As long-term readers may remember, I've voted for a whole array of weird and wonderful political parties in American elections (including a Vermont "separatist" party, you'll be thrilled to hear). But in this country, rather boringly, I've only ever voted for the SNP. I have a feeling that only independence offers the slightest chance of "liberating" me from that habit, because until and unless it happens the SNP will always look like the most rational choice.
However, I did once vote for the Liberal Democrats in a school mock election. It may seem a rather quaint idea now, but back in those days I had the genuine impression that the Lib Dems were the most radical party on constitutional reform, more so even than the SNP. I remember hearing Russell Johnston speaking about the state effectively withering away within Europe, being replaced by tiers of governance enjoying equal prestige, of which none would have absolute sovereignty vested in them, even on a theoretical basis. So in Scotland that would mean four tiers of government sharing sovereignty - local government, Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels. To the idealistic teenage me, that sounded like a more modern and forward-thinking vision even than independence within an interdependent Europe.
Although I moved away from the Lib Dems long ago, it's actually only been relatively recently that I've realised that they don't actually believe in any of this stuff - it's all just words. (I'm only talking about the party leadership, by the way. I'm sure that many of the activists and rank-and-file members have much stronger convictions.) With the enviable position of holding the balance of power in a hung parliament for the last four years, they've actually had the chance to do something to bring their vision closer to fruition, but almost every step they've taken has had the opposite effect. They've propped up the most anti-European government this country has seen since entering the Common Market, one that is doing what would have seemed unthinkable just a decade ago - inching us closer to the EU exit door. They moved heaven and earth to block a second question in the independence referendum, meaning the only option voters aren't allowed to choose in September is the one the Lib Dems are supposed to support. And having achieved that perverse objective, they haven't taken the nuanced stance on the straight Yes/No independence question that the logic of their "federalist" beliefs demands, but have instead gone gung-ho for a No vote irrespective of consequences.
Their actions betray them. When it really comes down to it, tribalistic British nationalism trumps everything for the Lib Dem leadership - it trumps federalism (a Yes vote would produce an outcome much closer to federalism than a No vote), it trumps electoral reform (a Yes vote would ensure that every tier of government in Scotland is elected by proportional representation), it trumps repugnance at an unelected second chamber (a Yes vote would lead to a wholly elected national parliament for Scotland, with no equivalent to the House of Lords), it trumps support for a written constitution and reform of the royal prerogative (only on offer with a Yes vote). Almost every constitutional reform that Lib Dem activists have pounded the streets to evangelise for over the last few decades is on the ballot paper this September - and their leadership is telling them to turn it all down. Forever.
There's an opinion poll out from Opinium today suggesting that the Lib Dems will take just 5% of the vote in the European elections on Thursday. That would probably be just about enough to ensure that they win no seats at all across the UK, and move them closer to the fringe status throughout this island that they've already been reduced to at Holyrood (Willie Rennie leads a parliamentary group that is smaller than the Scottish Socialist Party had in 2003). Unfortunately, their relative strength at Westminster means that they won't become an out-and-out fringe party this side of the referendum, but anything that moves the morale-sapping voices of these phony "radicals" further to the margins can only be a good thing.
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For what it's worth (not very much), here is the result of Opinium's small and unweighted Scottish subsample in the European election poll -
Liberal Democrats 3%
In terms of seats, that would work out as three for the SNP, two for Labour and one for UKIP. Under this rather improbable scenario, the best hope of stopping UKIP would be to vote Tory - which hopefully illustrates further why attempts at "tactical voting" under a pure list PR system are soul-destroying and counter-productive.