What Vote Splitting? Diversity is our Strength
There is a received opinion I am seeing expressed a lot at the moment. To paraphrase the vocal minority of SNP supporters who convey it:
The SNP are the only route to Independence. A vote for them in the coming Scottish Election would send a message that the Scottish People want Independence. It is the only way to secure a second referendum and increases our chances of winning a referendum. Green and Rise are endangering the Independence dream by potentially splitting the vote. Those parties are breaking up the Yes movement by appealing for second votes. It is even unclear whether those parties support Independence. In principle those parties are great but they should wait as they will have their day in the future post Independence Scottish Utopia.
As covered last time, SNP/SNP is a sensible vote if you aim to maximise SNP seats. I also think those who advocate giving the smaller parties a regional vote are disingenuous when they make it seem like a risk free strategy. Tactical voting could cost the SNP a majority and it could potentially, albeit in highly unlikely circumstances, result in fewer overall pro Independence seats.
That said, I disagree fundamentally with the idea that an SNP/SNP vote is the only vote for the discerning Independenista and would argue that switching your second vote would progress the Independence goal further.
The first point that the theory gets wrong is the idea that the Yes movement is splitting and that this is bad for Independence.The truth is the movement was politically diverse during the referendum campaign which was one of the reasons it grew so much. The more inclusive we are the broader the appeal. It would be madness for some sort of group-think to develop as diversity is our strength. Putting all our eggs in one basket would be much more dangerous to the cause than having a variety of loosely connected groups all sharing the same ultimate goal.
Here is a typical poster that was being circulated during the campaign and it shows clearly how diverse the movement was:
The two main parties that are after the regional votes of SNP constituency voters are clearly pro Independence. The Greens are committed to a second referendum and have a policy statement as such on their website. Any change in that policy would need to be voted on in conference. Rise stands for Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism so they will probably have to change their name before aspersions cast as to their commitment are justified. Together they contain and are supported by key leaders in the movement; individuals that previously shared a platform with the SNP.
And while their supporters should admit that in statistically highly unlikely circumstances, a vote for a second party could contribute to a Unionist majority, it is probable that a moderate percentage switch of second votes would increase pro Independence parties at Holyrood (the main barrier to this switch is the perception that it is too risky). However, what makes it risky is that a fair amount of people need to do it for it to work. Which means that the failure becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
And in the off chance this switch somehow backfired on the SNP, the smaller parties would be no more to blame than the SNP were to blame for the demise of Labour in last year’s general election. You can’t on one hand say that giving away your second vote is too risky due to the complexity of the system and at the same time blame one element of that complexity for the results not going your way. If the SNP fail to ace this election it will be more to do with the SNP than Green or Rise regardless of what happens with second votes. On the list, voters have to choose the party they prefer and then make an educated guess as to consequences of their decision with the full knowledge their vote may have unintended consequences.
That said, this vote is not about Independence. At least not about Independence in the sense that a party who can win it is going to put a referendum pledge in their manifesto. Its about choosing the best parliament for Scotland. Although, maybe those SNP supporters who speak of sending a message are correct.
But what message would it be best to send in order to win over No voters?
It may be that an SNP government can stay popular over the next term in power but it is more common to see a party wane. It is just as realistic that the anti SNP feeling held by half the population will be the notion that become contagious. For everyone who sees them as a protector of Scotland’s interest against a hostile Tory government there are those who view them as a centrist, controlling force, who cover up their failures by constantly playing the Westminster card. Either viewpoint could win the day and it will be harder for them to remain popular while the length of their reign increases.
Although not a member, I like the SNP, in fact I voted for them last year and will vote for them in the constituency vote this year. I think they do a good job but I think they could do a lot better. I also think that the parliament would be a more effective advertisement for Independence if its make-up was as politically diverse as possible. In fact, although it is unlikely, I would go as far as to say a minority SNP government would be better for Independence than a majority one, one that forced the SNP to work with the other parties in order to reach a consensus on policy. One that most people could look at and say “I feel more represented by this parliament than I do by the one in Westminster”.
As discussed last time, a minority SNP government is probably what would happen if a fair amount of people switched regional votes to smaller parties and the SNP done worse than predicted in the constituency vote. This fact is one that eases my worry about the consequences of my Green regional vote. It may hurt the SNP but it may lead to a parliament that would be more of a beacon of what an independent Scotland could be.
Please comment below and enter an email address to receive notifications of new articles. Also, if you enjoy our content you can support the site for less than one pound per month by clicking here.