other factor is turnout. Obviously, the ideal would be >50% on a 100% turnout. That would be truly extraordinary. Extraordinary enough to take us into the realm of fantasy politics. In reality, turnout only becomes an issue if it falls below 50%. Obviously, we want the highest turnout possible. But because it’s not possible in the real world to get a turnout above the high 80s, it is all the more important to get the vote share over 50%. That is a powerful weapon in the hands of any government.

And that is why SNP1&2 is the optimum voting strategy. Other than the very particular circumstances where voting tactically for another candidate in the constituency vote will help the SNP candidate, both-votes-SNP is that strategy which will ensure the greatest number of seats won and the highest vote share achieved in both ballots.

We know what we have to do. there are no viable ‘cunning plans’. There is no way to avoid confrontation with the British state. Our independence will be restored only by brute democratic power. It is the strength of the Yes movement that is the feedstock for that power. Let’s make sure our strength is fed into the most powerful Scottish Government we can possibly make.

19 thoughts on “The crunch!

  1. Do you think it is likely that the SNP Manifesto will be a ‘Manifesto for Independence’?

    I expect more vacuous slogans that leave people worried that their vote will be used as endorsing the controversial policies while Independence needs ‘one more mandate’

    These are folk who are drifting away from SNP 1&2, without an alternative they are liable to abstain or (god forbid) vote for a Unionist party.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know it is vanishingly unlikely that the SNP will adopt a Manifesto for Independence unless they are put under pressure to do so by party members and the wider Yes movement. This would be done more effectively if the Yes movement were united. But I fear factionalism is doing its destructive work and making it vanishingly unlikely also that the movement will ever speak with one voice.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If the SNP commit to holding an Independence referendum that is time-bound and not qualified by talk of requiring British government approval there is a possibility of maximising both votes for the party and the turnout of the electorate.

    That would give the newly elected SNP government legitimacy in holding a plebiscite.

    If they do not specify Scotland’s Cause as their top priority, have it front and centre in their prospectus for government and to the fore in their campaigning then the SNP will be unable to claim a mandate for putting the question to the people once more even if they win the election (by any or all measures).

    It really is time for the SNP to assert the courage of their convictions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When is a mandate not a mandate? It is when those mandated refuse to implement that mandate.imploring us to vote for a party too cowardly to implement the mandate we give them is a pointless exercise. Only the paucity of the opposition saves the SNP.
      In my mind the clear and present danger to my grandchildren is climate change. To implement green strategies we need power hence my vote is one vote SNP one vote Green Party.


      1. It was the wrong mandate before. The task now is the ensure it’s the right mandate in may. And the biggest we can possibly manage. Unfortunately, not everybody is prioritising Scotland’s cause. There are far too many agendas and egos in play. Spite being perhaps the pettiest of all.


  3. No arguement from me Peter on the need for a strong SNP vote in the election but the problem lies with what happens after the election. The governance of the SNP has been the problem up until now. They have been given umpteen mandates and have failed to use them, sticking two fingers up to the people screaming at them to do the job they were mandated to do. What’s to stop them doing the same again?
    There are already people in the leadership talking about a referendum in 2024, ensuring they get another full term salary. Covid is not a reason for delay The leader must concentrate on leading to independence. Health problems are a matter for the team appointed to look after our nation’s health; education for our education team etc. There is a poison in the current direction the party is taking and that poison must be lanced or we will be no nearer independence at the end of the next government’s reign. Other than independence, all other agendas must be dropped in this election.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Covid is not a reason for delay”.

      Agreed and, on the contrary, COVID makes it imperative that we do restore full self-government to Scotland.

      After all we could mitigate the detrimental pandemic effects much more effectively both in terms of health e.g. close borders as and when deemed necessary and the economy e.g. print our own money, set up own financial support packages etc.

      I have not heard anyone in the SNP using pandemic management as a crucial additional reason for throwing off London’s shackles. In my opinion, they should.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m not sure why so many people think I need to be constantly, incessantly, repeatedly reminded of the unused mandates. It’s not like it’s something that could be ignored or forgotten. Nor do I understand the attitude (not necessarily yous) that those unused mandates mean we should just give up on the SNP and … what? Nobody has ever got around to explaining that bit.

      The thinking required here is not arduous at all. A lack of options can cause all manner of problems. The upside is that it makes it a lot easier to decide what course of action to take. If only the Scottish Government can take the necessary action to bring about a free and fair referendum and the restoration of Scotland’s independence; and if only the SNP can possibly form such a government, there’s no need to call a series of meetings to decide what must be done. And yet I am beset at every turn by people (not necessarily you) who somehow manage to avoid the only possible conclusion in order to create a massive conundrum. What the absolute fuck is wrong with them!?

      Almost as obvious is the fact that if previous mandates were unused then it’s because they’re the wrong fucking mandates! The mandate is supposed to be such that it CAN’T remain unused. Such that it MUST be used. It having been unused PROVES that it was the wrong mandate.

      Who provides the mandate? Correct! The people! Who is ultimately responsible for the form of the mandate? Correct again! The people! Don’t blame the SNP! It’s a political party, FFS! It does what political parties do! It is what political parties are! It’s OUR responsibility to make political party what WE want them to be and do what we want them to do!

      Politicians – including SNP politicians – aren’t going to volunteer to do something bold and decisive and historic. Doing bold, decisive historic stuff can get a politician into all sorts of difficulties. They’ll only do bold, decisive, historic stuff with the political equivalent of a fucking cattle-prod up their arse. It’s up to use to find or fashion said ‘incentiviser’ and insert it. (Ensure device is fully charged before first use.)

      There is fuck all complicated about any of this. Yet we have various groups and individuals putting in a huge effort to go past the obvious and uncomplicated thing in favour of this or that cunning plan. Ever one of which either cannot possibly be effective or cannot be effective enough or cannot be effective quickly enough.

      I despair!

      Rant suspended. Temporarily.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree SNP 1 & 2 is the optimum for this election. I also agree that a firm manifesto not expressed as a plebiscite is required. I am looking forward to the SNP member discussion on 24th and I am optimistic that a strong position for independence will be on that manifesto. With respect I don’t agree with Duncanio regarding pandemic management. The FMs position that covid recovery directly challenges WM govt ability to manage our recovery. That the FM isn’t overtly critical appears professional and statesmanlike. As she says, the time for accountability will come. The election period is likely to be that time.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Peter, good summary but:
    SNP 1&2 has served the SNP well over the last few elections, what would persuade us to change that policy ? Well how about the following:

    1. The SNP can hardly do worse than the 4 list seats won in only 2 electoral regions in 2016. With the polls showing a much higher SNP vote and turnout in the Constituency vote then the likelihood is that all or some of these seats will be lost also, but will be compensated for by additional constituency seats.

    2.There will in May exist credible alternative indy-supporting parties which did not exist in 2016. One of them has already committed to a plebiscatory election. An indy supporter’s list vote no longer needs to be gifted to the indy-flaky Greens.

    3. The mandate which should be sought is a majority of seats in Holyrood won by Indy-supporting parties, and all such parties should make this commitment in their manifestos. I am surprised, almost shocked, to see you of all people pandering to the britnats’ supposed “requirement” for a majority of the popular vote – what on earth does it have to do with them as you might say yourself?

    4. The SNP has made little if any progress on independence over the past 6 years – one reason for that may be the lack of additional pro-indy MSPs in Holyrood to ensure progress is made. It may be in the party’s interest that this remains the case, but it need not be in the interest of independence.

    5, The best that the SNP can achieve is probably 71 seats – which would be an outright majority of 13 seats which is comfortable. But we could be acting much too conservatively and denying ourselves the opportunity to achieve a supermajority, as fellow indy-supporting parties in the absence of an SNP 1 & 2 policy could win a further (say) 2 seats per electoral region and a more emphatic indy majority of over 40 seats – at no risk to the SNP’s standalone majority. And if you are worried about the need to impress the britnats then that should do the trick.


    1. The arithmetic of the “cunning plan” is infallible. Unfortunately, that arithmetic needs willing voters to deliver on its promises. That is simply NOT going to happen. The vast majority of voters intending to vote SNP for independence are not active “political anoraks” seeking the best way to game the system. They are just going about their daily lives with thoughts of the Holyrood election very low on the current priority list.

      The plethora of pop-ups (the vote splitting potential of the number of alternatives is itself a problem for the “cunning plan”) will not be able to make any headway in the polls until the campaign gets started, which is way to late to do anything but harm to the Indy cause in my opinion. In all likelihood, what few votes they manage to garner will only make it less likely the SNP will get any List MSPs, without guaranteeing ANY compensatory pop-up success.

      The only way the plan could possibly work as promised is if Salmond took control of one of the pop-ups and took a significant part of the SNP vote with him. Even that is no guarantee of success. Gaming is gambling and is too risky when talking about independence. We NEED an SNP majority at Holyrood in the up-coming election more than ever. If we don’t get it, then Indy might be gone forever given Brexit, the subsequent “power grab” and the appearance of the Imperial Death Stars in Glasgow and Edinburgh.


  6. I support independence rather than a particular party.

    I have consistently voted SNP 1+1 but I am not a member.

    It’s not a majority of SNP seats we need to achieve independence, it’s a majority of independence party seats.

    To my horror I discovered that that +1 vote was worth a 1/10 of a vote for a Unionist Party so effectively my +1 vote was letting BritBat parties have access to our Parliament.

    The d’Hondt system seems designed to give a leg up to the small parties, eg LibDem, Labour, etc

    Seeing as my +1 vote was effectively worthless last election, and if the SNP constituency vote is going to be increased as much as the polls suggest, it looks like my +1 vote in this election is simply going to enlarge the hole that allows more British parties in.

    Using the the current polls, can someone demonstrate to me, using the d’Hondt arithmetic, how many British party MSPs we can expect in the list seats.

    Then do it again, using the same arithmetic, and assuming that say 10-20% of the independence list votes went to one of the other independence parties.

    Scotland needs a proper opposition, and I’d rather it was parties that supported independence and Scottish interests rather than Unionism and England’s interests

    Just the numbers, not the rhetoric please.


    1. “It’s not a majority of SNP seats we need to achieve independence, it’s a majority of independence party seats.”

      That is just wrong. It would be nice if it were so. Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose our own personal political reality. And if you believe the above then you simply haven’t a clue about the reality of politics in this country.

      “Scotland needs a proper opposition…”

      Undoubtedly so. But not nearly as much as Scotland needs independence. You need to get your priorities sorted out. And dump the fantasy politics.


    2. “IF the SNP constituency vote is going to be increased as much as the polls suggest” and “ASSUMING that say 10-20% of the independence list votes went to one of the other independence parties”.

      Those two words I’ve highlighted in capitals are doing an awful lot of heavy lifting in order for your plan to work out.


    3. And since you asked, I put some numbers through a seat predictor to test out the “cunning plan”. Firstly I ran them through with the SNP on 51% in the constituency but only 41% on the List with 5% each going to A.N.Other Party (representing about a 20% vote switch to only 2 Pop-Ups). Then I ran them through with the SNP 0n 51% on both votes and no A.N.Others.
      SNP = 68C + 1L = 69 MSP
      GRN = 4 MSP
      Pop-Ups = 3 MSP
      => Indies = 76 MSP
      SNP = 68C + 6L = 74 MSP
      GRN = 3 MSP
      => Indies = 77 MSP

      So no discernable difference. So why risk it?
      (NB Seat Predictors are only really a bit of fun)


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