I'm away from home at the moment and in a place with very intermittent signal, so blogging will be light for a while. However, I'm going to struggle my way through a short blogpost because I'm becoming increasingly exasperated - and frankly alarmed - at the willful naivety on display on social media about the idiotic idea that we can somehow afford to be more relaxed about splitting the pro-independence vote at a plebiscite election than we would be at a normal election. As opposed to, y'know, the self-evident truth that a plebiscite election is a hundred times more important than a normal election and that we will therefore have a hundred times less scope for destructive self-indulgence.
There are no "rules" for a plebiscite election. There is no neutral arbiter who sets rules that both sides must follow, and the idea that Nicola Sturgeon of all people gets to set rules that unionists will adhere to is just barking mad. The onus is entirely on the pro-independence side to produce a mandate with enough of a "wow" factor that is very difficult to ignore afterwards. And yes, that means we have to think about seats as well as votes It doesn't matter whether that's fair or unfair - it's just the reality of the situation. However, this shouldn't really pose too much of an additional problem, because getting 50% + 1 of the popular vote is the hard part - as long as we don't do anything stupid, that would generally be enough for a massive haul of seats. The snag is that some people, for reasons that only they can explain, are advocating doing something very stupid indeed - ie. they want multiple pro-indy parties and candidates to directly compete with each other and split the vote.
Imagine the pro-indy side gets 50.4% of the vote at a plebiscite election. Although that would be a narrow victory, it would be hard to quibble with, because the conduct of a general election will be beyond reproach and it will produce a high turnout - perhaps not as high as the 2014 indyref, but if it's good enough to elect a UK government, it's good enough for any other mandate. But then imagine that the 50.4% is split between multiple pro-indy parties, thus allowing unionists to gain several seats. What side of the equation do you think unionist parties would focus on after the election - votes or seats? And what could we do to stop them taking that attitude, seeing as unionist MPs would then take their seats at Westminster as the democratically elected voice of Scotland with a mandate to oppose independence?
By contrast, if the pro-indy camp have almost all the seats, we have all the cards to play - including, for example, withdrawing Scottish MPs from Westminster and denying all legitimacy to London rule until the UK government come to the negotiating table.
Let's be honest here. People may pretend to believe that splitting the vote is somehow a brilliant tactic, but the original tweet gave the game away - what this is really about is a desire to get back to the comfort zone of treating a plebiscite election as a ruse, so we can use it to fight the SNP rather than seek to win our national independence. Well, count me out of that. When we look back in a few years' time, do we want to say we did everything we could to seize the opportunity in front of us, or do we want to have been a bunch of Victor Meldrews who were so wrapped up in petty grievances that we invited defeat so we could enjoy blaming others for it?
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We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that. If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.
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