There's a new article at Bella Caledonia by Jonathon Shafi of RISE, which is - at least in part - yet another attempt to bang the drum for the bogus idea that "tactical voting on the list" is viable.
"The SNP’s electoral supremacy is so complete that all recent polls show a consistent pattern: the party can almost certainly win the Scottish election on the constituency seats alone."
That strikes me as a very slippery choice of words. Most people would concede on the basis of the current polling evidence that it is possible the SNP may win at least 65 out of the 73 constituency seats, which is what they would need to do to retain their outright majority in the unlikely event that their supporters are foolish enough to abandon them in large numbers on the list ballot. So yes, the SNP "can" do that, but what do the words "almost certainly" add? It's hard not to conclude that Jonathon is trying to convey the impression that the SNP "will" almost certainly win on constituency seats alone, but without making that claim directly. He's wise to avoid such an enormous hostage to fortune, because the most recent Ipsos-Mori and YouGov polls have the SNP on 50% and 51% of the constituency vote. That means if they slip only a few percentage points over the next five months (or indeed if the polls are overstating their support slightly), they will require a large number of list seats to win an overall majority - just as they did in 2011.
"Once we embrace this fact, the Scottish elections could suddenly become very interesting. For independence supporters, voting SNP twice becomes counter-productive to maximising independence MSPs."
When RISE issued their notorious "tactical voting" press release the other week, they prayed in aid a TNS poll that showed the SNP were on course to win "only" six list seats. Simple question : how is it counter-productive to prefer to hold onto those six pro-independence seats, rather than wasting list votes on a party that at the moment has almost literally zero support in the polls, and no credible prospect of taking any seats at all?
I was contacted by a reader a couple of hours ago, who asked this -
"How reasonable are [Jonathon Shafi's] claims?
I know you have written about this more than once, but the myths in this narrative refuse to die. Why?
Jonathon makes a broader appeal to support RISE as part of a new opposition to the SNP, one that replaces Labour and is independence-minded. This, for many independence-minded progressives, has great appeal and is, I suspect, one reason why the myths refuse to die.
Many of us would like to see Labour replaced by a progressive independence-favouring opposition that will hold the SNP to account.
To kill these myths, that if I understand you properly are more likely to undermine rather than enhance the chances of independence-minded parties being in a majority, it may be worthwhile exploring what the realistic possibility of a pro-independence opposition is and, critically, how it might realistically come about.
My guess is that Jonathon forgets there remains significant support for Unionist parties in Scotland and that, whilst we might applaud his ambition, his prescription is flawed."
The last sentence gets to the nub of it. Unionism has roughly 50% support in Scotland. For as long as that is the case, it's almost inevitable that the main opposition to the SNP will be a unionist party - and in spite of the current horror show, it's highly likely to be Labour. Jonathon Shafi is of course implying that it's possible to exploit a "bug" in the electoral system and get an overwhelmingly pro-independence parliament without actually doing the hard work of increasing support for independence. For reasons we've discussed many times on this blog, that's either a delusion or a con.
I'm trying to imagine what a viable pro-independence opposition to the SNP would look like, and I struggle to see it looking much like RISE or even the Greens. Where there is considerable scope for growth in support for independence is on the centre-right, so in theory there's a gap in the market for a popular pro-independence party with a very different outlook to the SNP - but I don't think that's the kind of alternative opposition that the "tactical voting" brigade are looking for.
There's also a very small chance that Labour might eventually attempt to triangulate themselves out of the pickle they're in by embracing independence, in which case we might end up with a pro-independence opposition automatically, as long as the die-hard "cultural" Labour voters keep the faith. Highly unlikely, I admit, but still more likely than Colin Fox as Leader of the Opposition.