I’ve just had a chat with John Curtice. He says in Glasgow I should give my constituency vote to RISE and then vote UKIP on the list. Apparently he likes the idea of a parliament with diversity in which no party dominates. And we all like a bit of colour in our politics, don’t we? It makes perfect sense to me.
The way it’s going with a scramble for second votes, I wouldn’t be surprised if some daft scenario like this does emerge, so complex and daunting are the convolutions from gaming the system.
From what I read of the Herald story, the major flaw is surely in the top line that Professor Curtice says ‘you should vote for a smaller independence party on the list’. The day Professor Curtice tells you who to vote for is the day he destroys his legendary professionalism. You’d have to ask him something like: John, I want all Labour’s policies implemented. Who should I vote for? to get anything like a Vote Labour instruction from him. Even then he’d hedge and suggest a Labour policy is better expressed by another party.
This is why the Herald story fails – no editor reading his reporter’s line that the Professor tells us how to vote should have let it go unchallenged. It isn’t credible. And it’s not true either. The Curtice line is that in some areas it is suggested that it might be worth considering not voting SNP on the list. That’s like saying: If you are a Labour voter who wants to keep the Union, you might consider giving your second vote to the Tories. Turning the Curtice quote to back up a partisan report in which the affiliations of the authors is kept hidden is Daily Mail journalism. Another Herald failure.
But looking beyond, isn’t the answer obvious? It is to vote for your party of choice and stop second guessing the system. If you’re a socialist, vote RISE. Do a Loki and give them both votes, if you have a candidate. Who encapsulates your political priorities? Greens? Vote for them. Don’t apologise. The truth is that nobody knows how many votes each party will get on the first ballot which determines how many seats they win and adjusts the calculations of the second votes. It is a blind gamble and if you get it wrong, you may help a different party. But that’s the serendipity of democracy. (It’s also why we need to look at changing the system. When people don’t know how it works or what to do, even in the best informed electorate, we’re in trouble).
So, if I’m allowed to, I’d like to instruct you how to vote – give the votes to which ever party suits you best. If you do, you don’t take any of the ‘blame’ when we look back at the consequences. However, if your vote went ‘the wrong way’ because you tried to predict other results, you are rather liable for criticism. Be true to yourself.
That’s what I’m doing and my view has changed recently. When the parliament opened, there was a rush of excitement and a second vote led to a colourful collection of parties and individuals that reflected Scotland at that time. I preferred there not to be a majority – consensus and compromise was a fairer reflection of public attitudes.
But I never thought that in such a short time we would be peering over the edge of independence and Holyrood would become the focus of a new public-led movement.
The referendum and the subsequent emptying out of Unionist Westminster MPs made me believe that there was no way Whitehall could avoid addressing the structures of governance – most likely with a constitutional convention for the UK – and a serious discussion of a federal outcome with the nations claiming the powers they felt were relevant to them. Instead we got English Votes in Parliament and the dismal, unambitious Smith proposals which were turned into a fiscal trap by the Tories with only toxic income tax as the main tool of increasing spending while they cut the budget. It beggars belief that Labour, the Lib Dems, Greens and RISE have all marched into the trap and heard the door slam behind them. Mundell must chortle. If only the Nats had fallen into line and left a clear run for Ruth…
We are now a changed nation. (The moaners who say another Scotland isn’t possible under the SNP completely miss the point that hundreds of thousands of Scots are already inspired, energised and engaged in unheard-of ways – and we’ve only got started)
The change is that we have rejected Liberals and Labour and their self-serving collaboration. We have realised, the majority, that if we want real change only one party can deliver that. We know we were lied to and conspired against and that London government will never treat us as anything but an irritant and only then when we cause trouble. I have a respect for Greens and for RISE but I ask myself this question: Who do London fear – more Greens, possibly a single RISE MSP (long shot) or a continuing SNP majority? What scares the pants off Westminster where there is already a huge SNP block – Patrick Harvie and half a dozen Greens at Holyrood or Nicola Sturgeon commanding a Nationalist government with a majority?
It’s a no-brainer. How the Tories – and Labour – would love the SNP vote to go down. Do you think they’d welcome RISE and the Greens as an ‘interesting reflection of democratic choice’ or would they rub their hands in glee at the diminution of SNP power?
Because power is the relevant word. That’s what Scotland needs. Sure we still need debate and challenge but even RISE concede that independence is the only game in town. The British state will never deliver what Scots want, let alone socialist voters.
I was scoffed at recently by those who use phrases like: What’s the point of independence if nothing changes? How blind can you be? It is only independence that produces the platform from which any meaningful change can occur. If Westminster was minded to allow real change, would they have ceded only income tax and welfare powers? Was it RISE or the SNP that had the entire British Establishment wetting its pants only 18 months ago? Was it the Greens who sent a shiver of fear through the EU and made its president lie? Or was it Colin Fox who made NATO issue threats about defence? When the American President broke with protocol and stepped into the debate, was he worried about RISE or terrified at the prospect of SNP success in the referendum?
Self government allows us to run the country anyway we want. That means there could be a Left coalition in government if the people vote for it with nothing to stop policy implementation. Or it could mean Davidson in alliance with UKIP. The point is that it will be up to the Scots to decide that. Those who ask What’s the point? are really saying: I’ll support independence so long as I get my policies implemented afterwards. That’s not how democracy works. If that’s the Left view then they’ve misunderstood what we’re fighting for. My belief in independence isn’t qualified. I want the power so it can be delivered into the hands of the Scots to determine what kind of country they want. But it happens after independence. Without the power we are playthings of the Mundells and Cameron and electing a clutch of small party MSPs won’t change that one jot.
So if your objective is to make devolution more attractive and more fun, give your second (of your first) vote to smaller groupings who’ll make Holyrood appear more consensual. I used to agree with that. But if it’s power you’re after to cast off British control and imagine a renewed nation, you invest in the one party that can achieve that – without qualification and caveat. (I could almost get Professor Curtice to agree…)by