Well, this is a novelty for me - I've had to pre-schedule this post to appear at one minute past midnight, because I received an email containing information that was embargoed until exactly that time. You may remember that way back in January, there was a highly misleading article in the Sunday Herald about a report penned by John Curtice that was supposedly going to appear within the week. It had been commissioned by the Scottish branch of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), so I kept checking their website, but nothing ever appeared. It's finally been published after a mysteriously long delay, and I'm absolutely astonished to say that the accompanying ERS Scotland press release contains a direct fib about its contents. The organisation's summary of Curtice's findings baldly states that "it was not votes on the regional list for other pro-independence parties which cost the SNP a majority". Hilariously, that is directly contradicted only a few paragraphs later in Curtice's own summary, which states that "this [SNP/Green vote-splitting] may have cost the SNP one or two list seats". You probably won't need a calculator to work out that two extra list seats for the SNP would have taken them to a total of 65 - exactly the number required to secure a majority. As Curtice was the guy who actually wrote the report, I think we can safely regard his own summary as being the more authoritative of the two.
ERS Scotland's excuse for this brazen misrepresentation appears to be Curtice's verdict that "the main reason the SNP lost out" was constituency losses - but all he means is that there were fewer SNP list seats squandered as a result of vote-splitting than there were unexpected constituency defeats. That's not the same thing as denying that there might well have been an SNP majority if "tactical voting on the list" had not occurred, and he doesn't deny that - indeed he concedes the point openly on page 44.
"In Table 4.8 we report on how the distribution of list seats would have been different in each region if the SNP had won 2.2% more of the list vote and the Greens 2.2% less. As anticipated the Greens would have won four fewer seats, leaving them on the two seats that they won in 2011. Two of those lost seats would have been claimed by the SNP, but the other two would have been allocated instead to Labour or the Conservatives. Two extra seats would have been just enough to deliver the SNP a majority with 65 seats."
Good luck to anyone who attempts to reconcile that passage with ERS Scotland's characterisation of the report (I'm sure someone, somewhere will valiantly give it a go).
As you know, I'm sick to the back teeth of having to rebut propaganda about "tactical voting on the list" - it really should be the last thing on our minds with an independence referendum potentially coming up long before the next Holyrood election. However, for anyone who wants to read in more detail about the yawning chasm between ERS Scotland's claims and the truth, I would invite you to have another look at the blogpost I wrote at the time of the Sunday Herald article - depressingly, the distortions haven't changed at all since then.
So what are ERS Scotland playing at? In many ways, they're actually pretty open about their agenda - they disapprove of majority government, regardless of the party in power. That's absolutely fine, but it doesn't justify them pulling the wool over the public's eyes about how the electoral system works in an attempt to artificially engineer their own desired outcome. Their actions have been nothing short of cynical.
My own support for proportional representation pre-dates my support for independence by several years, so I'm instinctively very sympathetic towards the Electoral Reform Society, but it's impossible to deny that my respect for them has now been severely undermined. Self-evidently, their reputation as a non-partisan organisation has also been somewhat tarnished. OK, they've only taken an interest in reducing the number of SNP seats because the SNP happen to be the dominant party at a particular moment in time - but it's hard not to take this sort of stunt personally when you're the ones on the receiving end.
* * *
I mulled over the possibility of writing a full response to the Claire Heuchan "racism" article, but on reflection I decided life is too short. As you can imagine, though, I have a lot of fellow feeling towards those who are bewildered to learn that the simple fact of being "white Scots" apparently disqualifies them from expressing any view at all on Sadiq Khan's outrageous assertion that support for Scottish independence is no different from racism. Much the same thing happened to me and a number of others a couple of months ago when we were literally told to "shut up" after daring - as men - to express our own views about the John Mason controversy. It's intriguing how quite a few people found/find themselves on different sides of the two disputes, in spite of the fact that the principle at stake is identical. The following two tweets pretty much sum up everything I want to say.
* * *
If you've enjoyed my writing in recent months and feel a strange inexplicable urge to 'buy me a hot chocolate', bear in mind that my fundraiser from two years ago is still open for additional donations - it can be found HERE.