Adam Ramsay is someone I respect a great deal, and for that reason it's incredibly disappointing to see him accuse people on Twitter of living in "fantasy land" and "denying basic maths" for pointing out that tactical voting on the regional list is not a viable option. This is absolutely Orwellian stuff from him - black is white, war is peace. I'll just take a selection of his tweets on the subject and try to explain why they don't make sense...
"if you only care about maximising the number of SNP seats, vote SNP twice...if you care about maximising the number of pro-Indy MSPs, vote SNP/Green...in what plausible scenario is that not true?"
"NE list in 2011 is a case in point. Took 140,000 votes to elect 1 SNP MSP...if they'd votes Green or SSP, it's have delivered 5 MSPs."
The NE list in 2011 is of course the outstanding real world example of why tactical voting on the list doesn't work. We know that some SNP supporters and members voted "tactically" for the Greens in the North-East, wrongly assuming that the SNP had no chance whatever of winning a list seat in the region. As it turned out, the SNP did win a list seat (in spite of winning every constituency) and the Greens didn't, meaning that every single one of those "tactical" votes was wasted. Worse still, the strategy ran a significant risk of backfiring catastrophically - if 2000 more SNP voters in the North-East had switched "tactically" to the Greens, and 600 more had switched to the SSP, the final seat on the list would have gone to the Tories rather than the SNP. This isn't simply a question of tribalistic fretting about the SNP's position - it would have reduced the overall number of pro-independence MSPs by one, and increased the overall number of anti-independence MSPs by one, thus driving a coach and horses through what is supposed to be the whole purpose of this "tactical voting" wheeze.
Of course, Adam's response would be that he's not talking about a mere 2600 extra "tactical" votes, but tens of thousands. Let me just gently say that I'm not sure that someone who thinks it's possible to flick a switch and get that number of people to do exactly what you want is in any position to accuse others of living in "fantasy land". If an attempt at tactical voting is made, it will be on a small scale - but potentially just enough to do real damage to the independence cause. The worst case scenario is that it will directly bring about an anti-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament.
"But it's simple. If the SNP get 7 constituencies...then an SNP vote on the list is worth 1/7 of an @scotgp vote"
That's technically true, but irrelevant. There's an even simpler and more basic factor that trumps all of these elaborate calculations - namely that nobody knows how many constituency seats the SNP will win until after the votes are counted. The snag is that we're being invited to cast this "tactical" vote before the votes are counted, at a point when nobody has a scooby. Do you think you can rely on the polls to tell you what's going to happen? We've just been through a general election in which the exit poll and the YouGov on-the-day poll couldn't agree on whether the Liberal Democrats were going to win 10 constituencies or 31 (they got 8), or whether the SNP were going to win 58 constituencies or 48 (they got 56). And that was the degree of uncertainty AFTER the polls had closed! What chance has anyone got of a detailed level of foreknowledge about constituency results at a much earlier stage?
It's worth heeding something that John Curtice said a few weeks ago. He revealed that he always ditches all of his preconceptions on election day when preparing the exit poll, because he knows from past experience that there is a significant chance of a big surprise. Never has that proven to be more true than this year.
"some oppose tactical voting, others are ok with it. All this chat does is ensure that...those who want to vote tactically at least do it in an informed way."
No. Some claim that tactical voting on the list is a viable option, others point out that it isn't. Those who want to vote tactically can't do so in an informed way, because it isn't possible to vote tactically on the list at all. Those who are informed on the subject will not be attempting to vote tactically, because they know there are no realistic circumstances in which it will not run a dreadful risk of backfiring.
"you do know that an SNP list vote is very unlikely to elect an SNP MSP?"
That's an assertion, not a fact (and certainly not a "mathematical" fact, as the SNP's list seat in the North-East helpfully demonstrates). An equally plausible assertion is that a Green list vote is very unlikely to elect a Green MSP in some regions, because the Greens may well not reach the threshold required to win a single seat. If they fall below that threshold, all of the stuff about Green votes counting five, six, or seven times as much as SNP votes is rendered utterly meaningless.
We know from both 2007 and 2011 that there is a past history of opinion polls significantly overestimating the Greens' strength on the list. It's probably not a coincidence that the only Holyrood election in which the Greens did make a breakthrough in terms of seats was also the only one in which the SNP's leader did not look like a credible First Minister in waiting. They certainly can't rely on that factor this time.
But as I say, my suspicion that the Greens may not do as well as they expect next year is just that - a suspicion. It's not an established fact. That's the whole point about this debate - those of us who say that tactical voting can't work do so because we acknowledge that there are a whole range of things that are fundamentally unknowable. It's Adam who has to pretend that he knows everything for a fact, because otherwise the whole tactical voting conceit crumbles to dust.
"voting SNP on principle is fair enough, but understand it means...more unionist MSPs in total."
It's difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at this point, but instead let's turn Adam's statement on its head. Voting Green on principle is not only fair enough, it's a good thing. As I and so many others have said a billion times : If you're a Green member, vote Green on the list. If you're a Green supporter, vote Green on the list. If you like Green policies more than SNP policies, vote Green on the list. But if you actually prefer the SNP to the Greens, and are only voting Green on the list because someone has fed you a cock-and-bull story about how "the mathematics" will supposedly maximise the number of pro-independence MSPs, something is going very, very seriously wrong.