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.