It would be interesting to know whether it's now the editorial policy of Bella Caledonia to promote the bogus idea that "tactical voting on the list" is feasible, or whether it's just coincidence that they've published two articles in recent days making the same case. The first was a RISE press release (I'm not being snide - it really was a RISE press release), and the second was a piece by Craig Paterson. I've already given my opinion on the nonsense in the RISE release, which was brazenly entitled "TNS poll shows SNP 2nd votes wasted", even though that poll actually shows the SNP are on course to take no fewer than six list seats, and RISE are on course to take a big fat zero. (TNS found that just two respondents out of 1034 were planning to vote SSP on the list. It's quite possible that RISE will find it even harder to attract support than the SSP on their own, who at least have a long-established brand identity.)
The Craig Paterson article covers ground that we've gone over a million times before on this blog, but in case anyone is new to the arguments, I'll just respond quickly -
"Some SNP members/supporters have accused the other pro independence parties of splitting the vote: I think this is unfair and highly damaging to the movement as a whole."
'Vote-splitting' is probably not the most helpful term in the context of the list vote, because it implies that there can be only one winner and that any splitting of a potential winner's vote is harmful under all circumstances. That's not the case, but it's undoubtedly true that splitting the vote in a particular way can be extremely harmful on the list. The example I've offered many times is the North-east region in 2011, where there was considerable anecdotal evidence (not least in the comments section of this blog) that SNP supporters and even members voted "tactically" for the Greens in the mistaken belief that it was impossible for the SNP to win a list seat, because they were set to win too many constituencies. In the event, the SNP took one list seat in spite of winning every single constituency in the region, and the Greens fell short of taking a seat. But the SNP only barely claimed the list seat, so it's just as well for the pro-independence movement that the wholly counter-productive attempts at "tactical voting" were not more widespread. If just 2000 more SNP voters had switched "tactically" to the Greens, and 600 more had switched to the SSP, the final list seat in the North-east would have been taken by the Conservatives rather than the SNP, and the pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament would have been cut from 72-57 to 71-58.
"Lets look at it another way, why have the SNP not offered to stand aside on the list for the other pro indy parties? As we all know this would clear the way for a huge pro indy majority at Holyrood."
The second sentence is almost the only thing Craig says in his whole article that is actually true. The SNP standing aside on the list and making a recommendation to their supporters would indeed make this "tactical voting" wheeze work - but what Craig doesn't mention is that it's also the ONLY realistic way in which it could ever be made to work, because it's the only way people would be persuaded to switch in sufficiently huge numbers. So why don't the SNP do it? There are many good reasons, but the most important one is that it would be a blatant attempt to cheat the d'Hondt formula, and the Electoral Commission wouldn't let them get away with it. Simple as that.
"What is becoming evident by these polls is that the more constituency seats that the SNP win the less lists seats they will win"
That's just the nature of the Additional Member System, and it applies to every major party - it's got nothing to do with the current polls. What Craig doesn't point out is that polls can be wildly inaccurate (as we discovered yet again in May) and that it's impossible to know exactly how many constituency seats any party will take until AFTER the election is over - by which point it's a bit too late to do anything about your mistaken "tactical" vote on the list.
"Let’s take Glasgow as an example: somewhere we can surely all agree the SNP will clean up and take all nine constituency seats."
What?! With six months still to go? NO WE BLOODY CAN'T. Have we really forgotten how dramatically public opinion changed in the space of just two months in the run-up to the 2011 election?
"This will mean that the SNP’s list vote will be divided by 10 (9 seats + 1). Now I’m not going to go into the detail of who will get how many votes, but what I will say is that an SNP list vote is worth significantly less than a vote for any other party (pro indy or otherwise)."
That is simply untrue. Even if - and it's a huge if - the SNP's list vote ends up being divided by ten, that vote will in all likelihood still be "worth" more than a vote for a party such as RISE that is unlikely to even come close to doing well enough to take one seat. There is one respect in which the list ballot is exactly the same as first-past-the-post - if a party doesn't get enough votes to win a seat, all the votes for it have been totally wasted.
"The myth that by voting for another pro independence party more unionists will get in is just that, a myth, and it needs to be quashed and now."
Good luck to you, Craig, because you can't quash a myth that isn't actually a myth. The aforementioned North-east example from 2011 may be inconvenient to those who want to hoodwink SNP supporters into voting RISE on the list, but it's not going to go away.
"The truth is it’s much more likely that voting SNP on the list will result in more unionist MSPs. Don’t take my word for it, go look at the TNS poll. Labour are still picking up 33 list seats out of 56, even with the SNP taking more than 50% of the list vote they only get 6 list seats."
It's difficult to know whether to laugh or cry when people say things like. Yes, the TNS poll shows the SNP on track to pick up "only" six list seats. It also shows the Greens on track to take just three, the SSP/RISE on track to take ZERO, and Solidarity on track to take ZERO. In other words, the TNS poll shows the SNP taking TWICE as many list seats as all other pro-independence parties combined. In exactly what way are we expected to believe that the poll is "proof" that a vote for the SNP is wasted? This is just silly beyond words.
"This question of tactical voting also works both ways: by asking the pro indy movement to use both votes for the SNP as it’s the best way to gain independence and keep the unionists out, you are advocating a tactic that is an insurance policy for the SNP getting a majority government..."
An interesting and important tacit acknowledgement that "tactical voting" puts the SNP majority at risk.
"...but is also a guarantee that the Scottish Parliament will look similar to how it is now...Scottish politics, despite the referendum, will not look much different from how it did after the 2011 Scottish elections."
Do you know what? I would settle for that. In fact I would bite your hand off. The 2011 result was nothing short of a miracle, and it's got us to where we are now. Winning an SNP majority, or even a pro-independence majority of any sort, is murderously difficult under the current system. What on Earth are we doing playing silly buggers and putting that at risk? The chances of "tactical voting" working in the way that Craig seems to think it could (ie. "nearly 100" pro-independence MSPs) are fantastically small, and the chances of it backfiring are significantly larger. But even if the monumental risk did pay off, what would it even achieve? What could we actually do with 100 pro-independence MSPs that we couldn't do with 70? Can anyone explain that to me?
"And if you are worried about the SNP winning a majority through the constituency seats alone, you really shouldn’t be – find me 9 seats that the SNP aren’t going to win on the constituency. It’s possible to point to 3 or 4 that could be tricky..."
"Aren't going to win" is the wrong test - "might not win" is the correct one. Here's a suggestion, Craig - how about starting with the TWENTY-ONE constituency seats that the SNP do not currently hold, in spite of their landslide victory in 2011?
"We only have to look across to Catalonia or even Portugal to see what can be achieved when our parliaments have a multitude of progressive parties to vote for."
I'm struggling to understand what that even means. Catalonia has exactly what we have - a parliament with a modest pro-independence majority. The news seems to have gone quiet in Portugal, but as far as I can see the President still hasn't allowed the left-wing coalition to take power, in spite of the centre-right government losing a vote of confidence last week. Why? Because the left-wing vote was split three ways, and the President can use the excuse that the socialists aren't the largest single party. Fortunately, the First Minister of Scotland is elected not appointed, but it's very hard to see how Portugal of all countries can be used as an example that "vote-splitting" isn't a problem.