Monday 5 April 2021

These are the splitters


I have a pile of leaflets on my kitchen table. There is an SNP leaflet and a leaflet from each of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour. Each of them is encouraging voters in Aberdeenshire to give both votes to that party. This strategy will lead to the SNP winning not only nearly every seat in Aberdeenshire, but nearly every seat in Scotland. This is the strategy we are up against.

All for Unity is now polling at 4%. We have been ignored for the past year. There has been hardly anything written about this new party since it was founded last summer, hardly any coverage on TV. Why should the Lib Dems (6%) and the Greens (2%) get to take part in a BBC Scotland debate while All for Unity is ignored? We may well get more votes than each of them.

The leaflets on my table show that the Lib Dems, Labour and Conservatives have given up on winning a Pro UK majority for the Scottish Parliament. They just wish to protect their share of the vote and keep their MSPs in pleasant jobs with a large salary. It is for this reason that some people from these parties are attacking All for Unity.

If you look at what happened in 2016 in North East Scotland it becomes immediately clear that the Lib Lab Con tactic is indeed a con.  The SNP won nine out of the ten constituencies, because in each constituency every voter got a stupid leaflet from Labour the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives telling them that only their party could win. But this isn’t true.

For instance, look at Aberdeen Central in 2016

SNP 10,269 45%.   

Lab 5,381 23.6%

Con 6,466 28.3%

Lib 1,401 6.1%

But we will still have leaflets from the Lib Dems and Labour telling voters in Aberdeen Central to vote for their party. But even if Labour and the Lib Dems increased their share by twenty percent they would still lose. The only way to defeat the SNP in Aberdeen Central is for there to be an electoral pact so that only the Conservative candidate stands. But Labour and the Lib Dems refuse. The Conservatives to their credit have tried to organise such a pact but having failed the Conservatives will still stand in every constituency even where they must know they have zero chance of winning. But it would be worth standing down Conservatives in most of the Central Belt even without an agreement with the other parties. It would show that the tactic works.

Neither Sarwar, Rennie, nor Ross has suggested that Pro UK voters vote tactically in the absence of a pact. None of the leaflets admit that it would be worth everyone backing the Pro UK party with the best chance of winning. The only party that is advocating tactical voting in the constituencies is Alliance for Unity. Yet we get attacked because the established Pro UK parties fear losing list seats.

This is completely wrongheaded. If Sarwar, Rennie and Ross were willing to work together each of their parties would win many more constituency seats. The failure is not ours, but theirs.

The idea of having a list only party such as All for Unity makes sense if you understand how the calculations for the list seats work. It enabled the Scottish Greens (which stood in only a handful of constituencies) to win 6 seats with 6.6% of the vote in 2016. The Lib Dems only won 5 seats with 7.8% of the vote precisely because they won 2 constituencies. In the regions where they won constituencies, they had less chance of winning list seats and in fact failed to do so.

There are seven list seats in each region, which means the number of votes each party gets goes through seven rounds of division taking into account the number of constituencies they win. This means that quite small numbers of votes will win a party a list seat.  

We don’t know how many votes each party will get in the list seats. Nor do we know how many constituencies each party will win. Small numbers of votes may decide who wins what in each round of list seat calculation. But we do know that small parties can win list seats. The Greens do.

There are now going to be three small parties with a chance of winning list seats, Alba, the Greens and All for Unity. Alba or the Greens may deprive Labour, the Lib Dems or the Conservatives from winning a list seat. But and this is the crucial point, All for Unity may equally deprive Alba or the Greens from winning a list seat and it may have a greater chance of doing so precisely because it is a list only party.

We don’t know the result. It is impossible to predict exactly who will get what seats in the list because it depends not only on share of the vote, but also on how many constituencies are won.

All we know is that with the SNP polling 49% in the constituencies and 39% in the list vote, that the only way to get rid of Nicola Sturgeon is for Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems to stand only where they have a chance of winning. The failure to do this guarantees that the SNP will win. Tactical voting in the constituencies may limit the size of that victory, but it cannot possibly work to the extent that it would stop the SNP winning at all.

All for Unity is not splitting the Pro UK vote. The leaflets sitting on your kitchen table show that it is already split. The list vote cannot be split as it is calculated according to the number of votes each party wins while taking into account the constituencies it wins. Talk of splitting only makes sense in the context of constituencies and All for Unity is standing in zero constituencies.

People like me got involved with All for Unity because we didn’t think Labour, the Conservatives and Lib Dems were performing well enough in the Scottish Parliament and because they were unwilling to work together to stop the SNP.

Everyone who votes for All for Unity is sending a message to the Sarwar, Rennie and Ross that we want you to put country before party. The more of us who do this, the more likely they will listen. Their failure to listen and their failure to put forward the arguments that might defeat the SNP is the reason we are likely to have Sturgeon as First Minister for the next five years.

There have been recent attacks on All for Unity including personal attacks on Jamie Blackett. This is completely out of order. If you value my articles, I suggest that you cease. I don’t have to put in the effort that I do and nor does Jamie. Let’s concentrate our fire on the SNP and independence supporters but be polite to them too. We are all Scots. Let us disagree pleasantly.

We don’t know if the All for Unity strategy will work. It depends on the voters. But we do know that delivering leaflets telling voters in each constituency to vote for Labour, the Lib Dems and Conservatives will not work. It guarantees defeat because we are dividing our forces in the face of the enemy. Until Ross, Rennie and especially Sarwar change these tactics and follow the advice of All for Unity we will have permanent SNP Government no matter how badly they run Scotland.

There are two alternatives. We do what we did last time in 2016, which is the tactic of Pro UK voters criticising All for Unity, or we try to do something different which has a chance of winning. Let us at least try to win.