Sunday, June 7, 2015

The latest from the Cult of "Tactical Voting on the List"

You might remember that Hamish Allan was one of two Facebook users who successfully demanded that a post be edited to remove commentary which dared to dissent from the gospel of "tactical voting on the list". He actually turned up here eventually, and I had a long exchange with him, but it's probably gone largely unnoticed because it was on an old thread (in fact two old threads). Given that this is a person who presented himself as an authority on why the views I have been putting forward on the subject are not merely open to question, but are actually provably, factually wrong, I was absolutely flabbergasted to discover just how weak his own counter-arguments were. By the end, I realised that he didn't even seem to understand how basic arithmetic works. It's pretty frightening that such a person successfully managed to shout down dissenters on the Facebook thread, and seemingly convinced a decent number of people that his "tactical voting" theory was perfectly sound.

1) First of all he argued that it was unreasonable for me to make the point that achieving a sufficiently large tactical switch to the Greens was unrealistic, given that one of my own assumptions was also "completely unrealistic" - namely that it was possible that six constituency seats predicted to be won by the SNP could instead flip to Labour, thereby meaning that the SNP would suddenly desperately need votes on the list that had "tactically" switched to the Greens. But anyone who thinks that's unrealistic simply doesn't understand the nature of winner-takes-all constituency elections. The scenario I painted was very specific - in all six seats, the SNP were predicted to lead Labour by 4% or less. That means all of those seats were on a knife-edge, and could easily be won by either party. There is absolutely no inhibiting factor that would prevent all six being won by Labour - it would simply require the prediction to be slightly out (due to polling inaccuracy of the sort we saw last month), or for there to be a small late swing.

2) He then argued that there is no constituency seat at all in Scotland that is too close to call - ie. his tactical voting strategy rests on the expectation of the SNP capturing every single Labour constituency seat. In a spectacularly ill-judged attempt to prove he was serious about this, he offered me an even money bet that Labour would win any constituency of my choice. Those of you who understand betting odds will already be rolling about on the floor laughing at this point - because what he was effectively saying is that he thinks there's at least a 50/50 chance that Labour will lose any seat I care to mention. Wow. That's his notion of "certainty", and that's the basis on which we are being invited to gamble on his "strategy".

3) When I pointed out to him that "too close to call" has a rather broader meaning than "a 50/50 chance", and that American TV networks would never "call" an election until they had more than 99% certainty of the outcome, he reacted with utter incredulity. Was I really saying that if one presidential candidate had an 89% probability of winning, the networks would still describe that as too close to call? Yes, of course that's what I was saying. An 11% chance that the other guy will win is extremely significant. Put it this way - if I could demonstrate to you that there is an 11% chance that your house will be flattened tomorrow by a hurricane, would you be concerned or unconcerned? Yeah, exactly.

This is where the tactical voting theory falls apart. It rests to a very large extent on an assumption of the SNP winning every single constituency seat in an electoral region, which means - just for starters - that you need to have advance knowledge of the result in eight, nine or ten completely separate elections. It really isn't good enough for someone like Hamish Allan to casually tell you that there is only an 11% risk of the SNP failing to take this seat or that seat - because if that's the average risk in each of nine seats, the cumulative risk that the SNP will fail to take at least one is much higher.

4) Here we come to the bit where I realised that Hamish doesn't understand basic arithmetic. Because I'd pointed out that he couldn't demonstrate 99% certainty that Labour would fail to win each individual seat, he apparently thought that was tantamount to me saying that I was 99% certain that Labour would take at least one seat, and challenged me to give him odds of 99-1 against that failing to happen. He would put down a £10 stake, and I would give him £1000 if he won. That's the rough equivalent of telling me that because I think there's at least a 1% chance of the Greens winning Glasgow Kelvin, I must be saying there's a 99% chance of the Greens winning at least one constituency seat in Scotland.

I actually asked him whether he was on drugs at that point. I really don't want to spend the next eleven months having a never-ending, soul-destroying argument with this sort of innumerate idiocy, but it's difficult to move on for as long as people like Hamish are still peddling it, and are attempting to shout down anyone who dissents. I couldn't help but be amused by the glorious irony of the most recent public post on Hamish's Facebook page -

"I do not wish to live in a world in which people have a right not to have their ideas challenged."

Quite so.


  1. You don't like people disagreeing with you though, do you?

    1. On the contrary, if nobody ever disagreed with me, I'd have run out of things to write about long ago. When was the last time I deleted one of your comments, Mr Bravely Anonymous Troll?

    2. Wasn't James who was happily censoring, deleting comments and squashing all dissent, was it chum?

      That would be the actions these few fringe loons while they were engaged in their 'risk the list' Pouter level stupidity.

    3. The problem I have James is one of the planks of your argument is that no tactical voting scheme can work without a campaign to persuade people to back it. Which is what Hamish Allan is trying to do. You cannot have it both ways, saying it must have X then decrying X when it happens. So his arguments are pants, except he is trying to actually do something you say is necessary.

      Back in NZ where the system tallies the list votes nationally, not regionally tactical voting works because people know in advance which parties will ally with which in the House and which are swingers. So for eg voting Green on the list there is not a vote against Labour winning, especially since Green relies much more on the list than Labour do. It does not always work of course as recent National election wins have shown, except it does because they too have needed partners. People were not persuaded by Labour so they did not get elected. Much like the GE here.

      Also we know tactical voting works, it's how the Greens we have in the parliament get elected, it was how Margo got elected. You are arguing against manifest facts like those. By using in your own words, highly specific scenarios. Which are only arguments in your highly specific scenario, they are not and cannot be generally applied, as you should know. By resorting to them you have already conceded the general argument. Suck it up.

    4. Oh for goodness sake...

      The place you vote tactically is in the constituency vote. That's the nasty FPTP bit, where tactical voting actually has a chance of working.

      The list vote is the *important* one, where you vote for the party you want to have a majority.

      If you want the Greens to have a majority, then you vote Green on the list, if you want the SNP to have a majority then you vote SNP on the list. If you wanted to make sure Margo was elected, then you voted Margo on the list.

      On the constituency vote you might decide that the person you want elected doesn't have a chance, so you vote for your second choice, same as Westminster elections. But the list vote is a proper proportional one, so vote for who you *really* *really* want in power.

      It's not complicated.

      If you want people to vote Green on the list, then convince them that they want the Greens in power, don't lie to them about the list vote being less important. The list vote is the one with actual power. The constituency one is the one Labour put in to confuse everyone.

      Why is this even a conversation?

    5. Succinct and accurate, Illy.

    6. "The problem I have James is one of the planks of your argument is that no tactical voting scheme can work without a campaign to persuade people to back it."

      When have I ever said anything of the sort? I've repeatedly pointed out that the only chance of sufficiently enormous and disciplined tactical voting would be if the SNP explicitly endorsed it - and that would be outright cheating of the AMS system, and would be blocked by the Electoral Commission.

      "Which are only arguments in your highly specific scenario"

      Rubbish. I was simply pointing out that the objections that were made to one specific scenario were ill-founded precisely because they didn't take into account how specific it was. But I've made much general points than that - I gave you the real-world example of 2011 where most "tactical voting" was wasted and risked backfiring, and you didn't seem any less grumpy about that one.

      For all your claims of superior knowledge, the basic principle of mixed-member proportional in New Zealand is much the same as AMS here, so you're not going to pull the wool over our eyes with gibberish about the Greens getting elected in New Zealand because of "tactical voting". Nice try, though.

    7. The SNP, as far as I can see, is becoming genuinely concerned this ploy might achieve just enough traction to cost the party much-needed list seats. I was talking to a campaign manager this afternoon, and he expressed some worry.

      Not only is the SNP not going to endorse this, it is going to do everything it possibly can to scupper it. The party has achieved the success it has achieved precisely because it managed to get over the message that an SNP vote on the list was essential. It's not going to change that now.

      Bear in mind that in 1999 Labour won 56 constituencies, but only three list seats leaving the party well short of a majority. In contrast in 2011 while the SNP only won 53 constituencies, its 16 list seats took it into landslide territory.

    8. Look at it this way. The suggested ploy "works" only within a very specific and very narrow band of voter support, within a particular region. The level at which support is high enough to win all the FPTP seats, but not high enough to qualify for an additional list seat. In this situation, and only this one, SNP list votes would be "wasted".

      Higher support, such as the 52% achieved in the North East in 2011, carries with it an additional list seat. As James has neatly pointed out, the "tactical voting" being suggested, if it had been done in that region in 2011, would in fact have handed the last list seat to the Tories rather than the SNP. Good thinking, chaps!

      Lower support, so that one or two FPTP seats are narrowly lost, would normally be compensated for by additional list seats, if the party's list share of the vote held up. However, if SNP voters have rashly thrown these votes away in the mistaken assumption that the constituency seats were in the bag, the compensatory list seats will not appear, probably destroying the party's chance of retaining its overall majority. And again, there's no guarantee either the Greens or the SSP would be the beneficiaries, even if that's where the votes went.

      The ploy only works if SNP support is within this pretty narrow band, which is impossible to predict in advance. Outside that band, in either direction, the party suffers. Which may be fine if you're a Green party member who wants to get more seats without campaigning for them, but it's not so fine to try to hoodwink SNP supporters into believing this is a risk-free stratagem because SNP list votes are by definition "wasted".

      Or think about it another way. There are 73 constituency seats in Holyrood, and 56 list seats, making 129 in total. The bare minimum for a wafer-thin overall majority is 65 seats. This proposal would have the effect of limiting the SNP to competing only for the 73 FPTP seats. The party only won 53 of these in 2011, on 45% of the vote. It would have to win nearly all of them, on a significantly higher share of electoral support (>50%) just to stay level with the 2011 result. Lose say eight out of the 73 constituencies, and with no list seats, bye-bye majority.

      Great for the Greens. The SNP now needs a coalition partner. Meet Patrick Harvie, your new DFM. No wonder the Green party is so keen on this.

      Remind me again why SNP supporters are supposed to think it's a good idea?

  2. I suggest that anyone interested in this reads the actual exchange here.

    1. Good idea - there were one or two gems from you that I forgot to include.

      And let's not forget this exchange -

      Oliver Rattray : Please edit the original post because it is misleading - it's simply false. I'll show you if you want what I mean...Scot goes pop is talking utter nonsense.

      Admin : Thanks point taken, Nigel's advice taken from Scotpop has been removed

      Oliver Rattray : Nice 1 sorry if it seems I was going on but given the campaign to maximise pro-indy votes alluded to in the times has only just began and this was potentially damaging. Cheers!

      Hamish Allan : please remove Nigel Mace's synopsis from the blurb to this link. It is completely mistaken, as pointed out by several commentators here.

      Admin : Done

      Hamish Allan : Thanks guys, much appreciated.

    2. And the discussion about that exchange is here.

    3. Great stuff, Hamish, I certainly wouldn't want anyone to miss you resting your entire defence on hair-splitting use of the word "original".

    4. Ooft! Hamish, pwned.

      With the actual real-life example of Mark McDonald in front of us, who only just pipped the Tory to the last seat in the North East because there was so little vote-switching in that region in 2011, it beggars belief that people are still pushing this nonsense.

  3. FWIW, in the thread about the substantive issue, James has now provided the numbers I requested, and I have conceded the point. However, I would still like to defend myself from his character assassination here.

    To take your points in turn, James:

    1) What you actually said was:

    "It's not only realistic, there's a very significant risk of it happening in the scenario I put forward - if six seats are too close to call, Labour plainly have a good chance of winning all or most of them if the prediction is just slightly out."

    Assuming that those six seats are genuinely 50-50 (which is generous to Labour), Labour has a 1 in 64 chance of winning them all. You are describing the 1.6% chance of Labour taking them all as a "significant risk", seemingly on the basis that if the prediction is slightly out, it will be in Labour's favour. (Admittedly that is "significant" with a 99% confidence interval, but like I say, 50-50 is pretty generous to Labour.)

    2) A bookie doesn't offer odds that are equally favourable to each party: she stacks the odds in her own favour. Similarly, I'm not "effectively saying" what you claim.

    3) See here. (TL;DR: statistically speaking, 89%/11% is not "too close to call"; neither is 80%/20%, although 70%/30% is.)

    4) Again, you misattribute my reasoning and attack a straw man. I was basing my statement on your proclivity to avoid any risk greater than 1%. Given that you had dismissed the likelihood of an SNP clean sweep out of hand, I figured you presumably felt at least that strongly about it.

    1. "Assuming that those six seats are genuinely 50-50 (which is generous to Labour), Labour has a 1 in 64 chance of winning them all."

      I can only assume that you're not even taking into account the possibility of late swing, which has a very significant chance of being in a uniform direction (albeit not necessarily of a uniform scale) across six different constituencies. That's not a risk that can be put into percentage terms. You seem to be trying to measure probabilities on the assumptions that a) public opinion is fixed and unmoving, and b) the data you have is relatively accurate.

      "3) See here. (TL;DR: statistically speaking, 89%/11% is not "too close to call"; neither is 80%/20%, although 70%/30% is.)"

      As far as I can see you're confusing two entirely different concepts. The article you linked to is about what constitutes a statistical tie in an opinion poll, which is a wholly separate issue. I can only reiterate to you what I said before - if a TV network estimated from the early results that there was an 80% chance of Hillary Clinton taking New Hampshire, would they call the race for Clinton, or would they say it was too close to call and wait for more information? They would, of course, do the latter. 80% is not certainty - it's not even close.

      "2) A bookie doesn't offer odds that are equally favourable to each party: she stacks the odds in her own favour. Similarly, I'm not "effectively saying" what you claim."

      As you were proposing a bet without a middle-man, I naturally didn't realise that you were planning to take a bookie's cut. How bizarre.

    2. I can only assume that you're not even taking into account the possibility of late swing, which has a very significant chance of being in a uniform direction (albeit not necessarily of a uniform scale) across six different constituencies. That's not a risk that can be put into percentage terms. You seem to be trying to measure probabilities on the assumptions that a) public opinion is fixed and unmoving, and b) the data you have is relatively accurate.

      Bookies offer odds on the outcomes of political races. They do so even though late swings can occur, by calculating odds on a snapshot of the current situation. In other words, those risks can be put into percentage terms. As I've said elsewhere in our discussion, I'm not basing this on the assumption that public opinion is fixed and unmoving: it seems likely to me that Labour's troubles will actually deepen.

      You, however, appear to be trying to measure probabilities on the assumption of Murphy's Law. Fine, you're deeply conservative. But at least acknowledge this.

      As you were proposing a bet without a middle-man, I naturally didn't realise that you were planning to take a bookie's cut. How bizarre.

      If you assume that people aren't trying to stack the odds against you when they make bets with you, I suggest you avoid taking bets.

      I can only reiterate to you what I said before - if a TV network estimated from the early results that there was an 80% chance of Hillary Clinton taking New Hampshire, would they call the race for Clinton, or would they say it was too close to call and wait for more information? They would, of course, do the latter. 80% is not certainty - it's not even close.

      Here is another article I found which puts this specifically into the context of an American election. From that article:

      "Generally speaking, national polls use sample sizes of about 1,100, which translates to an MOE of 3%.

      If you look at the table, this means that if one candidate is 5% ahead in the polls, this indicates with 95% certainty that the candidate is *actually* ahead (rather than the 5% resulting from sampling error).

      In other words, even a 55/45 split in a properly-conducted national poll is, with 95% confidence, not actually "too close to call".

      I learned something from our discussions, James, by remaining open-minded enough to admit when I was wrong. Are you capable of doing the same?

    3. "You, however, appear to be trying to measure probabilities on the assumption of Murphy's Law."

      Not at all. Will you please stop putting words in my mouth? It was, I'm afraid, extremely easy to demonstrate that the 1 in 64 statistic was garbage without invoking Murphy's Law.

      "If you assume that people aren't trying to stack the odds against you when they make bets with you, I suggest you avoid taking bets."

      If you don't want people to point out what your bet offers imply in statistical terms, I'd suggest you stop making bet offers.

      "If you look at the table, this means that if one candidate is 5% ahead in the polls, this indicates with 95% certainty that the candidate is *actually* ahead (rather than the 5% resulting from sampling error)."

      Hamish, seriously, I know all this. I've discussed the issue of statistical ties in opinion polls a number of times on this blog, and have made exactly the point you have just made. What I don't understand is the relevance of this to the completely unrelated subject we have been discussing. If you've got an explanation, let's hear it. On past form, I won't be holding my breath.

  4. Goodness.
    If there was a 0.0001 percent chance of Hurricane Kelly showing up in my neighbourhood, I'd be going for a wee holiday to another continent....
    Nice to observe the flattened, chastened remains of Mr out-of-his-depth facebook censor, chuckle

  5. Settle down guys, this is getting silly. James your blog is excellent and worth reading but this issue is important and worth debating.

    We now have accurate voting figures for the May 2015 General Election and we can map them on to the Holyrood electoral system to see what might happen in 2016. Then we can argue about how the 2016 figures may differ, but at least let's use the current figures.

    Entering the 2015 Highland Westminster constituency figures into a spreadsheet for the 2016 Holyrood vote, the SNP gains between 6 and 8 seats out of 8, depending on how you think Orkney and Shetland will go after Carmichael.

    Then we took three different scenarios as to how people would vote in the second (list) vote. The first assumed that the second vote was for the same party as the first vote, i.e. SNP/SNP and so on, which James seems to want us to do.

    The second assumed that a third of SNP voters vote Green for the second vote, and the third assumed all the SNP voters voted Green for the second vote.

    In both the second and third scenarios the SNP lost between 1 and 2 seats compared to the first scenario, and the Greens gained between 2 and 5 seats.

    Thus a second vote for the Greens reduces the SNP MSP total slightly but increases the pro independence MSP total quite bit. I suspect this is likely to be true all over Scotland but have not crunched the numbers.

    How you feel about this depends on your politics but I think it is pretty obvious that the SNP is going to do very well indeed next year and what we need as well as a strong SNP is a pro indy opposition who can scrutinise the SNP in a constructive way.

    Looking at the other parties, Labour is in a deep hole and still digging. The LibDems are in a bad place not helped by Carmichael's antics and the Tories will be even less popular when the really deep cuts bite. Only UKIP are looking as though they might make gains.

    We need to look forward and think what the new Scotland should look like, because the old parties are history.

    1. I don't think it is obvious that the SNP will do very well let alone sweep the board in the constituencies, those votes and seats will have to be won in the face of the most bitter opposition from the unionists who have been backed into a corner and must realise that they are fighting in the last chance saloon (if you'll pardon the mixed metaphors). The appearance, rightly or wrongly, of sharing out the prizes before they have been won won't help in this regard.

      Even if I did believe that the SGP or SSP consider independence as high a priority as the SNP I cannot fathom how it is possible to consider an SNP minority/coalition preferable to an SNP majority when dealing with the Westminster parliament.

      Without the kind of mass campaign that would result in either the SGP and SSP folding their tents and merging (officially or otherwise) or all and sundry calling the result illegitimate or both I just can't see individual voters acting like numbers on a spreadsheet.

      Unfortunately far too many people don't seem to understand how AMS actually works. I'd be prepared to reluctantly consider an SGP vote in my constituency if the SNP candidate was an out and out numpty and the SGP had a good candidate but never ever on the list vote because that the really important one.

      In that context I don't believe it is reasonable to risk splitting the vote.
      The time for sharing out the votes is after Independence Day and not before.

    2. That's merging with the SNP which for the record I don't think would be a good idea for anyone.

    3. @Andrew
      What is missing from your point and it is something Topher misses too is the increased turnout in the GE as a result of the referendum. This is in many cases what got the SNP over the line in many close contests. Many of the extra people had never voted in a GE before and they were not young people, they were the marginalised and apathetic that we woke up and energised in the referendum campaign. Many are not hard and fast SNP voters, many are Socialists, many generally radical and looking. Remember the Greens have dramatically increased their membership too.

      Topher is correct in identifying that the Greens (and SSP) have more to gain than the SNP has to lose on the list which is an Achilles heel of James's arguments. If you add in the extra electors who provide the power, potentially, to drive this then as Topher points out it is entirely possible. Is it probable? James will tell you know but he only has assumptions and suppositions to base that on.

    4. NOBODY has anything more than assumptions and suppositions. Most of all the tactical voting advicates.

      In a best-case scenario, with a fair wind and all the percentages faling out favourably, then indeed it can be made to appear that the SNP only suffers trivial damage, and the Green and/or SSP gains are significant. But that's full of assumptions and suppositions, all of them extremely optimistic.

      The result of that could be a continuation of the SNP majority government, just without as strong a majority as they would otherwise have had, and a return to minor party representation perhaps on a par with the 2003 parliament. Fine.

      The problem is that one has to accept (except the Hamishes and Muscleguys and so on of this world don't) that this is in fact a best-case, super-optimistic scenario. Other possibilities include the SNP losing its overall majority and needing the support of the minor parties to continue in government. First, that will be portrayed in the press as a body-blow for the SNP and the independence movement. Second, it may well result in a weak government in domestic terms, with wrangling and disagreement about important matters. Third, like many others, I don't want to see Sturgeon having to get agreement from other parties if we come to the point where swift and decisive movement towards another referendum looks prudent.

      Finally, although at the moment it looks relatively unlikely, it's possible a split vote might damage the SNP and allow unionist MSPs to come in through the middle in numbers great enough to threaten the SNP's ability to form a government. A unionist coalition might learn the lessons of 2007 and steamroller their way into power.

      Anything that weakens the SNP is a potential damger to independence, and there is absolutely no guarantee that the damage to the SNP caused by this ploy will be trivial.

    5. "We now have accurate voting figures for the May 2015 General Election and we can map them on to the Holyrood electoral system to see what might happen in 2016. Then we can argue about how the 2016 figures may differ, but at least let's use the current figures."

      Why would we do that? Was the 2010 general election any sort of guide to Holyrood 2011? Was Holyrood 2011 any sort of guide to the 2012 local elections, or to the 2014 European elections, or to the 2015 general election for that matter? One thing we can be fairly sure of (admittedly not absolutely certain) is that next year's result is not going to look just like this year's

    6. What Rolfe said +1

      @muscleguysblog you say that James only has assumptions and suppositions to base things on but the same is true of your claims? As for the big increase in turnout I can't remember where it was and I'm not going looking for it at this time of night but I read an analysis of the voting patterns in all three constitutional referenda that concluded that a very large portion of the increase in turnout was due to "moderate unionists" who had abstained in the two devolution referenda but who voted no in the independence referendum. Obviously unlikely to be the same individuals over that timescale but the theory put forward was that the electoral grouping had endured.

  6. Am in the Highlands and Islands region where, I presume, Lib Dems have a good chance of taking Orkney and/or Shetland. So I'm starting to think SNP will need that list vote. Obviously I'd love SNP to take both N Isles seats but can't rely on it.

    1. Surely in large part it depends on the Carmichael affair and how that pans out. If he is still clinging on and the situation has not been resolved with at least a by-election by next May then all bets are off in those constituencies I would say. Carmichael came within a whisker of losing last month which strongly suggests that the days of the liberal stronghold there are wavering at best and on a shoogly peg otherwise. The court case, the police investigation and the Standards commissioner are all going to drag his character and performance into the spotlight.

  7. In Germany they use the d-Hondt AM system for some elections.

    Discussing this with a German friend some time ago I recall his saying that in Germany the list vote is regarded as the most important as basically this decides the proportion of members elected. I guess whether the list or constituency vote is considered the most important can depend on history; in the UK we are influenced by centuries of FPTP; in some countries in Europe (all) list systems have been the norm

  8. Reading Topher's post, I think the issue is expecting 1/3 of SNP voters to switch. Whilst political anoraks may be crunching numbers and considering switching , the vast majority of people won't. Expecting a 1/3 to switch is way too high, I think. Crunch those numbers again with a more realistic 5% switching.

    1. It depends on turnout, doesn't it. If the new voters from the referendum turn out then all bets as to their behaviour on the list are off. Especially since they seem refractory to polling for various well known reasons.

    2. The SNP has spent the past 15 years single-mindedly banging the message into voters' heads that they should vote SNP on both the constituency and the list. That was what allowed the tiny majority to occur in 2007, and what delivered the overall majority in 2011.

      The same tactic is required to repeat the performance in 2015, and the very idea that the strategy should be reversed is quite frightening. Time enough to be magnanimous to small parties that can't get their own acts together sufficiently to secure more than a couple of MSPs, after we have independence. Blinking now is NOT a good idea.

    3. "Crunch those numbers again with a more realistic 5% switching."

      Absolutely - or even less.

    4. Unfortunately James, having been a regular reader and appreciative of your take on the numbers, I now find myself thoroughly p****ed off with the fact that you are playing the numerical pedant! I'm not going to try and get the better of your lecturing tone but please remember not all your readers are tribal SNP even if you are. Many of are looking at the SNP as a stepping stone to something better and further left. Sharing my vote with green on the list will not be voting labour by the back door. The fact that you even imply that nonsense is to sell out on the yes movement and true democratic principles....
      So watch your tone eh!

    5. "Sharing" your list vote is not doing anything of the sort.

      It's simply a fact that the list vote is the more important one. If you feel that the Greens are the party you want in government, then by all means vote for them on the list, and vote tactically (probably for the SNP) in your constituency.

      Just don't kid yourself about what you're doing.

    6. Will you lot stop "quoting" back, presuming you know what we are doing and we don't. It's getting very f***ing tiresome.

      Nobody is kidding here!

    7. CJK : No, I'm not going to watch my tone. What was said about me on that Facebook page was bang out of order, and I'm not going to apologise to anyone for setting the record straight. And if you take nothing else away from this discussion, I'd suggest you should take away the fact that this issue is about arithmetic and how electoral systems work - it has got nothing whatever to do with SNP "tribalism".

      "Sharing my vote with green on the list will not be voting labour by the back door."

      I entirely agree with what Illy has said - I've no idea what "sharing your vote" is even supposed to mean.

    8. Oh here we go with the deliberate don't understand line, .... sharing, using, allocating, placing one vote with one party on constituency another on the list etc... You know it's not all about arithmetic, it's actually politics. But hey ho I'll refrain from now on and treat this sites information a little more cautiously in future. Shame about that eh!

    9. Of course it's about politics. The politics of a majority SNP government versus a Green-SNP coalition (or an SNP minority government propped up by a confidence-and-supply agreement with the Greens).

      Voting SNP/SNP is a vote for the former. Voting SNP/Green is a vote for the latter. It's as simple as that when you boil it down. In this context a couple of extra "pro-independence" MSPs in a coalition isn't going to change the arithmetic of Holyrood much anyway. Do you want an SNP majority government or do you want them in a minority propped up by the Greens?

      It's easy to see why Green party supporters favour the latter scenario. It's much less easy to see why SNP supporters should favour it. Trying to hoodwink SNP supporters into casting their votes for that outcome, by lying to them about their list votes being "wasted", is dishonest, dishonourable and deceptive.

    10. "But hey ho I'll refrain from now on and treat this sites information a little more cautiously in future. Shame about that eh!"

      You must do whatever makes you feel happiest, old chap. But what you're not going to do is browbeat me into only saying the things you want to hear. Sorry about that.

      "You know it's not all about arithmetic, it's actually politics"

      Er, no, I don't know any such thing. It's about arithmetic. That's why I said it was about arithmetic.

  9. The trouble goes right back to the first election in 1999 when labour and their quisling friends in the media managed to convince people that they had 2 votes instead of just 1 vote that you cast twice.

    They did this in the sure and certain knowledge that they would win most of the constituencies and be the largest party while handicapping the vile SNP. Look at how many people switched votes form The SNP to the Greens or SSP and how many seats it cost. Not by accident but by design. Which is why we had to have Alex Salmond for First Minister SNP on the ballot paper to remind people exactly what they were voting for. Without the massive list vote in 2007 there would have been a labour executive and we'd all be tugging our forelocks to FM McConnell.

    Anybody who votes differently on the list to the constituency is a moron who should be disenfranchised. Or outed as a unionist shill.

    1. I have always cast my 2 votes differently & will do so again next year& if that makes me a moron so be it.. If things remain as they are, I shall vote SNP & Green. not because I wish to tactically increase the Indy vote but because I want an effective opposition and I think Holyrood will be a better place with some Green MSP's.

      Of course, if the polls change, I might alter my view but as things stand, its hard to imagine the SNP not winning enough constituency seats to ensure a majority without needing any list seats.

    2. That's not wholly fair. The smaller parties don't stand in every constituency; some of them don't stand in the constituencies at all. Obviously their supporters will vote for them on the list, but if there's no constituency candidate they'll have to vote for someone else in the constituency.

      Indeed, as most candidates from the smaller parties have no realistic chance in the constituency vote, it's perfectly reasonable for their supporters to consider a tactical constituency vote for a candidate with a chance of winning, even where there is a (say) Green candidate.

      Finally, what about Margo? She only stood on the list and she was elected three times. Should people not have voted for her?

      I agree that voting the same way twice is normally the sensible thing to do. I'll be voting SNP twice, and most people will hopefully do the same. That doesn't mean there's never a situation where a split vote is perfectly rational.

    3. You know, if that's right that Labour deliberately encouraged vote-switching to damage the SNP, believing that it wouldn't damage them, it certainly came round and bit them on the backside.

      First, I think it's likely that vote-switching actually did deprive Labour of list seats in the elections where they ended up forming the government. They only got three in 1999, in total. There vote seems to have dropped by 5 to 6 percentage points in the list in most elections, and for sure that damaged them even when they were winning most of the constituencies.

      It absolutely destroyed them in 2011. Again their list vote was down over 5 percentage points from the constituency vote, and for sure that lost them list seats. Of course they didn't expect to lose so many constituencies, did they? A warning there somewhere.

      In 1999 Labour got 56 constituencies and only 3 list seats, leading to a coalition with the LibDems. In 2011 the SNP only got 53 constituencies, but then got 16 more list seats, leading to the majority government.

      It's true the SNP had a higher overall vote share than Labour did in 1999, but the point still stands. In particular, that the SNP only won 53 constituency seats when it was polling 45% of the vote. 45% is a fantastic score, and anyone who is certain it will be a lot more than that next year is doing too much crystal ball gazing.

  10. Do all these pieces of analysis take into account the "Vote Sturgeon for First Minister" on the list campaign? Surely if her popularity is as it is now, that a campaign like that would be mighty powerful? Faced with the alternatives, who'd be most likely to be chosen?

  11. In the recent General Election there was a lot of tactical voting....... to elect an SNP MP. Votes came from all parties. Check the change in vote share percentages from 2010.

    1. Changes from 2011 May be more relevant.

      Best course of action if independence is desired outcome IMHO.
      1) vote SNP at every opportunity until independence achieved
      2) after independence achieved spread the votes from left to right for balanced and inclusive decision making

    2. I am more inclined to match up with the 2010 vote due to the much higher turnout. I suspect a lot of people who voted Labour in 2010 sat out the Holyrood election.

  12. If you come here and read this blog then you are interested in on or both of two things. Either Scottish Independance or Eurovision.

    For me personally, its independance. I am attracted to other points of political view other than what the SNP offers, leaving aside Independance but until thats achieved thats completely on the back burner for me. As it happens, I could see myself perhaps voting Green in a future independent Scottish general election.

    Until I am walking into that future polling booth then I will vote SNP one hundred percent. Independance is the prize.

    The thought of of some hairbrained tactical voting scheme allowing some form of Labour minority coalition fronted by a First Minister Kezia Dugdale, Ken Macintosh or whoever fills me with absolute horror. Beholden and subservient to London masters that would probably place Independance beyond the reach of my lifetime. I am now in my mid fifties and have been pro Independance all my life. I can smell it now...

    If your conscience dictates to you that you should vote Green or otherwise than SNP then do so but I am not going along with gambling on Independance with any kind of tactical voting scheme dreamed up and put forward as some kind of "you owe us" argument.

    I dont want an SNP one part state as the MSM ridiculously postulate as already in place. Thats just stupid. Of course I want a credible opposition and in an independent Scotland some other political view than theirs might prevail and thats fine.

    James is absolutely and consistently correct on tactical voting.

    Until the prize is in our grasp its SNP on each and every ballot paper. As My golfing buddy says when you are standing over that 6 foot putt that makes or breaks it. How much do you want it.

    1. Couldn't agree more, Michael.

      One thing that chills me more than a little. Everyone is concentrating on the SNP's record of 45% in 2011 and 50% in 2015. Looks good. But bear in mind the party only achieved 29% in 2014. And that was at a Euro-election which have traditionally been good for the SNP.

      You can come out with all sorts of excuses for that, including the one where a significant proportion of SNP supporters were persuaded to vote Green tactically in a (failed) attempt to gift the third seat to the Greens, but the point is that voters are a fickle bunch. Basing an entire strategy on the hope that nothing will happen to put them off the SNP in the coming 11 months is somewhat naive.

  13. "The scenario I painted was very specific"
    Very specific and very contrived. We'll know closer to the day what the polls are saying about the constituency seats but I highly doubt many will be that close.
    Even if Labour do win all the constituencies in a region and a large number of SNP supporters vote Green,(your nightmare scenario) then there will still be a large number of pro-indy(Green or SNP) MSPs winning on the list. We can't know for sure in advance whether Green list votes or SNP list votes will be more effective, but if the SNP are polling high on the constituency vote then it would be fair to assume that Green List votes are a better choice.

    1. If the SNP are polling well in the constituency vote but still actually lose all the constituencies, then in what possible way would a switch to Green on the list vote conceivably be a good idea?

    2. If the SNP lose all constiotuencies then it is too late to change your list vote. We can't know the result before it is announced.
      Even in that situation, voting Green could still result in Green MSPs winning list seats which could increase the total number of pro-indy MSPs.

      We simply can't know for sure in advance whether voting Green or SNP will deliver more pro-indy MSPs, or whether voting for one will cost the other seats. But if the SNP are polling ahed in the constituencies, then voting Green on the list is *more likely*(but not a certainty) to result in a higher number of pro-indy MSPs.
      There is a risk of both options backfiring.

    3. Any "backfiring" with an SNP list vote will be slight, because by definition the SNP will have won a large number of constituency seats. The potential for a split vote to let the unionist parties in, if the SNP loses constituencies, is serious. There is no possible way the Greens are going to come through and form a government purely on list seats if Labour win a significant number of constituencies. In that case, the SNP absolutely needs the list seats to augment the constituencies it has won, to continue in government.

    4. "Any "backfiring" with an SNP list vote will be slight, because by definition the SNP will have won a large number of constituency seats"
      In that situation, the SNP list votes will have either been wasted or inefficient, resulting in fewer pro-Indy MSPs than if they went to the Greens.
      The idea that SNP list votes will be more effective than Green ones is predicated entirely on the highly unlikely situation where the SNP fail to win a large number of constituencies.
      Things could change between now and May, but as it stands it's fair to assume that the SNP will win a large number constituencies and that they will be the largest party overall.

    5. It was, I'm afraid, extremely easy to demonstrate that the 1 in 64 statistic was garbage without invoking Murphy's Law.

      I still don't see where you did that.

      If you've got an explanation, let's hear it.

      It's my misunderstanding.

      On past form, I won't be holding my breath.

      Although you've been entirely dismissive of me throughout this discussion, I have in fact been conducting it in good faith.

    6. Oh for goodness sake.



      How much clearer can I make that?

      The *ONLY* place that tactical voting has is in the constituency vote, where you actually have a chance of correctly guessing what a tactical vote will achieve. (Normally, that your second or third choice gets elected, because you don't believe that your first choice will)

      The list vote is a proper proportional system, so vote with your heart there. Doing anything else is insanity, due to lack of information.

      If you want people to vote Green on the list, convince them that they want the Greens to be in government. Don't lie to them about the way the system is set up.

    7. "The list vote is a proper proportional system, so vote with your heart there."
      The list vote isn't totally proportional as it takes the number of constituencies won into account when allocating additional seats.
      "Doing anything else is insanity, due to lack of information."
      If the polls are showing a large SNP lead in the constituencies then that information would suggest that a Green list vote would be more likely to deliver a higher number of pro-indy MSPs than an SNP one.

      If you want to maximise the number of SNP MSPs then voting SNP twice IS the best option.
      If you want to maximise the total number of pro-indy MSPs(SNP&Green) then voting Green on the list will probably be the best option in most regions.

    8. I think it has been explained clearly and in numerous different ways, how this view is badly misguided and indeed carries with it the potential to destroy everything the independence campaign has achieved so far.

      I don't really feel like doing it all again. Not tonight, anyway.

    9. OK, I'll give it a quick shot. "If you want to maximise the number of pro-independence MSPs..." There is a basic fallacy there, and that is the assumption that any MSP from a nominally pro-independence party carries equal weight in the campaign for independence. This is not the case.

      We aren't talking about a binary-choice referendum any more, we're in a party political system. The different parties have different priorities and political aims, or they wouldn't be different. In this case the SNP's primary political aim is independence. In contrast the Green party's support for independence is conditional, and subject to revision by its conference. Its leader supports independence, but in a relatively luke-warm manner. It's not something he wants with his heart and soul. Others who are high up in the party are confessed unionists.

      The Greens and the SNP aren't going to form a homogeneous pro-indy mass after the election. Nicola Sturgeon wants and needs SNP MSPs to continue her programme of government and independence campaign. Green MSPs belong to a different party.

      Voting a straight SNP ticket is a vote for a majority SNP government. That's what we need to continue the independence momentum. A split vote is in effect a vote to reduce the number of SNP MSPs, quite probably to fewer than the number needed for an overall majority. Hence, the probable effect will be to produce a Green-SNP coalition with Swinney displaced as DFM by Patrick Harvie.

      In what possible space-time continuum is a Green-SNP coalition government better for the independence campaign and the achievement of a second referendum, than a majority SNP government with an SNP DFM (presumably still Swinney) and everyone pulling in the same direction?

    10. The vast majority of Green members have joined post referendum, and it seems fair to assume that most of them were Yes voters. Most of their leading candidates on the list were also very active in the referendum campaign. The likes of John Finnie(former SNP), Maggie Chapman, Zara Kitson...

      I also disagree that a SNP/Green coalition is a likely outcome, I think a minority government would be more likely than a coalition. To get a majority without winning any list seats(they'll probably pick up a few anyway) the SNP would have to win all but eight constituencies. It's a tall order but doable.(Does anybody know what the 2015 result would have been under Holyrood boundaries?)

    11. An SNP minority government is as you say another possibility, if the SNP is restrited to constituency seats only and fails to win 65 of them. What a blow for the party of independence, to lose its overall majority and be forced back to being a minority government. The unionists will be celebrating if that happens, for sure.

      Such a government would require support from other parties, and if the Greens had even a handful of seats their support would be pretty crucial. So not a coalition, but still requiring to be propped up by the Greens, probably with a confidence and supply agreement as in 2007. A very similar scenario in broad terms.

      I did get the impression though that Patrick Harvie was gearing up to enter a coalition in 2011 if the votes had worked out the way the polls suggested and given a potential Green-SNP coalition an overall majority. He was being spoken of as a possible/probable Deputy First Minister. I think he was disappointed that that didn't transpire and I think he may be trying to engineer a return of the opportunity in 2016.

      I agree it's reassuring that the big increase in Green membership has come from independence supporters. It struck me quite forcefully at the time that this was an excellent insurance policy against the party deciding not to go on backing independence. The fact remains though that it's a conditional support, not part of the DNA of the party.

      The basic arithmetic is inescapable, however. If the SNP is polling high enough for it to be highly likely that they'll win all the constituencies in a region, inevitably they'll be in with a shout for an additional list seat. If the poll isn't high enough to be confident of a clean sweep of the constituencies, then giving away list votes becomes even less sensible, because these are the very votes that will compensate for the potentially lost constituency.

  14. If Labour win all the constituencies in a region, we are complehensively and totally fucked. We have lost, and lost badly, and will have to go away and lick our wounds and think about independence some time after 2050.

    Giving away SNP list votes will only turn a disaster into annihilation.

  15. Thanks for all the comments. Green supporters need to vote tactically in the first vote because the SGP don't field constituency candidates, and I'd guess most will vote SNP. I too want independence very badly and have done for years. A Holyrood where all MSP's but a handful support independence would be a good prize, and I think by the time the election comes we will all have a good idea from the polls about our constituency SNP's candidate's chances. The point I was making was that unless the SNP makes a big blunder between now and then, voting Green in the second vote will be better rewarded in numbers of pro independence MSP's than voting SNP. I'm certainly not a moron or a unionist shill, Anonymous, and why don't you post under your real name?

    1. I think you're badly misled, though. If independence is what you want, above all else, voting nothing but SNP until that is achieved is undoubtedly the safe and the rational way to go.

      Voting Green on the list WILL damage the SNP. The damage may be trivial, but it may be critical, you simply can't tell in advance.

      You also have to bear in mind that the support of the Green party for independence is conditional. It was originally agreed only to run until the referendum, and then it was to be re-evaluated in the event of a No vote. The party is still in favour, but this demonstrates that this is a conditional position and it can be reversed. While many ordinary members are extremely pro independence, this is not the case with the party leadership. Robin Harper is a unionist, and Patrick Harvie is a lukewarm and conditional independence supporter. He doesn't want it "very badly" and has said so.

      While I'm all in favour of a good Green performance in 2016, that's predicated on the party getting its increased support from Labour, LibDem and Tory voters who may not be hardcore unionists but who wouldn't vote SNP, and from people who have not voted in previous elections. The current machinations to gain support at the expense of the SNP are dishonourable, and potentially extremely damaging to the independence cause.

  16. While I disagree with some of your points on tactical voting, the “counterpoints” that guy raises hurt my brain. Ouch. -_-

  17. To be frank, I'd been an advocate of the "vote for the government and the opposition" school of thought, but it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how the list vote is calculated (I mixed up the calculation methodologies). Having read James' and others' comments with curiosity, I can't help but reconsider my own vote with the new understanding of how it works.

    What to do? Well, there's only really one way to both keep the SNP strong while also boosting the SSP, Greens and pro-indy alliances: keep chipping away at the Unionist vote. The vast majority of the 50% who didn't vote SNP are Labour (24.3%) and Conservative (14.92%) with Lib Dems still hanging on (7.5%). The Greens, SSP and others combined only amounts to 1.65%.

    This tells me that we're whittling down close to the Labour/Tory/Lib Dem core, those who will not vote for any other party under any circumstances. Nonetheless, if there are still Lib/Lab/Cons who would countenance voting SNP, surely they would've done that by now? If there are any switherers left in their ranks, then it's doubtful they'll go for the SNP at this stage.

    This is where the Greens and SSP come in: to get voters who can't find it in themselves to vote for Lib/Lab/Con, but still refuse to vote SNP. I can see a few Labs going to SSP and Lib/Cons going Green.

    Whatever the case, first priority is independence. I soured a bit on the Greens after the Euro and Dumfries elections, and we saw what happened last time another red party came in to split the left in Holyrood. As such, SNP all the way for me, though if I encounter people who will never vote SNP, I'll happily recommend they read up on the Greens and SSP.

    1. Taranaich, knowing you to be an intelligent and thoughtful guy, I'm pleased to hear that you've thought this through. Of course the Greens should be building their support, but trying to increase their vote by bamboozling SNP supporters with a pack of lies about an SNP list vote being "wasted" is not the way to do it.

      I was on extremely good terms with the Green party members who campaigned with us in 2014. I said I could never imagine real enmity between us after all that, even if we did have some political differences. However, standing a candidate as a spoiler to split the anti-Mundell vote, and this resulting in that candidate getting more votes than Mundell's winning margin, did quite a bit to destroy my warm fuzzy feelings.

      This current ploy to make Patrick Harvie DFM, not by honest campaigning and winning votes on the basis of attractive policies, but by basically tricking SNP supporters into giving away their list vote, is continuing that process.

    2. Hi Taranaich and Rolfe,

      I've kept off this thread because my argument for 'Voting SNP on the Constituency vote for the Government, and Green on the List vote for the Opposition' is not about trying to get SNP voters in particular to vote Green it was about getting Greens to vote SNP and vice versa, and included the 2015 GE where I was appreciating just how many Greens were voting SNP.

      Many many ex-Labour have joined the Greens, and I agree that we are a good place for such folk to go to (esp those who can't stomach the SNP any more than long standing SNPers can stomach Labour) but I am really really surprised by the way folk here are letting themselves be divided against each other by the process of thinking this through.

      So a few suggestions:

      - OF COURSE if all you are concerned about is independence then vote and campaign SNP, but there are plenty of SNPers and other Indy supporters who are also concerned about other issues, and for many of us that means balancing where we vote to try to secure the best of a range of outcomes.

      - Rolfe, suggesting that the Green party stood "a candidate as a spoiler to split the anti-Mundell vote" is just ridiculous - I'm sure you were just not thinking when you wrote that. And in all this talk of how we (the movement) would have beaten Mundell if we Greens hadn't been standing (harumpf! WHO decided against a Yes Alliance?!) the point is missed that thousands upon thousands of Green votes voted SNP all over the country and helped deliver the 56 out of 59 result.

      - As for the Greens position on independence, it may suit the rallying of Yes voters to back only the SNP to suggest we are lukewarm but the vast majority of members are passionate about it, and I'd suggest you listen to this interview with Patrick Harvie from last week and then tell me we are not passionate about it:

      I am almost completely persuaded by these threads and by James really odd tone (accusations of being a 'Cult' is a weird one to hurl at your fellow Indy supporters) to move on from seeing Greens preferring to vote SNP on the Constituency vote as a sane move. I find it a real shame that people are choosing to insult each other and read the worst possible interpretation into other's motivations, rather than differ on tactics/ strategy but remain firmly in support of the movement as a whole. I'm still open to persuasion that we shold consider the movement as a whole (partly as a way of ensuring there is a broad enough movement for independence, which to be big enough has to encompass those for whom independence is a means to a better society, who don't really care about it as an end in itself) but this all seems too much like an echo of Better Together's smearing and fear-mongering, and really if that's where we as a movement have headed, that direction is not for me.

    3. I'm sorry you find the truth insulting. I know perfectly well that a substantial number of Green supporters voted SNP in DC&T in the hope of ousting Mundell. A good number of them are my friends. (I also know Labour voters who did the same, come to that.) We can't know that all 800-odd people who voted Green would have voted SNP in the absence of that candidate, so it's academic in that respect. The point is that the decision of the Green party to stand in that particular seat and to campaign for votes demonstrates a lack of commitment to the independence cause.

      I know very well that the Green party members who were active in the Yes campaign are very committed to independence. Again, a lot of them are my friends, and I know they voted SNP. It is from talking to these friends that I realise how conditional the Green PARTY support for independence actually is. They themselves expressed concerns, with one of two saying they would move to the SNP if the Green party decided not to back independence after the referendum. Obviously that hasn't happened, but the fact that it was seen as a possibility is quite revealing. Patrick Harvie himself has indicated that it's not something he feels particularly passionate about, and Robin Harper is still a prominent Green party member is he not?

      As I pointed out below, the proposed Yes Alliance in the form you're referring to was nothing more than a proposal that the SNP should throw away 2 or 3 winnable seats to let the Greens and the SSP have an utterly futile crack at them. Why would that help the independence campaign, and why would the SNP conceivably go along with the idea?

      This latest ploy is again a slightly more subtle attempt to garner more power for the Green party at the expense of damaging the SNP. It's being done by lying to SNP supporters that their list votes are "wasted". Basically, it's a ploy to lose the SNP its overall majority and install the Green party as a coalition partner.

      If you think that's smearing and fear-mongering, I'm sorry but you need to take your head out of your rear end and have a look at the real world.

    4. It all boils down to this- Cui bono?

      The SNP? No. Neutral at best, but much more likely harmful.

      The wider Yes movement? Maybe. Slightly.

      The Green Party? Yes, most definitely.

      If I thought that this was genuinely going to really help the wider Yes movement and bring independence closer, and was likely to work, I'd be all for it. But it's not, and it's not, so I'm not.

  18. To me this whole argument highlights something I've been thinking about for a while, namely that the AMS system is really not up to the job. Yes it (roughly) delivers proportionality, and as such is leaps and bounds ahead of FPTP, but the devil is in the detail. By essentially splitting the vote into two elections - FPTP and a "top-up", all kinds of problems are created. In the constituency vote there's the issue of only having the "usual suspects" standing, owing to the cost of a deposit and the fact that these seats are almost totally unwinnable from a "minor party" standpoint.

    But fear not! For the list vote compensates for this disenfranchisement of minor parties. Or does it? First there's the issue of a list deposit, which (and correct me if I'm wrong here) buys you a whole field of candidates for the cost of just one on the list vote. This opens up the contention that list MSPs are less legitimate than their constituency counterparts (an unfair accusation IMO, but nonetheless it's been an issue from day one). Secondly, if a list MSP resigns or passes away no by-election is required, merely a simple re-selection from the relevant party's list. Is this truly fair? Thirdly we have the issue that disadvantages list MSPs, namely the geographical and population area they have to cover, which may be tenfold or greater than a constituency MP. Granted they can share the burden with their other list colleagues, but that only properly works if there's an even spread of party representation on each list, something which by the nature of politics can't happen, e.g. if a regional list contains five Labour MSPs but just one Green MSP it's easy to see who's got the tougher workload.

    Overall I feel it creates a two-tier system of MSPs, for the reasons above and others, and I really think we should be looking towards a multi-member constituency STV system, similar to that we have at local gov level, and indeed which is the norm in many western democracies.

    1. The more I see of the d'Hondt system the better I like it, to be honest. It has a number of unique advantages not found in other systems. It's only apparently creaking at the seams because of an attempt to subvert it in a way it was not intended to be subverted. In a way, frankly, that 's dishonest in multiple respects.

      I find STV much more problematic. One problem is the decision as to how many candidates to stand. Stand two, and both may lose out by splitting each other's votes. Stand only one, and you may find you've lost out because you actually had enough support to have won two places. This happened to the SNP in 2012.

      Another problem is by-elections, which are in effect held under AV. If the sitting member for the 3rd-placed party dies or resigns, the party loses the seat, because it can't move into first place under AV.

      d'Hondt is great, if voters simply vote straightforwardly. Which includes voting tactically in the constituencies if they like. Ill-advised campaigns to subvert the system on a mass scale are pretty much off the radar, and should stay there. The system is sound if the campaigns are even remotely honest.

  19. O/T

    Looks like Farron is sure thing after continuity Clegg and his ostrich faction have thrown their lot in for Lamb.

    Not that it will make any difference in scotland of course with the smearing liar Carmichael taking Clegg's place as the most visible and toxic reminder of unprincipled yellow tory duplicity and dirty tricks.

  20. I wonder if the Greens are targeting the right people here. Perhaps it is Labour and Lib Dem list voters who should be being encouraged to switch. The message would be simple - an encouragement to vote for the only credible opposition to the SNP. Lets face it that should resonate with the electorate, as Patrick Harvie is generally seen as one of the most sensible political operators in Scotland, and the leaders of Labour and the Lib Dems as the opposite.

    1. I think I agree with you there.

      Either that or the "Vote Green on the list" people aren't actually Greens, and are just stirring trouble for some reason...

    2. I think I'm agreeing with both Craig P and Illy here

    3. I think they're Greens all right, but Greens who would rather have more Green MSPs even if this damages the SNP sufficiently to destroy the momentum of the independence campaign.

      If it works out the way they want it to work out, by far the most probable outcome would be that the SNP would win insufficient FPTP seats to retain its overall majority, and would miss out on the list seats that delivered that majority last time. Then, so the projection goes, the Greens now have enough seats to form a coalition government with the SNP, giving them power way beyond their essential single-figure electoral support.

      Now they can "hold the SNP to account" by sticking their oar in whenever possible. That's the stated aim, after all. The SNP is too powerful, and needs an opposition. It's not possible that the Greens could become the actual opposition, by becoming the second-largest party. Not with say 6% electoral support to Labour's 25%. They could easily become a thorn in the SNP's side as a coalition partner though, and that's the intent.

      They might as well call their list vote "Patrick Harvie for Deputy First Minister" and be honest about it.

      If these were ordinary times, I wouldn't necessarily be too worried about all that. But these are not ordinary times. The SNP is acutely aware that any unforeseen event might tip the independence polls to a decent Yes majority. If that happens, the ability of the SNP government in Holyrood to act fast and use every possible political trick in the book to deliver indyref2 will be vital.

      The very last thing we as independence supporters need at that point is a coalition partner with only a conditional commitment to independence, and a DFM who has made it quite clear that he's not all that bothered about it.

  21. James, which Facebook group is the tactical voting misinformation being disseminated through?

  22. I've been following these posts about tactical voting on the list with interest and must thank all concerned for giving me a much better understanding of the system, how it works, and therefore how I should cast my vote.

    Furthermore, they have brought a few things to my attention and led me to draw a number of conclusions, namely-

    1. James is essentially right. Whilst there may be circumstances under which it's possible to increase the 'pro-independence' representation, there are too many risks& drawbacks to make this a sensible thing to do.

    2. This tactic seems to be primarily a case of Green supporters trying to increase the Green vote (and therefore representation) by underhand means, dressing it up as advancing independence, when in reality it is really only advancing their own agenda.

    3. The Greens have no grand strategy to advance independence, or indeed any real interest in it beyond whatever best serves their interests at the moment. Splitting the vote in D, C&T shows this.

    Whilst I have until now been an admirer of Patrick Harvey and have been quite supportive of a lot of Green policies, I don't appreciate having the wool pulled over my eyes. Greens, you just lost yourself a prospective future voter.

    I shall most certainly be voting SNP/SNP in 2016 (and beyond).

    1. That's fine Wee Jock Elliot, But don't tar everyone with the same brush.

      1 and 2. It's fine to take the cautious approach but please don't accuse someone like me who's suggested we take a more ambitious approach as only proposing this for party advantage. Read my posts on Bella and you can see I've always prioritised the movement above any party.

      3. If the SNP leadership hadn't wanted to split the anti-Mundell vote they would have agreed to a Yes Alliance where the SNP stood in almost every seat, and the Greens and SSP in 2 or 3 out of the 59 and we could have collectively won 59. To refuse an Alliance and then accuse the Greens of "splitting the vote in D, C&T" is trying to have your cake and eat it.

      I am not/ have not been trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. Feel free to vote however you wish but do so on the basis of facts not on the basis of painting one party as the only possessor of the truth and another as only out ofr itself!

    2. That was never a practical proposition. The SNP was in contention in all 59 seats, as is shown by the actual results. The Greens and the SSP were never in contention in any of the seats, and to imagine they were, seriously, is to delude yourself.

      In essence, this proposition asked the SNP to stand aside and not stand candidates in 2 or 3 seats which were entirely winnable for them, in the wholly unreasonable expectation that the would-be SNP voters there would dutifully vote Green or SSP. That was never a realistic possibility. It would merely have gifted these seats to a unionist party.

      The SNP has had a policy of standing in every Scottish constituency for many decades. Exactly why would it have given that up in 2015, of all years? Which seats might have been won by the Greens or the SSP which the SNP itself was unlikely to win? Orkney and Shetland? Morningside? DC&T? Do you really think that if the SNP hadn't stood in DC&T, the Greens would have won it?

      This is the sort of pie-in-the-sky thinking that dooms parties and campaigns to eternal irrelevance. You can't just parcel out people's votes on an industrial scale like that.

      Equally, we can't know that the 800-odd people who voted Green in DC&T would have voted SNP if the Green candidate hadn't been there. All we know is that by fielding that candidate the Green party demonstrated its lack of serious commitment to the independence process. We can decide for ourselves what we think of that.

    3. Rolfe, You're (intentionally?!) not understanding what I am saying.

      I am talking about the perfectly sound suggestion (proposed by James K and many others) that we voted as Yes Alliance not as SNP, Green or SSP in GE2015.

      Are you telling James, and the many other SNP/ SGP/SSP members who advocated that, that theirs was "pie-in-the-sky thinking"? If so, fine. But if not, then please stop trying to say how terrible other people are for having other strategies. How about if I quoted back at you your statement above: "I'm sorry but you need to take your head out of your rear end and have a look at the real world" - is that really the way to talk to someone who is on your side? Or are we to shrink our side down to the pin head of those who only agree on everything with us, is everyone else to be accused of being part of some 'cult'?

      You may be right in terms of 2016 or you may be wrong, it may have been better the SNP standing as a party rather than standing as part of a Yes Alliance in 2015, but let's try and deliberately understand other points of view from within the Movement, rather than fall into the famous vice of the left which is to spend so much time disagreeing with each other that we miss every collective opportunity in the book.

      To say a Yes Alliance "was never a realistic possibility" is to completely misunderstand the nature of this movement: We have been making reality not bowing meekly before our masters who dictate what is and isn't realistic. I've given my reasons elsewhere for why I think Yes can't win with SNP votes alone, and why it needs to continue a movement that is so much more than the SNP, so much more than simply independence, and that should include how we approach the 2016 elections. But if this blog is anything to go by (witness the shift in thinking by really sensible folk like Taranaich), then I think we - as a movement willing to be ambitious enough to make Independence happen - may be in serious trouble. Feel free to have the last word with your next post, if it is in the same righteous vein as your previous ones.

    4. I understand perfectly what you're saying. You seem to be reduced to rejecting my arguments because you don't like my tone, which in itself says a great deal.

      I well remember the initial talk of a Yes Alliance. Like many other people I was in favour in principle, but struggled to see how it could possibly be implemented in practice. At that point I took the view that the politicians might well identify a workable strategy which I couldn't personally conceive of, and if they could do that, then that would be excellent.

      However, that didn't transpire. The initial misgivings of many of us that there was simply no way to accomplish it in the real world where the SNP was in strong contention in 59 seats and the Greens and the SSP were absolutely nowhere turned out to be correct. I'm quite disturbed that there's anyone still clinging to the idea that if only the SNP had simply not stood candidates in a few seats, these seats would have miraculously returned Green or SSP members, and the SNP would have won the rest. Pie in the sky is being too kind.

      If you think Yes can't win on the basis of SNP votes alone, then go get more votes for the other Yes parties. But get them from Labour, the LibDems, the Conservatives and the people who don't habitually vote at all. This concerted and persistent attempt to take votes from the SNP essentially by begging SNP supporters to change their allegiance isn't pretty.

    5. I've not "rejected your arguments", I've said "You may be right"!

      And yes, what I am talking about is "tone", "which" as you say "in itself says a great deal". It says I think that it would be good to remain a united movement rather than to let ourselves be fractured.

    6. If you would like to stay united, then I would recommend you stop trying to trick naïve SNP voters into giving away their votes to benefit your party and damage their own party, by lying to them that these votes are otherwise "wasted".

      I was on extremely good terms with Green party members during the independence campaign. I laughed with them, I sang with them, I leafleted with them, I dreamed with them. Then in the end I cried with them, SNP SSP and Green all in a wee huddle on a single chair in a sports centre in Kelso. I said at the time that no matter our political differences, I couldn't see real enmity ever developing between us after what we'd been through together.

      These individual people have done nothing to make me think any the worse of them. However the antics of other Green party members, people like yourself, peddling contrived and false scenarios and downright lies, all in an effort to trick SNP supporters into voting in such as way as to damage the SNP with only a theoretical chance of benefiting the Greens, is doing a hell of a lot to sour this relationship.

  23. I am undecided as to what to vote in the position is if in my region I think the constituencies are all going snp I will vote green on the list...if I think 2 or more will not go snp then I will vote snp on the list...if I think 1 then I don't know as in that situation it's in the balance..I would like green to clarify their position towards the British parties like Labour...I want them to rule out any support for them. I do think tactical voting is possible but I accept the risks of 1. Identifying when a landslide is a landslide and 2. Convincing the electorate of the tactic. However, this needs weighed against the fact that greens will get 7 or 8% anyway without tactical voting which is close to the worst possible likely yes split...I'll keep an open mind on this and follow the polls with interest..I think that's the best we can all do and hope we can discuss maturely on that basis as it comes about. Jam

    1. What you, personally, do with your list vote is up to you, and if you do it in the full knowledge of what you're doing then fine. Of course there will be people who will prefer the idea of a Green-SNP coalition to an SNP majority government, and they will vote accordingly as you point out.

      Trying to "convince the electorate" to do something counter-intuitive and which may well backfire if your finely-nuanced predictions are up the Swanee is a different matter entirely.

      Trying to secure more seats for the Greens by damaging the SNP, by the underhand ploy of lying to SNP supporters that a list vote for the SNP is inevitably "wasted", is simply dishonest.

  24. Justin, I'm sure your motives are pure, but the whole idea is just starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth. If these votes were coming from Labour, LIb Dem or Tory, then fair enough, but that's not what's being proposed.

    I'd far rather have a parliament which was representative and fair than one which was distorted by such dealings, even if the overall effect was to further the cause, which I rather suspect it would not be anyway.

    If you are talking tactical then it makes much more sense to me for Greens & SSP to vote SNP every time for every election until independence is achieved, then vote for the type of government you want after that.

    1. Fair does.

      However, I'm not talking tactical voting. I'm talking about the Yes movement, and about us voting for a real dynamic dialogue in Parliament.

      I can hear that you don't see it that way, and the proposal to do the work to make that dialogue (between SNP on the one hand and SGP/SSP on the other) leaves a bad taste in your mouth, so I'll not try to persuade you otherwise. Of course, I work to win over Labour and other voters to this movement, and for me the movement is not just about independence form Westminster, but also independence from a system that is destroying peoples lives and the future for us on this planet. Happy to disagree on how we best go about this, and wish you the best of luck with your choices. Cheers

    2. "A real dynamic dialogue" in this case seems to be code for forcing the SNP into coalition with the Greens. I can see why Green supporters like this idea, but I'm struggling to see why SNP supporters should be expected to be happy with it.

  25. I'll just be posting here and there and talking to people about it honestly taking full account of where they live and their likely constituency and list polls...etc...there will be nothing dishonest about it at all so less ae it....cannae be bothered wi pretending the tactic lacks legitimacy even though there are risks as I and others have acknowledged...and I say all this as a member of the snp having joined last century..Jam

    1. If you, as a long-standing SNP member, want to cast your vote in favour of a Green-SNP coalition rather than an SNP majority government, then that's between you and your conscience.

      I hope, if you're talking to other people about it, that you make it clear that is the explicit goal of such a vote, and the outcome that's likely to be achieved if it's adopted by a significant number of people.

  26. I have explicitly explained the scenario in which I would vote green on the list.the scenario is where I weigh up on balance that an snp list voted is a wasted one due to the holyrood electoral system. It's all above and entirely transparent. I sign my posts as jam above so you can find me not too sure about the technology thing on your name but will sort it . If I don't have reasonable confidence that an snp vote on the list is far less productive than a green one then I won't advocate for the conscience thing mine is entirely clear with such a should most yes supporters' be...I am yes first snp 2nd. I am an snp supporter and a fan of many of their representatives.however, maximising yes is more important to me than wasting an snp vote and if i believe that is likely to happen I will act and advise accordingly. Jam

  27. And rolfe the scenario where I would vote green on the list is where I believe an snp vote on the list is likely to return a unionist...the debate should not be about the honesty of the tatactic which is without a doubt beyond reproach but under what conditions and in what regions such a ta tic is viable...hence we need to wait and see with more info. Jam

    1. I can't see us ever having enough information to allow a rational estimation of what any particular individual list vote might do. Of course you can weigh up what you think might happen and "act accordingly", my main concern is with the idea that your guess is reliable enough to be advising others about what they should do.

      I'm still at a loss as to how you consider MSPs representing the Green party to be equally good for the independence campaign as MSPs representing the SNP. Or how you imaging that a Green-SNP coalition might be better for independence than an SNP majority government. While you can't predict the result of any one individual vote, it is clear that a significant tendency for people to vote Green rather than SNP on the list very much predisposes to the former scenario.

      I would take issue with your apparent prioritisation of raw numbers of "pro-independence" MSPs. A working majority is a working majority. Two or three more on top of that doesn't make an enormous amount of difference in practical terms. The big difference is whether the working majority is held by the SNP in its own right, or by a coalition.

      For the sake of argument, supposing a straight SNP ticket on both votes got you a majority SNP government with 72 MSPs, but a split SNP/Green vote got you only 64 SNP MSPs and ten Green MSPs. In the latter case you certainly have more "pro-independence" MSPs, assuming that the Greens do indeed continue to support independence. However, is that all that matters?

      In my view, a majority SNP government is in a far stronger position to advance the independence cause than a coalition, especially one where the SNP has been excoriated in the press for "losing" the election by returning fewer MSPs than in 2011 and losing its majority.

  28. Where did I say I think green is as good as snp? I don't. Indeed I posted earlier I'd like them to rule out a Labour deal. But they're a hell of a lot better than Labour. As for the scenario wait and see polls..if in doubt I'm not advocating a split vote but in some regions other than south Scotland, Edinburgh and highlands and islands(we'll see the Carmichael effect as maybe here is snp too) the conditions may be in place for the landslide not recognise this possibility is disingenuous in the extreme. Jam

    1. In a landslide scenario of these proportions, the SNP would most certainly be in line for a list seat in these regions over and above the constituency seats, just as they achieved in the North East last time. Not recognising THAT possibility is the blinkered part.

      James has already shown what would have happened in the North East if this give-away-your-vote scheme had been picked up on that occasion. The last list seat would have gone to the Conservatives rather than the SNP, even though the switching voters had switched Green or SSP.

      I'm astonished that despite multiple people pointing out the pitfalls at pretty much any level of electoral support you care to imagine, you guys constantly focus only on the scenarios that work out favourably for your scheme. For every one of these (and more) there is an equal and opposite scenario where the SNP loses seats and a unionist party gains.

  29. Rolfe, if snp take 65 plus seats they'll be lucky to get more than 2 on the list...conversely a ta rival vote could easily give 10 plus greens...the sense of scale here is the important works in a landslide scenario....its identification is the important point. Jam

  30. You just don't know. Considering the party got a list SNP in a region where they got all the constituency seats, I think it's far from clear that a total of 65 plus would land no more than a couple of list seats.

    Your plan "works" only in a very narrow range of possible outcomes in each region. It won't even be possible to identify whether we are in that narrow range a week before the vote, let alone now.

    I reiterate. If your priority is a majority SNP government, vote SNP/SNP. If your priority is a Green-SNP coalition (with a possible but not guaranteed chance of more MSPs in total), vote SNP/Green. It's not possible to refine it further than that.

  31. Do you understand the list formula? If so then a low 40s list vote for snp which are central predictions coupled with a landslide snp constituency vote which again are central predictions will produce phuqall snp list seats. This is the motivation to at least consider it. But only if reasonably sure. And we will do so and carry it carefully. Jam

    1. Do you understand what you've just said? You've outlined the consequences of your own proposed course of action.

      If the SNP has a landslide in the constituency vote, it will be because it is polling a hell of a lot higher than low 40s. If most of that transfers to the list, then there will be a list seat as well just as there was in the North East in 2011.

      In 2011 the SNP list vote was only 1.4 percentage points below the constituency vote. In the North East, the list vote was 52.7% for the SNP. That's what delivered Mark McDonald.

      If the SNP is polling in landslide territory in a region next year, and the list vote holds up, it will replicate that and deliver a list seat as well as a clean sweep of the constituencies. On the other hand, if SNP supporters are misguided enough to listen to you, that might be the scenario that causes the drop to the low 40s (from the low to mid 50s) and fail to deliver the list seat.

      There is a pretty narrow range of votes where your scenario might occur. High enough to take every constituency, but not high enough to secure another list seat even if the list vote holds up. I'm utterly struggling to understand how you can possibly predict that's where the vote is heading.

      If the party is doing so well that a clean sweep of constituencies is a racing certainty, it's pretty much a given that it might well succeed in getting another list sear. If it's doing slightly poorer than that, then the clean sweep isn't guaranteed and giving list votes away to other parties is beyond foolhardy.

    2. Question:- Have you read & fully understood Rolfe's post just above this one?

      If No, go back and read it again. Repeat as required.

      If Yes, move along.

  32. Low 40s on list not constituency rolfe do keep line with current central predictions...yep 1 seat in ne in 2011 agreed....just if you do the sums...get loads more voting's narrow minded not to wait and see as we should play the system to out advantage...up to you but select statistics don't cut a landslide snp constituency vote we can gain around 15 yes seats voting tactically...or will you dispute that too? Jam

    1. You can produce contrived scenarios to produce just about any result you choose. It's entirely false however to imagine that with the SNP in landslide territory in the constituencies, it will only be polling low 40s on the list in that region. Landslide territory, that is winning all constituencies in a region, is somewhere north of 50%. If nearly all of that vote transfers to the list, then there will probably be another list seat for the SNP. If it doesn't, if it falls precipitously to the mid to low 40s, there won't. That's what you seem to want.

      Who would get that seat, in that case? Well in 2011, in the North East, the Tories would have got it under the most plausible scenario as outlined above. You want that, too?

      Even if the Greens did manage to capture it, you've swapped one SNP for one Green. Fine if you're a Green supporter, but very dishonest to try to trick SNP supporters into voting that way.

      You're pinning all this on getting a few more Green seats than you're throwing away SNP seats. To what purpose? If the list vote holds up, the SNP will continue in majority government. If it doesn't, it will have to be propped up by the Greens one way or another. The exact total of MSPs is relatively unimportant compared to whether you're looking at a majority government or a coaition.

      You may prefer a Green-SNP coalition with say 75 MSPs in total to an SNP majority government with say 71 MSPs in total. Frankly I wouldn't. I would prefer it if only people who DO prefer the coalition scenario voted for it. All this talk of "more pro-independence MSPs" is nothing more than a smokescreen.

    2. Oh and by the way, your "do keep up" demonstrates conclusively that you're not really understanding this at all.

      The SNP's vote tends historically to fall by less than 2 percentage points between the constituency and the list. Thus, if the party is winning everything in sight in the constituencies, it will be polling >50% there. Under normal circumstances that is NOT compatible with a list vote in the mid to low 40s. That would only happen as a result of massive and contrived vote-switching.

  33. Zzzzz it's not guaranteed at all that if snp clean up on the constituencies that they'll do well on the list....the likeliest scenario is currently a 50% plus constituency potentially taking every seat and a low 40s list taking probably not a single list seat...hence the need for the tactical debate....these are the current polls so who cares aboot your historical pish.Jam