Fantasy politics and problematic arithmetic

I am puzzled. Why would SNP MSPs vote their own party out of office? Stuart Rodger assumes they will. As do many others making grandiose claims about the efficacy of a supermajority. None bother to try and resolve the conundrum. We are expected to just go along with the assumption. We are not expected to think about it. We are certainly not expected to question it.

Unfortunately for Stuart Rodger and the rest anybody who does take the trouble to think about the claim that a supermajority makes it possible to force an extraordinary general election and make it a plebiscite will quickly realise that the claim is nonsensical. A product – or symptom – of the fantasy politics to which some have turned in an effort to fill the void left by the SNP’s failure to pursue the restoration of Scotland’s independence.

The problem for Stuart Rodger and the rest is that while in their fantasy politics there is no such thing as parliamentary procedure and arithmetic is always accommodating, in the real world what may be possible is constrained by statute and standing orders. And arithmetic can be very inconsiderate indeed.

For the parliament to be dissolved at least two-thirds of MSPs must vote for the proposal. But the proposal must first be tabled and seconded and accepted by the Presiding Officer. One of the multitude of questions Alba supporters adamantly decline to answer is who would propose the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament? Who would table such a draconian proposals knowing that it was doomed to fail?

It is all but certainly doomed to fail. This is where the awkward arithmetic comes in. Two-thirds of the total number of MSPs is 86. Alba is standing only 32 candidates. Even in the vanishingly unlikely event that every single one of those candidates was returned, the party is still massively short of the 86 votes required. The next question to go unanswered is, where are the other 54 votes going to come from?

The Scottish Greens? Perhaps. But even if all of them decide to vote to dissolve a parliament in which they are likely to have some influence over the Scottish Government, on the best estimate I’ve seen that would only be another 11 votes. Leaving half of the required number still to find.

SNP ‘rebels’? Perhaps. But how many of those are there likely to be given the SNP leadership’s ability to ensure the predominantly Sturgeon loyalists are selected as candidates? I think we may safely assume it’s going to be nearer 3 or 4 than 43. But let’s go wild and double that figure. Let’s say there are 8 SNP ‘rebels’ willing to end their political careers by supporting what is effectively a vote of no confidence in the SNP administration. That’s us up to a very, very optimistic 51 of 86.

With 35 votes left to find there’s nowhere else to turn but the British parties. Even with the best will in the world it’s difficult to see why any British party MSPs would support a resolution dissolving the parliament. What possible motive could they have? Especially given that the purpose of the dissolution is to facilitate a vote that they are fervently opposed to. Although, while we’re on that subject, we might ask another awkward question. Even if we somehow end up with enough votes to dissolve the parliament and force an extraordinary general election, I know of no way this can be made a plebiscitary election without the cooperation of the sitting administration and the Presiding Officer. If those making these claims about what can be done with a supermajority are aware of how this can be done that is the kind of information they are not keen to share.

Will 35 MSPs from the British parties vote in favour of dissolving the parliament so as to facilitate a vote which might well lead to the end of their ‘precious’ Union? I’m guessing none will. But even if half of them accidentally press the wrong button when it comes to the vote it still wouldn’t be enough. Or is Alba envisioning a parliament in which the British parties hold more than 70 seats?

Over to Stuart Rodger for some answers. Normal respiration should be maintained in the interim.

The above was originally posted as a comment on a guest article on Iain Lawson’s blog. I had hoped that YOURS FOR SCOTLAND being the website of the Alex Salmond/Alba fan club I might get some informative or at least intelligent responses to the points raised and questions asked. Alas, all I got was snide remarks and abuse. Here’s an example of what you can expect if you engage with Alba members seeking to know more about the party and it’s plans.

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39 thoughts on “Fantasy politics and problematic arithmetic

  1. You make good and sensible points … but then mebbie we have tae gang a wee tad beyond ‘sensible’ to ever be a free country agin? I’m afraid your post simply reeks o defeat afore the battle lines are even drawn. Might as well say outright “Indy can never be achieved”, “WM would simply impose direct rule” etc. etc. etc. All of which gets us absolutely nowhere at all.

    So what then is your way forward?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Surely the plan is for the SNP MSPs, the Alba MSPs and the Green MSPs all to vote for the plebiscite election? That’s what I understood by it.

    I realise that means forcing the hands of the careerists sitting in Holyrood who claim to be indy supporters, but that’s why we need SNP activists, good folk like yourself, taking your party back and forcing the issue!

    And the rest of us creating as much fuss as possible at AUOB marches, and other grassroots activities!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. And you think Nicola Sturgeon has a plan, the only plan Nicola Sturgeon has is to keep her secret society party in power, and doing so by dangling the indi2 carrot in front of gullible voters. why not work with Alex Salmond and Alba to win some real clout at Holyrood, (I would work with the devil himself for a shot at Scotland’s self-determination, from Westminster) but no, she is like a petulant child who wants everything her own way. Did you hear her on Sky this morning, I will never work with Alex Salmond, He should apologize, If she can not work with parties that the Scottish people chose to elect next May then she is not a fit person to be First Minister. By the way, look at their manifesto, is that not a wish list?


        1. FFS! I’ve spent most of my days every day for almost two years pointing out that Nicola Sturgeon DOESN’T have a plan only for some whataboutery-peddling numpty to come out with such a dumb remark. No wonder I get so fucking pissed off.


  3. I am not really sure what you are trying to say, do you really want Nicola Sturgeon with a majority in the next parliament, so she does not have to ask anyone permission to force through controversial legalisation such as the hate bill. Secretly paying out money to Stonewall Scotland and US Arms traders on the pretence of diversity programs, an American arms company is not going to start making ploughshares. Holyrood is turning into another Westminster sleaze government. I for one wish to see a parliament, that represents the people of Scotland more fairly not a million votes going to parties that were rejected by the voting public. Even 5 Alba MSP would give a more balanced parliament along with Greens. I am fed up with the type of politics that is going on at Holyrood, we need a proper opposition in the parliament, not the SNP V the Unionists. and a parliament with real teeth. In the movie Braveheart, we get the line – “We have to try, do you know what will happen if we don’t? – nothing”

    Liked by 3 people

  4. All you say could well be right but sadly the indy movement is led by a hopelessly corrupt organisation that has no intentions of delivering independence anytime soon and all the while the general population appear ignorant or ambivalent to the fact that Scotland is facing an existential threat while Sturgeon fiddles with gender politics,

    At least organisations you insultingly call pop up parties or cunning planists such a as ALBA, ISP, AFI etc are trying to do something about it while you sit at your keyboard and shit on them

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Arithmetic is something all the parties are trying to obscure with words, but at the end of the day the results come from the number of votes counted in parliament.

    Any democratic approach to independence is going to need the numbers, and the only way I can see to maximise the numbers is to replace the Unionist parties with independence ones in the list seats.

    At the moment our only way to do that is to have independence parties that stand for the list seats only otherwise the SNP constituency vote will be damaged.

    We need our indy parties collaborating, not fighting over the wallpaper in the house we don’t own yet.

    BTW the trolls are out in force stirring up shit between the independence parties. I doubt that response to you was a genuine Alba supporter.
    You should see some of the vindictive and nasty stuff being directed at Alba on SNP supporters stuff. When you look at the posters, they have no real history, so are probably paid trolls.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Have less depressing days listening to Unionist white-ants in parliament for a start. 🙂

        But as a general rule, the big the majority, the more convincing it is. A bit like when the “small” people appeared over the hill at Bannockburn. Demoralises the enemy.


      2. If you take the case to the UN – I world be surprised if they considered a majority of 30 is no more compelling than a majority of 3. I’d be inclined to ask what is the point of the UN If that were so.


        1. Note that I said “what can be DONE”. I was taking the bare arithmetic that Alba constantly referred to and putting it in the context of poltical rivarlries and parliamentary rules, as well as the Scotland Act. The fact is that in terms of votes in the chamber, there is absolutely nothing that can be done with a majority or 30 that can’t be done with a majority of 3. If you have a majority of 1, you will win every vote.

          The point at which this changes is a majority of 43 ─ which makes two-thirds of the votes. That allows you to do a couple of things that require this supermajority; notably, dissolve the parliament. As I explain in the article, Alba was never going to get that supermajority. Not even if it returned every candidate it stood. Arithmetically, it works. But only if one assumes pro-independence parties acting as if they were a single party. Which is unrealistic, at best.

          It’s not a plan if it is critically dependent on factors which are entirely outwith your control and unlikely to work as the plan requires. Beyond a certain point, that ‘plan’ becomes so unrealistic as to deserve to be called fantasy.


  6. OK Peter

    Can you explain how 1 party with a majority of 3 or 33 (who have no intention of delivering independence) can achieve for independence in a parliament full of unionists

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t ask you you defend anything Peter I asked you to explain something, if you’re unable to do it it’s ok don’t worry about it


        1. It’s a fucking stupid question. Why do you need an explanation of why something that is self-evidently impossible is impossible? What the fuck is wrong with you? And what does it have to to with the topic under discussion?


  7. Sorry to be so dense but who is Stuart Rodger and how is what he is saying being attributed to the Alba party? I have been away for a week focussing on something else and you know what they say about a week…


    1. I have no idea who Stuart Roger is. I don’t recall claiming that he speaks for Alba. I do know that his guest article was posted on a fervently pro-Alba blogsite that regularly publishes material from the party.

      The claim about a supermajority enabling Alba to dissolve parliament and force a plebiscitary election is one frequently made by or on behalf of the party. I have no way of knowing whether it is an ‘official’ party position as I have no way of finding out such things. Their website has no information at all.

      I’m not sure why it should matter who Stuart Roger is. I used his article as an opportunity to point out the fallacy of the aforementioned claim. As I have taken other opportunities to do the same. I have yet to be given a sensible response.


  8. At the age of 80+ I am really disheartened by being told it’s too late, there’s no way out and we are all effectively doomed. Alba seems like a good idea to stir things up and give a platform to those, like myself, who would really like to see an independent Scotland sooner rather than later and, in my case, preferably before I fall off my perch.
    I realise no-one can make members of a party who want to stay in power vote to close it and re-elect another, even with no guarantee that it will be much different from the previous one.
    We need some movement from the people of Scotland if we have no choice between being ruled by Johnson and his corrupt cronyocracy who will turn Holyrood into a county council or by a governing party that does not want Independence.
    Will anyone join me at the barricades outside Holyrood or Bute House? Or can anyone suggest an alternative?
    It is the people of Scotland who are sovereign, not the parliament, though it can speak for the people. If it doesn’t do that because of a poor choice of candidates or a system that does not produce a government that reflects the will of the people, we need a way to express that will.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is precisely and solely BECAUSE “it’s too late and there’s no way out” that Alba seems like a good idea. If people were thinking straight they’d see Alba for what it is. It’s only because perceptions are distorted that there are folk prepared to give Alba the time of day.

      This election is not going to be the ‘independence election’ that many hoped it would be. And that we were promised by the SNP that it would be. Of course, that doesn’t mean the fight to restore Scotland’s independence is over. What it definitely means is that the nature of that fight has changed. It seems very probable that the fight will go to the streets, as you suggest. I suspect it won’t take long for folk to realise that they’ve bought a dud in Alba. Expectations have been raised which cannot be fulfilled. The paint will start to peel very quickly. Three or four FMQ sessions and people will start asking the questions I’m asking now.

      If frustration and ager at the SNP is bad then resentment of Alba will surely be worse. Alba at least provided an outlet for those alienated by Sturgeon and her wee gang. That trick won’t work again. So people will have to find other ways of venting. Public demonstrations would seem to be the obvious ‘solution’.We’ll have folk chucking stones instead of painting them. And the first people to get pelted will be the silly bastards who suggest a bit of boulder daubing is the way forward.

      I’ve no problem with demonstrations and civil disobedience and the like. It’s all perfectly legitimate political action. So long as it’s disciplined. And I’m fairly confident it won’t be. Not for long. Best case scenario tends to be that it’s possible to tell the difference between the best case scenario and the worst case scenario.

      At a personal level the tragedy is that I’m not at all sure I want to be part of it any more.


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