Thursday, May 6, 2021

Who wants a second chance?

But if you want it, you have to vote for it, and you have to vote for it today.  Tomorrow will be too late.

An SNP vote on the constituency ballot is absolutely essential.  Ignore the siren voices making the logic-defying argument that "strategic" abstentions or votes for unionist candidates can by some convoluted roundabout manner assist the cause.  Only a vote for the SNP can do the job on the constituency ballot, for two reasons.  Due to the repeated recent history of failures by polling companies, you always have to consider the worst-case scenario, and the outlier ComRes poll painted a vivid picture of that yesterday: the SNP falling well short of an overall majority and the pro-independence parties vulnerable to losing their combined majority if there's any more slippage.  By voting against the SNP on the constituency ballot (and that includes votes for the Greens or for Bonnie Prince Bob), you could tip the balance and produce a unionist majority in the next Scottish Parliament.  The second reason is the popular vote: any mandate for independence or for an indyref will be either buttressed or undermined by the strength or weakness of the popular vote mandate - and it's much harder for pro-indy parties to win a majority on the constituency popular vote, simply because the Greens are much weaker on that ballot.  So, again, if you vote for a unionist candidate, you could tip the balance and create a unionist majority on the popular vote - or increase that majority if it's already there.

A vote for the Alba Party on the regional list ballot is equally important - it greatly increases the chances that the SNP will actually use any mandate they win today.  Someone said in the comments section of this blog the other day that the only reason we haven't had a second referendum so far is that Nicola Sturgeon thought we'd lose it, and she was just being sensible about the timing.  I don't think that's true at all.  I think the main reason was her unwillingness to face the UK government down and explore alternative avenues for seeking a mandate if a Section 30 order continued to be refused.  She certainly gave every impression of being deadly serious about calling a referendum when she made that announcement in the spring of 2017.  By all accounts it was quite a shock to SNP strategists when Theresa May came back with the "now is not the time" line - they thought the 2014 precedent guaranteed that a Section 30 order would be granted and that a referendum would go ahead in late 2018 or early 2019.  In other words, we'd have had a referendum by now if the SNP hadn't accepted a "no" from Westminster.  I'm afraid it's entirely possible we'll still be making that observation in 2026 if we don't do something today to change the dynamic.

Whenever I've reported a poll showing Alba on two seats, or three seats, or five seats, or eight seats, there have been snorts of derision from the "both votes SNP" brigade.  "What do you think three Alba MSPs can possibly achieve?" they ask scornfully.  Well, as those people are asking you to vote SNP on the list, and as there were only four SNP list MSPs in the last parliament, and as some polls in this campaign suggest the SNP might only win one or two list seats today, it's reasonable to turn that question on its head.  What is it exactly that you think a handful of SNP list MSPs can achieve that a handful of Alba MSPs can't?  When you look at it that way, it becomes obvious that a small Alba group of MSPs would be much more effective - they'll be independent actors who can pressurise the SNP government.  By contrast, a small number of SNP list MSPs will, in a relative sense, be lobby fodder.  (Although, let's be clear, that would still be infinitely preferable to unionists MSPs - if you can't bring yourself to vote for Alba for whatever reason, for heaven's sake get out there and vote for another pro-indy party.)

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You can catch up with Episode 7 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak with the Alba Party's Chris McEleny, HERE.


  1. Refreshing to see a temperate view of the matter, James.

  2. "She Nicola Sturgeon] also refused to rule out a coalition with the Greens.

    “I am not ruling out anything at the moment,” she said, before clarifying that this did not apply to the Tories and Alex Salmond’s Alba."

    Daily Record

    There you have it. Sturgeon is pro-devolution, not pro-indy.

    1. Is this your first election?

      Politicians always say who they absolutely won't ever form coalitions with (Tories in the case of the SNP), but never who they might (Greens for the SNP). SNP hope to attract Labour / Lib voters, so won't 'rule anything out' if asked to soften these up, even though such a coalition will obviously never happen for a whole host of blindingly obvious reasons.

      Alba must of course form 'coalitions' to have any hope of influencing things. If they want to pressure an SNP + Green coalition into a faster iref2, then Alba would need to side with unionists with threats to bring down the the pro-Yes government with a no-confidence motion. This would be a continuation of Salmond's false accusations that Sturgeon broke the code and Wings et al. joining with the Tories in calling for her resignation.

      You can't 'hold the SNP's feet to the fire' unless you side with the opposition unionists against them.

      By contrast, the SNP should probably only need to deal with the Greens. This is the problem facing Alba; to do what they want to do forcefully will mean siding with unionists, which may likely kill any future hope Alba has of establishing itself as a sizeable party going forward. To do the latter, will mean not siding with unionists ever, but that makes it difficult to exert pressure.

    2. Who are the the greens 'siding' with to apply pressure then? Are these different people to the ones Alba would be 'siding' with?

      Or are the unionists cuddly toys when the Greens do it and Unionists when anyone else does it?

    3. You apply pressure whatever way the cookie crumbles.

      I wouldn't characterise the SNP as Tories for holding Labour's feet to the fire in Westminster either.

  3. Voting Alba on the list down here in the South of Scotland won't work James. The chances of the SNP toppling the Tories on the Constituency ballot are questionable, given the presence of the Scotland/England border and the very real impact which turning it into an international frontier would have on many people's daily lives. People cross it every day to go to work, go to school, shop, visit family etc, and that could be made impossible by Independence. As a result, the Tories have been weaponising the issue ever since 2014, and have created a pretty strong Tory core vote which they know how to mobilize. I used to be on their side before Brexit and Boris Johnson made me walk away from them in revulsion, so I know this. Voting SNP on the List is essential in case they cannot beat the Tory incumbents in the Constituency ballot. Sadly, in my seat of Galloway and West Dumfries, that is probably what will happen, as Emma Harper may well cut Finlay Carson's majority, but not by enough to oust him.

    1. That spectacularly misses the point. I've seen so many people make an argument for "both votes SNP" in the south based on the premise that doing anything else won't make sense unless the SNP gain constituency seats in the region - and that premise is utterly bogus. Alba have just as much chance (actually a slightly greater chance) of winning a list seat in the south if the SNP are also taking list seats there.

    2. I have to go with my gut James and, from my previous experience before I left the Tories, my gut tells me that the SNP are going to have a hard time beating the Tories on the Constituency ballot. I cannot risk voting for the SNP on that, and the Greens or Alba on the List, as in all likelihood the Unionist vote will save Finlay Carson, with Emma Harper keeping her List seat. Voting SNP on both is an insurance. Also, the Tories have been busy in this constituency, as during my regular drives right across it in the past 2 weeks, the number of pro-Carson signs in fields (and he's a farmer, with the Tory vote very strong in the Galloway farming community) has been startling, and worrying. There have been more than I have seen in previous elections, so they have clearly been doing their utmost to mobilize their voting base. It will be a close fight between the SNP and the Tories, and I cannot help feeling that the Tories will hang on to the seat, most likely, as happened to Alister Jack in 2019, on a reduced majority.

  4. Honestly I'm a total SNP alba swing voter. Still haven't decided. Probably won't til I'm the box.

    I think the snps strategy on a gradual approach is basically correct and will bear fruit but they also need to begin the journey and spell it out. Alba will push them.

    A radical party and a competent governing party might be the twin prong approach needed. We've needed an Alba and a freshness.

  5. I'd forgotten how terrible I felt in 2014 after the No vote. Thanks for reminding me what we were voting for.