Conscience and calculation

Both camps – SNP and Alba – need to call a halt to the ghastly tribalism and take a moment to scrutinise the offers their squabbling over. The reality is that there is no significant difference in their respective offers. No difference in the approach that they adopt. Both prioritise the British government.

For all his brassy rhetoric about what he’d do in the first week Alex Salmond is still talking about seeking consent and cooperation from the British political elite. Exactly as Nicola Sturgeon does. Strip away the posturing bravado from Salmond’s seven-day plan and what you’re left with is just as vague and indecisive as the SNP’s manifesto ‘commitment’ to maybe do something not specified at some time yet to be determined or not depending on a range of factors as numerous and diverse as is expedient.

The SNP has no intention of moving to resolve the constitutional issue with the urgency which Salmond at least recognises. But the notion that Alba will be in any position to force the pace is fantastical. There almost certainly won’t be a supermajority and there definitely won’t be a supermajority that works the way Alba claims it will. The reality is that regardless of how many seats Alba Party wins it will have no leverage over an SNP/SG Scottish Government. Absolutely none.

It’s not just about the numbers. To get a true picture of what is possible it is necessary to factor in the provisions of the Scotland Act (1998), parliamentary procedures (standing orders) and party-political dynamics. I have tried to do this in two articles on my blog. In ‘Fantasy politics and problematic arithmetic’ I look at what a supermajority means in practice. Not very much, as it turns out. In ‘The observations of Mr Buzzkill’ I take a seat projection from recent polling and analyse the the likely implications for power relationships in the Scottish Parliament. The conclusion being that Alba has negligible power at best.

To date, nobody from Alba Party has offered any rebuttal or counter-argument. As with similar critiques of the SNP the only response is angry denunciation of my ‘negativity’ and ‘pessimism’ laced with condescending advice have ‘faith’ and/or a measure of personal abuse. Nobody has been able to refute the conclusions or off a credible explanation as to how Alba would do the things it says it would do in order to win votes.

I do not object to political parties talking-up their electoral prospects or exaggerating the rewards for giving them your vote. But as always, there is a line that should not be crossed. The line separating acceptable electioneering from seeking a mandate on a false prospectus. Parties should at the very least have some chance of delivering some of what they promise.

In all of this I approach the election and the campaign and the parties and politicians involved strictly from the perspective of someone who wants to see Scotland’s independence restored and someone who is painfully aware of the consequences of failure to take appropriate action as a matter of the utmost urgency. As I consider how to vote I am looking for the outcome that best serves Scotland’s cause. I find nothing that contributes to or is conducive to timely action to initiate the process by which our nation will be restored to its rightful constitutional status.

This is not the independence election it could have been. There is no way anybody can vote for immediate, bold, decisive action to remove the boot of the Union from Scotland’s neck and have a realistic hope of their vote producing the desired outcome. We can vote for promises of action. But we cannot expect to see those promises honoured. The SNP won’t. Alba can’t.

We all have to vote SNP on the constituency ballot. Not for the party or its candidates or its policies and certainly not for its woeful offering to those hoping to save Scotland from obscenely anti-democratic and coldly callous British Nationalism. We have to vote SNP on the constituency ballot for the sake of our Parliament. Whatever else we may think of the SNP, it remain the only thing capable of impeding the British Nationalist juggernaut already commenced to crushing Scotland’s democracy under its implacable wheels. It may not be much of an impediment. Nicola Sturgeon does not appear willing to confront the might of the British state. But the SNP is all we’ve got.

What you do with your regional ballot doesn’t really matter. If as expected the outcome is another term for the SNP – perhaps with support from the increasingly surreal Scottish Greens, the make-up of the opposition makes little or no difference. The SNP will follow Sturgeon’s agenda – perhaps with concessions to the Scottish Greens that don’t challenge that agenda. The opposition, including Alba will neither be able to stop them nor force them into any action. Anybody who tells you differently is misleading you. You would do well to subject their promises to intense scrutiny.

There is a harsh irony in the fact that in order to have some hope of saving our Parliament we are obliged to ensure that it won’t work as we wish it would. But them’s the breaks! The Scottish Parliament can be fixed if it survives the British Nationalist onslaught. There is little that can be done if it does not.

Regardless of their views on the constitutional issue NOBODY should EVER vote for ANY of the British parties. That leaves three options for those who want to keep their consciences reasonably clear and avoid being cursed by future generations. Ranked in order of preference, they are SNP, Alba, Scottish Greens.

SNP because it remains the best DEFAULT voting strategy. If in doubt, this is what you do – however reluctantly. Depart from this strategy only if you have good REASON to do so.

Alba because we can at least be sure it is a pro-independence party even if it can’t actually make good on it manifesto promises about “delivering independence”.

Scottish Greens because at least they are not a British party. More seriously, because it is important only ever to vote for a Scottish party.

Take this advice or not as you please. I offer it only because I have been repeatedly asked and now I have something such enquiries can be directed to. Vote according to your conscience. But only after some calculation. Endeavour to make an informed choice. To only slightly paraphrase Nelson Mandela, make your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. But don’t totally discount those fears. And don’t raise your hopes beyond the reach of real-world politics.

10 thoughts on “Conscience and calculation

  1. Well, obviously this is a long term strategy, but if Alba make no dent in current SNP policy, then they must stand candidates directly against the SNP. The possibility of losing all those cushy salaries might make them pay attention.


  2. You and Wings are the bloggers I turn to with most likelihood of seeing my views reflected. You for your deep insights and Wings for his analytical skills especially finding verifiable and cross referenced information.

    Voting next week with a heavy heart SNP 1 (our candidate looks the best bet to unseat the present Labour incumbent) and Alba 2 because at least one of their candidates would have been my choice when she was still SNP. Life aint easy!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. For me it was in the end an easy call:

    1. SNP on Constituency ballot (Edinburgh Southern)

    The candidate for this party
    a) formerly worked for Joanna Cherry and considers the latter her mentor.
    b) stood down on principle from the NEC after the list selection was gerrymandered by that body
    c) stood in the equivalent WM seat in 2019 and knocked one-third off the winner’s majority
    d) will make one less Unionist in the parliament if elected
    e) only has to overturn a 2.9% British party majority from the 2016 election

    2. ALBA on Regional List ballot (Lothian)

    The No 1 candidate for this party
    a) is a former SNP Justice Minister
    b) is a former SNP member and Independence supporter of over 40 years
    c) is an extremely experienced politician and current WM MP for the East Lothian constituency
    d) is not the alternative SNP No 1 prospect from that party’s pauchled candidature

    So calculation complete and conscience clear.


  4. Scottish politics is even less interesting that Boris Johnson’s wallpaper. The Alba Party take it all so seriously that one of their candidates lives in Hong Kong (the hedge-fund consultant prone to dispensing bovine insults). Their MPs just don’t bother – they may as well be living on the Moon.


  5. “BothVotes 1+2” was the least effective tactic for SNP to adopt. It makes perfect sense in a first-past-the-post system. It makes no sense in a D’Hondt system which handicaps the winner of #1 votes on the #2. In D’Hondt or List system, the most effective strategy is for separate parties who share a common interest (like Independence,) to conduct a pincer, one on #1 and the other on #2, supporting each other tactically.

    Sturgeon’s dismissal that this would be “gaming the system” willfully ignores the fact that Labour and Conservative, (who have a common interest in maintaining the Union) already do exactly this every single time, tactically agreeing where to campaign and where to give each other a break, to optimize their gains mutually.

    Months before Alba had turned up, I and several people I know were arguing with the Sturgeon Faithful that “1+2” would result in wasted votes on #2, and about 40 Unionist MSPs coming through on the list. We were laughed at and roundly dismissed. And 1.2M wasted #2 votes later, 40 Unionist MSPs did indeed turn up in Holyrood on the List.

    Hindsight confirms the historical data from 2016 was predicting very accurately what would happen. The data was nuanced. “Both Votes” was a reasonable option in areas like the Borders, where Unionists have a hold. But for most areas, SNP #1, Greens #2, was a devastating blow to Unionism. It would reduce Unionist seats to about half a dozen. And would make supermajority possible. We saw this before Alba existed.

    Supermajority seems to be a matter of law. I think it’s in the Scotland Act of 2014. And Alex would understand that law, because he was part of drafting it. It renders an Independence Referendum unnecessary. If Holyrood demonstrates an overwhelming majority of pro-Independence seats, it follows that Scotland has made its voice clear on the matter and so… We’re out.

    But no. “BothVotes!”… “1+2″…. “Nicklahhh..! Nicklahhh..!”

    Every now and then I see a Sturgeon supporter raging at the Tories. Often enough, this MSP is in their own region. It is a work of moments to comb down their home page and find their “Both Votes” posts on Facebook. I take a screenshot of this, and put it in the comments to prove to them that they effectively voted the Unionist in question into parliament. And they should maybe start owning their shit. They block me. They will be voting 1+2 at the next election as well.

    As far as I can see, and I believe the data has confirmed this, Alex was offering her a real opportunity to become the first Prime Minister of an Independent Scotland. He put aside any grievances or issues he had with her, for the sake of Independence. And she scorned the offer, because of “concerns about his behavior”. It seems, as far as I can tell, to be a demonstrable fact that, had SNP, Greens and Alba united on a supermajority strategy we could have become Independent, or at the very least, we could have wiped the floor of Unionist MSPs and made the case for Independence Referendum overwhelmingly clear.

    And Sturgeon knew this in advance, or ought to have known.
    And preferred to maintain, not disrupt the status quo.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.