Thinking it through

I see Iain Lawson has gone into the business of marketing snake-oil. That’s disappointing. It is a measure of the frustration caused by the SNP’s six years of failure to act on the constitutional issue and present refusal to commit to the necessary action that even otherwise intelligent people are turning to the chancers, carpet-baggers and bandwagon-jumpers of the self-styled alternative independence parties. The current leadership of the party has a lot to answer for.

I don’t like to label any participation in the democratic process “stupid”. And labelling a party’s effort to win votes in an election “selfish” seems to betray an unfortunate failure to comprehend the purpose of elections. Or political parties, for that matter.

If, however, the words “stupid” and “selfish” are to be deployed then they would more appropriately be applied to voting for one of these so-called ‘list parties’. Selfish in that these parties are nothing to do with restoring Scotland’s independence and everything to do with serving the egos of various individuals and the agendas of various factions which find it convenient to use ‘independence’ as a sales device. Stupid in that other than their utility for these egos and agendas, the snake-oil parties are totally pointless. Even in the highly unlikely event that they succeed in their own terms, they can contribute precisely nothing of any practical worth to the fight to restore Scotland’s independence.

There is no credible post-election scenario in which any number of snake-oil party MSPs can do anything effective in relation to resolving the constitutional issue. A fact which is easily proved simply by thinking through these scenarios. Which I have done. But which Iain evidently hasn’t.

I can understand that. I can see why someone as tormented by the SNP’s failures and failings as I know Iain to be might succumb to the lure of the snake-oil peddlers spiel. All that glorious hyperbole about kicking Unionists out of our Parliament and gaining a ‘super-majority’ is massively appealing to independence activists who have been kept in cold-storage by the SNP for such a long time. Which is exactly why we should be suspicious. We should always be wary of politicians bearing blandishments. When political actors are waving shiny baubles in our faces we’d be well advised to scrutinise their offer very carefully indeed. But if you’ve spent more than six years wandering in the political desert where the SNP has led you then when you’re offered an ice-cold beer you tend not to ask whether it’s Kestrel rather than Carlsberg.

The reality that is discovered by thinking past that cold beverage is that kicking Unionists out of Holyrood may offer immediate gratification but it does absolutely bugger all for Scotland’s cause. The reality is that so long as they are a minority those Unionist MSPs are powerless. They can do nothing at all to stop or even significantly hinder a Scottish Government determined to take the action required to restore Scotland’s independence.

A ‘super-majority’ is just as useless. It looks great on the list of wonders that the snake-oil can perform. But it serves no purpose whatever. There is nothing of relevance to Scotland’s cause which can be achieved with a ‘super-majority’ that cannot be achieved with a simple majority. The idea of a ‘super-majority’ is superficially appealing. But it’s hollow. As is evident as soon as you think past the superficial appeal.

It is also worth mentioning – although it is unlikely to be understood – that within the British political system a ‘super-majority’ only really counts as such if it is all one party. One of the main fallacies of the snake-oil parties’ prospectus is that all pro-independence MSPs are of equal value to Scotland’s cause. They are not.

If one is being pragmatic and clear-headed about it the whole kicking out Unionists and getting a super-majority thing is also potentially dangerous. This could all to easily be presented by the British parties and their masters in London as an attempt to break the voting system in a way that removes the element of proportionality. Bear in mind how useful it would be to the British political elite to have defensible cause to question the validity of the election. I mention this only as an example of the things that the snake-oil parties and their fans seem not to have taken into consideration.

Having mentioned those credible post-election scenarios I really should run through them to demonstrate just how pointless it is to vote for any of the snake-oil parties. But I suspect it wouldn’t be appreciated if I took up too much of your time. So I’ll attempt a very brief but necessarily incomplete explanation.

In considering the optimum voting strategy in the coming election my starting point is to ask what is the ideal outcome. What outcome best serves Scotland’s cause rather than what serves narrow partisan interests or selfish personal ambition? The answer I arrive at is a Scottish Government elected with a working majority and a massive mandate for a #ManifestoForIndependence. That is to say, an election manifesto which commits the party to specified actions within a defined time-frame for the purpose of initiating the process by which Scotland’s independence will be restored. I then ask what voting strategy best realises this outcome. Not the best voting strategy from my personal perspective or the perspective of any other individual, but the best voting strategy from the perspective of Scotland’s cause.

I quickly conclude that what matters is not the party but the government. The party is only important to the extent that it is likely to be the party of government. My aim, therefore, must be to ensure the biggest possible mandate for the party most likely to be the party of government. In any normal election there might be other considerations. But in May’s election there are only two. Firstly and always, to prevent the British parties taking power. Secondly and particularly for this election, to ensure the Scottish Government has an unchallengeable mandate.

Two things add weight to a mandate – seats and vote share. Having first ensured enough seats for a working majority the optimum voting strategy should seek to add weight by increasing the vote share. Because being able to claim a ‘super-mandate’ is more useful than being able to claim a ‘super-majority’, which as we have seen serves no practical purpose whatever. Taking over 50% of the vote on both ballots would constitute a ‘super-mandate’.

Given that the SNP is the only party which can possibly be the party of government, the optimum voting strategy must be both votes SNP.

Let’s be very clear about this. If we do not have a Scottish Government elected on a #ManifestoForIndependence with a ‘super-mandate’ it matters not a toss how many snake-oil party MSPs are elected, nothing will happen. Nothing can happen. Those snake-oil parties will be powerless to make anything happen. And if that ideal outcome is realised then snake-oil party MSPs are totally redundant. Superfluous to requirements. Because everything they claim they want to achieve requires a Scottish Government with a clear mandate to do what’s needed. And if we have a Scottish Government with a mandate to do what is needed that Government can do what is needed without any help from any snake-oil party MSPs.

In this election more than any before it is essential that we put aside fantasy politics and partisan prejudice and policy disagreement and unite to secure the restoration of Scotland’s independence. A proliferation of ‘alternative’ pro-independence parties is, by definition, the antithesis of unity.

18 thoughts on “Thinking it through

  1. Sorry, Peter, the Party of Independence has done nothing towards achieving their basic goal since 2014. We need people in Holyrood who believe Independence is the only goal to foot the wayward SNP back on track and the only people who will do that are not more SNP ditherers but the “snake oil” party MSPs Remember the SNP were a “snake oil” party at one time too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What’s the point in having “people in Holyrood who believe Independence is the only goal” if they can’t actually do anything about it. And they can’t.


      1. The point is that the supposed Yes Greens have not behaved like it. They have done nothing to push the SNP over their failure to do ANYTHING to advance Independence. Instead they have chearled the woke stuff.

        ISP MSPs would mean there is no longer a hiding place in the chamber for failing to pursue Independence. If we bring that up often enough the media will notice and start talking about it even if just as a split in the Yes camp.

        But that attention will embarrass the SNP. How the govt reacts to it will be noted by the wider party as well. Bringing extra pressure on the government from below. Now Scotland in addition should also be flexing its lobbying muscles.

        With both Now Scotland and ISP MSP’s we can move Independence and the failure to move towards it, the failure to make even the barest preparations will be laid bare.

        If we make preparations, proper legislative plans to be independent No10 will notice. We cannot hide it so we should not try. I have pointed out before that the SNP MP’s should be engaged in winnowing Union law in their responsibilities to determine what we need to incorporate and how. It would actually be something useful they can do.

        That needs to be done or with independence we will find we have our hands tied behind our backs and no regulations at hand. Legislating in haste is bad and should be avoided but we are making no moves to go there. Even taking the Scots law provisions out of Union bills and collecting them would be useful.

        That is the sort of thing we can lay at the SNP’s feet as a manifest failure to prepare.


        1. Yeah. But what can you DO?

          Not a word of what you write has any connection whatever to real-world politics. It is total fantasy to suppose that a couple of MSPs from some fringe party will get a moment’s media attention. Unless they’re doing something to embarrass Scotland’s cause. In which case they’ll be in the news all week. Which will suit some of the egos but do precisely fuck all to get Scotland’s independence restored.

          It is sheer fantasy to suppose even a handful of these snake-oil party MSPs could put any kind of pressure on an SNP administration. The official opposition can do precious little against a majority government. How the hell might a couple of oddballs get the FM shaking in his/her boots? Ridiculous!

          And you still haven’t described anything that you could actually do. FFS! Things need to be done! Action needs to be taken! And only the government can do that. This is absolutely the worst time to be playing fantasy politics.

          Can you assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament? No! Of course you can’t! So you’re no fucking use to Scotland’s cause.

          Can you propose the dissolution of the Union? No! Of course you can’t! So you’re no fucking use to Scotland’s cause.

          Can you call a referendum? No! Of course you can’t! So you’re no fucking use to Scotland’s cause.

          You can neither do the things that need to be done nor contribute anything if they are being done. There is no post-election scenario in which the snake-oil parties can help Scotland’s cause in any way. And I think you just proved that.


    2. With the exception of an honourable minority the current batch of SNP MSPs are not so much ditherers as snakes in the grass, hawking the gospel according to St Nicoliar with absolutely no desire to promote or campaign on a Manifesto for Independence on behalf of the people of Scotland.

      I see no indication that any change will be forthcoming if Sturgeon is permitted to remain at the helm.


      1. “I see no indication that any change will be forthcoming if Sturgeon is permitted to remain at the helm.”

        Maybe you need to look a bit closer. There has already been change. The only interesting thing about Mike Russell’s embarrassing ’11-point plan’ is the mention of holding a referendum regardless of what the UK Government does regarding a Section 30 request. Its woolly and vague and ill-thought-out. But it’s progress. It shows that the pressure is working.

        Unfortunately, there is a strange enthusiasm for giving up among Yes supporters. It’s like they’re scrabbling around looking for any excuse to abandon the fight to restore Scotland’s independence.


  2. I agree to a certain extent.

    An SNP majority on the 1st vote yes, but why waste it on the 2nd. the SNP only got 4 list MSP’s and let many British seat warmers in for free.


  3. The real snake oil is sold by the SNP at the moment: vote for independence and we’ll give you authoritarian, identitarian policies which nobody supports. Would you also like a monorail?

    Calling people stupid for choosing to cast their vote however they choose, is not sensible. We all have an equal vote, and each individual’s democratic choice is their business and theirs alone.

    If people don’t support the SNP’s social policy agenda, then they aren’t obliged to vote for them. I want independence but I also want women’s rights and freedom of speech to be protected, therefore I cannot in good conscience vote SNP. I have no idea who I WILL vote for in May, since I have nobody whose policies I support. My best option is spoiling my ballot, because I sure as hell won’t be voting for the crazy Greens any more, nor a Unionist party.

    The fact that the SNP essentially has independence supporters by the balls, demonstrates how unhealthy Scottish politics are at the moment. I certainly won’t be wheeshting for indy, and I won’t be voting SNP. Others are free to do otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. By this reckoning, voting SNP comes with the consequence of giving them a mandate to further their experiments in reducing human rights. If you vote for them will you accept responsibility for those consequences?

        Independence is an interim goal for me; a means to an end not an end in & of itself. Independence is not for its own sake but to create the circumstances that allows Scotland to be a better place to live than if we were to remain in the UK.

        Voting for a party that are manifestly NOT trying to deliver independence while simultaneously pushing through reforms that make Scotland a worse place to live right now looks like the height of madness to me.

        Every vote cast or not cast in every election comes with consequences; this election no more or less than any before. The Scottish Parliament was never meant to be a vehicle for obtaining Independence so if it gets nobbled further by Westminster we’ll just have to find another route to achieve our goals. I reject the suggestion that Indy voters who do not vote for the SNP now will be to blame for the consequences when the responsibility lies firmly with the SNP who have failed to use the tools & mandates at their disposal.

        If, IF, the SNP sign up to your manifesto for independence – which there is currently no suggestion that they will – then that changes things. I’ll live in hope but I’ll not hold my breath.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Everyone is free to vote whichever way they want. However beat in mind that actions have consequences.

    If you want independence, then you can’t vote for a British party , or not vote to stop the SNP. There is no alternative to an SNP government, other than a unionist grand coalition.

    If you don’t vote SNP on the first vote, then you don’t actually want independence. How can you?


  5. The problem is structural in that we have no main opposition party in Scotland: merely the SNP and three colonial parties. As events have shown, we are in dire need of another Scottish party for the normalisation of a genuine National politics.

    I don’t really see anything problematic about list voting for one of the fledgling Scottish associations / parties in areas like ours where the SNP will take the constituencies because it reinstates the value of the vote in a system which at present makes SNP list votes worthless currency, allowing the likes of Murdo Fraser, Liz Smith, Dean Lockhart & Willie Rennie in.

    As others have pointed out its not the “chancers, carpet-baggers and bandwagon-jumpers” of “self-styled alternative independence parties” that are the problem: its the very same within the SNP itself and whilst, as you say, a “super-mandate” might be more useful than a ‘super-majority’ it is only worthwhile if the SNP actually sign up to and present a #ManifestoForIndependence: something unfortunately the chancers in the SNP seem to have no interest in doing.

    I’d rather give Martin Keatings a vote for his hard work than use the list vote as a Rizzla; which is its alternative value.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. -You’ll have to explain that Peter: I’m open to suggestions but presently the consequence of voting SNP in the list is to de facto throw the vote away and allow unionists to take seats: following the SNP x2 strategy is therefore already “responsible” for that.

    An SNP list vote would only come into its own if people don’t vote SNP in the constituencies: If that happens on a grand scale then the SNP are stuffed anyway: SNP list votes in such a case will merely round up the numbers a little.

    Your thinking is surely based on the SNP coming forward strongly with the #ManifestoForIndependence or something similar but looking at the policy “teasers” so far as provided by James Dornan and the “Draft-manifesto-that’s-not a- manifesto-but-kinda-like-a-manifesto” they are looking not to raise expectations but to actually lower them further.


    1. If the SNP doesn’t adopt the #ManifestoForIndependence then we’re fucked and no number of snake-oil party MSPs will make any difference. Why is this so difficult to understand? The SNP is a vital component of the machinery that will restore Scotland’s independence. If a vital component is fucked, the machine is fucked. And so is the job the machine was supposed to do. Why do people keep asking me to explain something so blindingly fucking obvious? What is it that they don’t understand about vital component fucked therefore machine fucked therefore job fucked? What bit of that isn’t being processed in their minds? Is it that they don’t understand what a vital component is? Is it that they don’t understand that the SNP is a vital component? Is it that they don’t understand that there must be a functioning apparatus to perform the function of restoring independence? Do they think it can happen by magic? Why does all of this need to be explained time after time day after day? Do they not grasp the nature of the job that must be done? Do they not appreciate the political environment in which the machine must function? Do they not realise that there are many more ways to get it wrong than there are to get it right? Why am I asking about whether they are confused about the job? It’s obvious they’re confused about the job. They think the job is to get certain people elected. They think the job is to win seats for their favoured party. They think the job is to kick Unionist MSPs out of Holyrood. They think the job is to win a ‘super-majority’ They have all lost sight of the fact that the job is to restore Scotland’s independence.
      I despair.


      1. We are faced with a big problem here.
        A lot of us would really like to vote in an alternative for the List seats, but as has been pointed out, and as I have also done, the alternatives come nowhere near getting elected this May, but can possibly split the pro Independence List votes.
        If they were stronger, and had the sense to do some kind of deal, whereby one or another stands in this Region, and that, so there is only the one set of pro Independence groups to vote for in a given area, that would make a big difference.
        But they are not doing it that way.
        None of them are doing in that way.
        And we are left to wonder, should we give the Greens our List votes, or go SNP, if for no other reason, to increase SNP overall share of the vote?
        For the pro 1707s have also made a 50 plus share of the vote for Independence a condition, and that only for SNP, despite their own hypocrisy in claiming same for the 3 different London groups.

        SNP has much to answer for in all this, and that has been well explained, and thus many really don’t fancy voting for them, but as you say, and commonsense tells us, to allow the London groups to get any level of control in Edinburgh would be an absolute cataclysmic disaster for Scotland.
        Some would rather have the Greens as the 2nd biggest group at Edinburgh, but that’s probably an impossibility, but 3rd largest would be ok I s’pose, but they need those List votes to manage anything.
        Do we go with that or SNP? Not that the Greens have been too inviting these past few years, either!
        What would you suggest there, Peter?

        Regards alternative pro Independence Parties, I am of the view, it is too late to do anything useful this side of May, but after the election, I think that is the time to look to getting something half decent set up.
        For many of us will certainly vote SNP in May, but because we simply have no choice.

        One final point, if anyone who isn’t too keen voting for SNP because of recent policies, and a few other things on the go, etc, think those disputed policies would change under the pro Union lot, they are greatly mistaken, as both Labour and Libs also voted in those very same policies.
        And they have no interest in changing them for the time being.
        That is another point we should be pressing home to everyone.


        1. “A lot of us would really like to vote in an alternative for the List seats, but as has been pointed out, and as I have also done, the alternatives come nowhere near getting elected this May, but can possibly split the pro Independence List votes.”

          Here is just one of the inherent contradictions in the snake-oil parties’ argument. They claim they intend to “hold the SNP’s feet to the fire”. Which means they must have some leverage. They must be some kind of threat. But point out the above and they will immediately insist that they are not a threat to the SNP or to the pro-independence Parliament. They can’t have it both ways. What are grown-ups falling for this?


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