This Way And That

January – named after the Roman god Janus (meaning door) which had two faces. The ability to look in two directions at the same time seems to have had an effect on the Yes blogosphere recently.

We are looking forward to another resounding victory in less than five months time, the SNP taking potentially all constituencies except one, maybe two, an historic achievement which, whatever the questions over Brexit, takes us closer to the goal of independence by embedding the nationalist party as the natural government and further marginalising the opposition.

We also look back and shudder at how things used to be. At the first election in ‘99 Labour swallowed 56 seats. Added to the Lib Dems’ 17, they had their majority with 73. Even if all else had failed in the face of the Nationalists, the Tories on 18 could be relied on to bolster the Union. The SNP with the Green and a Socialist were significant but marginalised. Of 73 constituency seats the SNP had precisely seven. In 2011 Labour got only 37 MSPs and the Liberals five, a combined total of 42 while the SNP took 69, with 53 of them constituencies.

It’s worth remembering how far we have come. Worth remembering too that getting into government isn’t the end in itself as it is for other parties – it is the platform from which to scale the heights of independence.

And I think it’s at this point where a divide emerges in the Yes campaign. For me as, I admit, an old style Nationalist, the attainment of national sovereignty is the ultimate prize. It isn’t just an ambition that would be fine to claim, it is an all-consuming passion to see our country break free from restriction and diktat by others to join the family of nations. I desire independence (almost) no matter what kind of country results. I confess to doubts were we to emerge as a hardline Islamic state ruled by Free Kirk mullahs, for example. But if you believe in the Scots the way I do, then you also believe we will create a country that suits our needs and our sentiments. It won’t meet my every ambition – and I’ll moan like buggery – but I will content myself with knowing this is our country, our home, and we make our own way. To me, that represents dignity, or, if you like, national and personal pride. It is the restatement of the Scots’ ancient rights – the fulfilment of national destiny.

None of this carries much weight for another side of Yes where it seems the objective is to create an equal and just society through the means of sovereignty. I don’t think these are mutually exclusive but they do have a different imperative. One argues that we achieve independence and then decide our route to the future. The other puts the onus on the new society and acknowledges independence as the best route to achieve it. The latter is the point at which the Radical Scotland emergence was key and where RISE sits today. I don’t doubt anybody’s desire for independence but I also recognise a language that is quick to say: ‘I’m not a Nationalist but’…and ‘what’s the point of independence if we don’t make a fairer Scotland?’ I can’t help agreeing with the last point but, if I’m brutally honest, it is secondary to my drive for self-government as an end in itself, perhaps because at that point, I’ll be ready to shut up and leave it to my children to shape our country.

Somewhere in there is the thorn that needles. Old Nats welcome all comers to the movement but don’t embrace distractions. Now I know the ambition for a fair society can hardly be dismissed as a trifle but to some of us, arguing to split the vote in order to get it, is diluting the numbers needed for the immediate and urgent fight for autonomy. If our voting system truly reflected how we vote, as under STV, a strong case can be made that ‘sacrificing’ an SNP member for a pro-indy RISE MSP by delivering them your second vote, maintains the absolute Yes majority and adds spice to the pot, reflecting the Scotland many hard-working, door-knocking people want to see. There will also be a real dilemma in, for example, Glasgow Kelvin, for Nationalists supportive of Patrick Harvie.

But under the mixture of systems at Holyrood, it’s hard to see how transferring votes from the SNP to RISE doesn’t risk the counter effect of propelling another Unionist MSP into a job by default. We think the SNP will get a majority by winning virtually every constituency. You can get odds. But do you know. Even if they do capture their majority from the constituencies, do you want to see Labour bolstered with extra MSPs or, imagine, an extra Tory or two from the list? You can run the numbers and poke around the entrails till the summer solstice, there is simply no way of knowing how the vote will turn out in detail. I don’t doubt the trend is utterly accurate and the SNP will win big but is a majority guaranteed? We expected an earthquake last summer and got one but who believed it would be 56 MPs? I am still shocked at that. Breathtaking as the SNP rise is, to people of my political generation, the even bigger story is the collapse of Labour, something that once seemed an impossibility.

At the same time though, and it seems contradictory, I suspect the actual votes for RISE may be too small for them to collect an MSP. See what I mean about not knowing for sure how people will vote…

I don’t mean to be unkind, but I doubt if a wider voting public have even at this stage heard of the party. Jim Sillars will project it in the coming weeks but there’s little evidence Scotland is waiting to acclaim a Podemos or Syriza. People perhaps aren’t disaffected enough (the UK government did concede an referendum) and the need to make a protest statement is already overwhelmingly voiced through the SNP. The blunt truth is that the rise of the Nats took 30 years or so from gestation and setback, defeat, demoralisation and dissent to the heights of today’s SNP. Voter loyalty is learned behaviour and you have to acquire the right to have people disengage from their usual choice and turn to you instead. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks.

So there’s a complicated equation to be negotiated here for Left or Green-leaning SNP types with doubts over their second vote. You’d cast it for someone else – if the voting system worked that way. But how would you feel if it was clear just enough votes had deserted the SNP and…and…Anas Sarwar got elected!?

In truth though, that’s democracy, British style. It’s PR, but it’s a fudge, combining First Past The Post with the Additional Member System, designed specifically to avoid one-party majorities. The List itself is engineered to counter the effects of a big constituency vote and redistribute seats accordingly. Attractive as it is to back a second favourite, gaming an already contrived process is like trusting a bookmaker. When you see billboards in Ladbrokes window offering 10 to one if Tottenham beat Brentford 3-1, remember that is a multiple gamble. You are predicting who will win. You are predicting goals will be scored…by both teams. You’re actually saying how many goals…to each side. Layer by layer, the bookie hedges his offer.

But, forgive me, don’t let me put you off. A big part of me says that voting is a key part of a civilised society and is the expression of your own free will. You should vote whichever way you want. None of us has a guarantee. Not even Nicola. I never forget that at the height of her powers, towering over a huge majority and an international figure, Margaret Thatcher relied on a majority of 9000 in Finchley. If the equivalent of a crowd at an SPFL game had changed their mind, she was gone. Just like that.

So, if RISE is your choice, go for it. Follow your heart.

I only wish to remind you how silent Unionists are over this wee internal Yes squabble and urge you to ponder why that might be…

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49 thoughts on “This Way And That

  1. Steve Asaneilean

    A number of things Derek.

    First this squabbling – can it not wait till after independence is secured? Surely it’s up to the citizens of a newly independent Scotland to decide the nature of the society they wish to live in? And I say that as someone of buys the equally agenda 110%.

    That’s not to say that SG shouldn’t be above criticism at this time but, really, you’ve got to remember who the real enemy is and pick the battles accordingly.

    Then there’s the voting. My own view , as I have said oft before, is that the list system is undemocratic relying as it does on the grace and favour of each party to decide who to place in Holyrood.

    But it’s what we have and it’s clear that any attempt to game it or use it tactically is fraught with risks of egg on face.

    So if you support a party – any party – should vote for them on both FPTP and the list.

    But if in your constituency your chosen party is only standing in the list then you do have a chance to vote tactically – in the FTP vote.

    If tactical voting had been a bit more to the fore last May we might have avoided Mundell as our de facto Governor General.

  2. Very well said Derek, you captured it perfectly for me.

  3. Well explained

  4. “But how would you feel if it was clear just enough votes had deserted the SNP and…and…Anas Sarwar got elected!?”

    But how would you feel if it was clear that the Green party fell just a few votes shy of gaining a seat, ahead of Anas Sarwar and Labour?

    This game works both ways.

  5. There was a perfect example in the last Euro election. Greens pushing the line that they were the only way to stop UKIP getting the last seat encouraged enough SNP voters to switch and as a result … UKIP got the last seat.

  6. With you 100% on this Derek.

  7. That’ll do for me too Derek
    Remember the Footie and the Rugby

    Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory………AGAIN!…..
    What is it about Scotland?


  8. Katrine Paterson.

    It certainly is a minefield for those hovering in the polling booths Derek.
    PR is a complete mystery to most voters. After all, it was meant to stop any one party from having control. Huh!
    I’ve only voted in one general election since returning after decades living south of the border. I didn’t even know what a ‘list’ candidate was. You might have just given me a hat to draw a number from. My guess is, that thousands of people will close their eyes and use a pin!

  9. While Derek Bateman is undoubtedly correct to say that “you should vote whichever way you want”, it is equally true to say that you should at least be offered the opportunity to make an informed choice. That was never going to be possible so long as people were reliant on the almost exclusively unionist/anti-SNP British media. Fortunately, the Yes movement during the first referendum campaign was parent to a burgeoning alternative media. Numerous websites, blogs and online news platforms arose which which sought to ensure that people were better informed by carrying messages that the mainstream media would not report and by countering the disinformation, distortion and dishonesty of the anti-independence propaganda machine.

    I am surely not alone in being persuaded that some of the more prominent such alternative media outlets have rather lost their way of late. In many ways, they are as unreliable as the organs they were created to challenge. They have ceased to be authoritative sources of information useful to the independence movement having largely abandoned that function in favour of championing various left-wing factions. Factions whose commitment to independence is, as Mr Bateman notes, less than wholehearted – being conditional, to a greater or lesser extent, on adoption of a particular policy agenda.

    That policy agenda may be entirely unobjectionable. But the partisan tendencies of some alternative media sites have come at a cost to their objectivity – and, I would argue, their usefulness as sources of information not predicated on either party advantage or the self-serving imperatives of the British sate.

    To put it bluntly, the likes of Common Space and Bella Caledonia are now too often to be found parroting the anti-SNP rhetoric of the British media and presenting a very misleading perspective on the potential for tactical voting.

    If these sites have a responsibility (dare I say “duty”) to inform voters ahead of the Holyrood elections in may, then they are failing. If they aspire to be more like the old media – seeking to manipulate rather than merely influence – then they are on the right track. But then, what would be the point in them?

    • Well said Peter; while catching up on recent posts (I was sans internet for 2 weeks) I’ve noticed the same, which is having an effect on both the number and tone of BTL comments. Lots of shouty people in evidence.

  10. For me,it was always about democracy based on Scotland being a country and not a region of Greater England.
    We absolutely should have our government in our country,elected by and for Scots and anything else beyond that in terms of pooling and sharing of sovereignty decided by Scots and not unelected governments another country.
    The hard left in Scotland and elsewhere,have a track record of instability which makes them suspect to conservative voters who prefer ” a safe pair of hands”.
    Although I agree with much that RISE and it’s supporters promote,by siding with the unionists in attacking the SNP they risk losing everything.
    A government at Holyrood,formed by the Westminster stooges,would reverse all that has been won over the last few years and consign RISE and it’s aspirations to the history books.
    We need to steady the ship before we take the next big change of direction and all who support independence need to present a united front to the Scottish electorate.

  11. First things first: independence. SNP x 2.

  12. Many thanks for this very sensible contribution Derek. You sum up exactly how I feel.

  13. Gordon Bickerton

    ‘But if you believe in the Scots the way I do, then you also believe we will create a country that suits our needs and our sentiments.’

    Thanks Derek, that’s going to be my doorstep statement when I’m canvassing!

  14. As one who left the SSP because of lack of commitment to Independence and one who has supported a Scottish Socialist Republic a longer, when most yhem were still in Labour Party/Militant, I will be giving a wide berth. We nerd as heavy a battering ram in the shape of the SNP to gain Independence. Diluting that aim would split the second vote and allow Lumpen Pairty in the back door again

    SNP vote and foremost and last.

  15. Who knew?

    I’m old fashioned. 🙂

    Great post Derek.

  16. “there’s little evidence Scotland is waiting to acclaim a Podemos or Syriza. People perhaps aren’t disaffected enough (the UK government did concede an referendum) and the need to make a protest statement is already overwhelmingly voiced through the SNP.”

    This is a key point. RISE call themselves the “Scottish Syriza” and point towards Podemos as proof that a left-wing party can go from nothing to mass support in a matter of months. But that completely misses the point of what has happened in Greece, Spain and Scotland. It may sound odd since they’re the Scottish Government, but people already see themselves as making a statement against the establishment by voting for the SNP in huge numbers – the gap that Syriza and Podemos filled is just not there in Scotland. That’s why RISE just aren’t registering on people’s radars (and why they’re seemingly going to have to embark on a range of publicity stunts between now and May.)

    I also find it hard to believe that the plethora of seasoned academics that formed the basis of Syriza and Podemos would have come up with some of RISE’s more interesting, erm, “policies”…

  17. For me its a no brainer. As an SNP member for more years than I care to admit to, Il be voting 2 for SNP.
    As for Greens and RISE its for them to make a pitch to Labour voters to switch to thier party and tell them why they should.

  18. This excellent post – and the many good comments added to it – are a welcome articulation of my own growing sense of unease in recent time. Social media sites have added vastly to the political debate in Scotland and pulled pro-independence groups together, but we haven’t reached the goal yet and it seems some of them are now fragmenting that support. It saddens me, and I hope we can keep a clear vision for the future. Carpe Diem!

  19. Dave McEwan Hill

    I’ve always had a problem with the two votes. Some people actually believe the list vote is intended for them to vote for another party than that that got their first vote which is not its purpose.
    My initial respect for RISE has gone. They should be canvassing to take votes off Labour and LibDem supporters, not off the SNP. The present behaviour of many of their spokespersons is thankfully having a very counter productive effect.
    And another thing. How many RISE supporters would campaign for Independence if Jeremy Corbyn led a socialist government into power in the UK?
    Same question to the Greens if the UK had a Green government.
    We have to make SNP2 the central feature of the campaign

    • Gordon Bickerton

      All my life (currently 71!) I’ve seen the ‘far’ left break up into factions. It seems to go with the territory. Egos get inflated with by followers who ignore the big picture and the ‘leader’ takes them down a road to oblivion.
      United we stand, divided we fall is still the way for me, until the big prize is won, then get into whatever group suits you.

      • Exactly Gordon. Political tunnel vision until independence.

      • This is another reason to be wary of the OPIPs. Even in the massively unlikely event of them winning any seats, rather than simply taking votes from the SNP, we don’t know how they will behave in the Scottish Parliament. And past experience suggests that we might have good reason to be wary.

        In other circumstances than those which prevail, I would tend to the view that the benefits of diversity might make the risk worthwhile. Ideally, our parliament would reflect the fullest possible range of political philosophy. I would extend that, not only to the left, but to better representation of the non-Tory right.

        But the harsh realities of politics demand that we deal with the situation as we find it. And the situation demands a solid SNP majority.

        Let there be no illusions about how the British establishment will respond to the election of another SNP government with an emphatic mandate from the people of Scotland. If you think the “SNP BAD!” propaganda has been dire up until now, just wait until you see what’s in store for us after May. Scotland will be treated as a hostile foreign power.

        This has implications for any OPIP representation in the Scottish Parliament. For the most part, they will be ignored by the British parties and the British media. And I mean completely air-brushed out of Scottish politics. It will be as if they don’t exist. The British establishment’s interests are not served by publicising the fact that independence has broad support. It suits them to portray it as strictly an “SNP obsession”.

        The only exception to this blanking of OPIP MSPs would be those occasions when they could be presented as attacking the SNP administration. It would, in fact, be made to appear as if this was all that the OPIP MSPs ever did. And that they did it constantly.

        The presence of OPIP MSPs would contribute precisely nothing to the independence campaign. Assuming an SNP majority, legislation could be passed without their votes. Including legislation relating to a second referendum.

        In terms of the independence cause, there is nothing to be gained from voting for OPIPs. And much to lose.

        • Nailed it once again Peter. This rationale behind this post and the whole topic is critical if we are to have a chance of independence in a reasonable timeframe.

  20. And if those 800 or so people who voted Green had just changed for one day to SNP, there would be no mundell. It is true we are our own worst enemies.

    I’m an SNP supporter but had some admiration for RISE from the side lines . Unfortunately, RISE have shown their hunger for ambition, inexperience and achilies heel but don’t realise it and I really wonder who’s driving their agenda, esp after listening and talking to a few in the earlier days. Its almost as though they have morphed into an old SP party that the people turned their backs on! I think their approach will damage them in the long run. This is a shame, esp after such a promising start (albeit a few bumps). RISE should have given rise to a new party and new politicians. What a waste if an opportunity.

  21. Remember Ruth Davidson, who is now leading the Scottish toys. Got in on the list with less than 2000 votes. We can’t be complacent at all.

  22. The Scottish torys. Even…

  23. Gordon Bickerton

    Help me sound cool in the pub, what’s the definition of OPIP?

  24. So basically this whole thread and article can be summed up in the words of Henry Ford when it came to the Model T;

    “You can have it in any colour you like, as long as it’s black”

    So much for choice, so much for plurality, so much for democracy…

    Just to be clear.

    The SNP have not released their manifesto.

    Policies don’t matter.

    This is proper blood and soil stuff.


    • There is a choice. A very clear choice. You can choose to progress towards independence by doing whatever it takes to secure an SNP majority in May. Or you can choose to risk handing our government to the British parties by putting petty prejudice and party preference before principle.

  25. Stuart, It has never been proved that Henry Ford said “you can have it in any colour as long as it’s black” The rest of your comment is just as specious.

    • Really?

      You need to do better research then….

      p. 19. Quotes in: Arch Wilkinson Shaw (1927). The Magazine of Business, Vol. 52, p. 182

      Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black. p. 72. Chapter IV, : Remark about the Model T in 1909, ; this has often been paraphrased, e.g.: “You can have any colour as long as it’s black.”

      Now you can go back to sleep….

  26. C’mon Stuart, does the nurse know you’re out of your bed?
    Go and have a lie down, you’ll feel better for it.
    You can come back and post something when you’ve regained possession of your faculties.

  27. “I only wish to remind you how silent Unionists are over this wee internal Yes squabble and urge you to ponder why that might be…”

    I have seen a few unionists including David Torrance treat some of the RISE supporters as useful idiots – publicising their pieces, and patronising them on how open minded and reasonable they are to challenge the ‘one party state’.

    It’s a shame they cannot see they are being used.

    Unionists would like nothing better than to see hundreds of wasted votes for RISE in each region – nowhere near enough to win a seat, but hopefully enough to limit the SNP chances of extra regional seats and another majority.

  28. Interesting post. One slight quibble – as moderator of the Free Church I am used to us being used as the bogeyman of Scottish life but I do wish it would cease – “I confess to doubts were we to emerge as a hardline Islamic state ruled by Free Kirk mullahs, for example. ” You do realise that that statement makes as much sense as talking about square circles. As a minister of the Free Church who supports independence I would hope that this kind of prejudice would soon no longer be part of the civic discourse in Scotland

  29. What you ignore Derek and you are not alone sadly, is the number of votes it takes to elect a single SNP MSP on the list IF they win all or almost all the constituencies. They literally need 10X the votes a party with no constituencies in that region needs. d’Hondt divides the list vote by your constituency seats +1 (so there is no division by zero). Most regions contain around 10 constituencies so the SNP list vote would be divided by 11.

    The votes of the unionist parties, not having any constituencies are divided by 1. Ditto the Greens and RISE. So, far from a vote for Green or RISE ensuring unionists get elected off the list it is voting SNP on the list which will do this ensuring the unionist parties are effectively unopposed and will hoover up list seats with the SNP limited to one maybe at the last (rounds of d’Hondt add your list seats to the divisor).

    IF a small proportion, 15-20% of SNP voters vote Green or RISE (probably regionally dependent) then there is a decent chance that we will get MORE Yes people elected and FEWER unionists. Is that not a result to be desired?

    This is a matter of hard mathematics Derek.

    Or do you really fear Greens and RISE people are not committed to Yes? The Greens were in RIC, I campaigned with Greens here in Dundee, they are colleagues. But from the media and the SNP narrative they are absent. RISE was born by RIC mediation and they too are colleagues from the doorsteps, street stalls and rallies. Don’t you for a MOMENT doubt their commitment to the cause.

    • If enough of us vote SNP on the second vote (hey, we could try campaigning for it?) then a division by 10 could easily lead to a higher number of votes than those cast for any other candidate. Or am I just being dense?

      • Far from being “dense” you have nailed a crucial point. The argument from the ‘tactical voting’ mob is that the SNP list vote will not be high enough to win additional seats, and so you should seek to make it even lower. A moment’s rational reflection reveals the idiocy of this.

        If, as I hope we all accept, securing an SNP majority government is the overriding imperative; and if the vote that helps to ensure this outcome looks like being insufficient; then surely the only logical course of action is to bend all your efforts to increasing that SNP list vote.


  30. Your article seems like an oasis of reason in the midst of oceans of meaningless rhetoric today, Derek! Thank you! I can ‘t but agree with almost everything you have said. I would wish to add just two little points if I may:

    1) I thought the whole purpose of an independent Scotland to was to enable it to distance itself from ‘money-grabbing, uncaring, ‘make the rich richer’ style of government whose aim is to get rid of the poor, the unfortunate, the vulnerable and every person that can’t command more than a minimum wage? People are committing suicide because they can’t cope with the cuts of WESTMINSTER! I am at a loss as to how the priorities of some Scottish parties changed to believe that the immediate issue is LAND REFORM? (I actually think that more radical Land Reform would be good!) But SURELY – people committing suicide or dying through welfare cuts should determine where our voting focus should rest first?! Or am I just being totally naive?

    And one of the things I find totally bewildering about Rise is how they seem to expect to have Scotland-wide approval having only existed 5 minutes, and without any sort of work done to get where they want to be? I have yet to hear what their manifesto will comprise of. Are we supposed to choose them as ‘list vote’ on the strength of Land Reform only, rather than sheltering the Scots from the results of ‘austerity’ as I thought our priority was??

    2) How in the world is insulting and alienating potential voters going to help their cause? I read Bella Caledonia and I supported their last crowd fund because I saw them as a good, positive blog that could articulate what most Scots voters were thinking re Independence. It was quite a slap in the face to be referred to as being part of “…the stream of enthusiastic acolytes lapping up” because I also read WoS articles!! If such is the case, it follows I must ‘lap up’ Bella articles too, surely?? To be honest, I see enough of that kind of insulting comment from MSM – bit of a shocker to find that I’m being referred to like that by a fellow Indy seeker?? To be honest, it sounded like a petty lipped child shouting “I’m not playing anymore! And what’s more, I’m taking my ball back!” To be perfectly frank, they lost this voter in practically the first paragraph. It didn’t really matter what came after… though I have to say that little of it was complimentary.

    Just a last wee thought for Bella… Nicola Sturgeon NEVER uses such childish responses to her opposition, no matter how adversarial they get. I have never, EVER heard her respond to her non-voters in such derisive tones… She cultivates her opposition with respect, whether her party members think the opposition deserves it or not. That kind of restraint is what separates this clever lady from those I thought knew better: ‘Keep your friends close – but your enemies closer’.

  31. This is a dilemma I’ve been struggling with for a while, but on balance, I think I’ll give the SNP both my votes for the reasons you’ve stated. Independence is my main goal and after we achieve that we can have the type of government we elect. It may not be to my liking, but at least it will be ours alone,

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