Saturday 8 May 2021

Repeating the same mistake


There is a failure of imagination on the Pro UK side of Scottish politics. We keep repeating the same tactics and keep failing in the same way. Tactical voting is only ever going to work to a limited extent. It is worth doing in a Scottish Parliament Election, but it is never going to win the Pro UK side more than a few extra seats. It is never going to be enough to overcome the SNP getting somewhere around 45% of the vote.

The SNP don’t have enough to win an independence referendum, but with a divided opposition it has enough to win nearly all of the constituencies. The only issue is whether it wins an overall majority or has to rely on the Greens. It looks as if Alba won’t win a seat. It might have been useful if at least Salmond had been elected to cause trouble. It looks as if the list only experiment has failed even for the Scottish nationalist side and so will probably fail for our side too. The logic is irrefutable, but voters don’t understand the logic.  

Were the BBC told to ignore Alba or did that merely come from its natural inclination to help Sturgeon? The concerted campaign to strangle All for Unity at birth may have protected a couple of MSP salaries, but at the expense of thinking that this is what matters. What really matters is coming up with a strategy that protects the UK by finding a way to defeat the SNP in Scotland. The attacks on All for Unity achieved a similar result to 2016 when we did not exist. Well done for coming up with a strategy that eventually means you don’t exist.

This can’t continue. Eventually the pro-independence side will realise that it is completely stupid giving 40% of the list votes to the SNP. If those 40% of the votes had gone to Alba, then there would be a pro independence super majority. It’s a matter of very simple arithmetic. The both vote SNP strategy is very stupid indeed if you want to maximise the nationalist vote. The SNP wins hardly any list seats and will gain them an extra one or two seats at best. But the both votes strategy is still worse for the Pro UK parties.

Relying on the list vote as the main source of seats for Labour and the Conservatives only works so long as the pro-independence vote doesn’t realise that it is pointless voting for the SNP on the list. But eventually a list only independence party is bound to succeed. When this happens the Labour and Conservative list seats will be halved. The list seat strategy guarantees failure, simply because there are fewer list seats than constituency seats. It amounts to vote for us because we will lose and eventually, we will lose very badly indeed. This isn’t a strategy. It’s mere capitulation.

We may if we are lucky have another chance at a Scottish Parliament election where it will still be possible to be Pro UK. We now rely on the Conservative Government saying No to a second independence referendum and the SNP not being able to get anywhere with an unofficial or illegal referendum. This might be slightly easier if the SNP fails to obtain an overall majority, but it will still involve saying No to a majority even if the Greens help the SNP.

If we continue along this route, then there will come a time when the British Government does not say No. It could be that Labour forms a Government with the help of the SNP or it could be that the Conservatives decide that if the SNP keeps winning it should be given what it wants. At the moment the SNP can win most of the seats at Holyrood with 45% of the vote. It could win 75% of the seats if SNP supporters understood how the voting system works. So, either we make changes to our tactics or eventually we will get indyref2 and then it will be mere chance, a coin toss that decides our fate.

It no longer matters whether you are Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative in Scotland. None of your party policies are within a million miles of being implemented, because you have zero chance of being a part of a Government.

It would help if the three main Pro UK parties were willing to make a pact where they agreed that only one of them would compete in each seat based on the percentage of the vote achieved in that seat at the previous election. If Labour, the Lib Dems and Conservatives stood down candidates where they had no chance of success, Pro UK voters would have the choice of voting for a Pro UK party or the SNP. It would concentrate minds.

It would be even better if there were only one Pro UK party competing for each constituency, while there was a single but different Pro UK party competing in the list. The difference politically between moderate Scottish Labour and moderate Scottish Conservatives is merely a matter of tribalism. It would be better if they buried the hatchet in the SNP head if only, they could agree that they each want to spend more than Scotland earns and each think the solution to every problem is that the Government spends more money on it. Lib Lab Con are all lefty clones, so it hardly matters if they merge so long as the merged party defeats the SNP.

If Lib Lab Con cannot bear to merge, then they could be list only parties or perhaps compete in a few constituencies where they can still win. But where the SNP win and there is no prospect of defeating them with three parties competing, let us form one party that stands a chance. If Labour and the Conservatives follow a list strategy, then it is logical that a constituency strategy be left to someone else.

If Alba fails to win a seat it may turn out that All for Unity does not win a seat either. But if all our votes had been divided between Lib Lab Con it would hardly have made a difference. But the logic behind All for Unity is still valid. If we are lucky, we get one more chance. We don’t really deserve it, but let’s hope we get it anyway. There is only one way to defeat the SNP with the arithmetic we have. We need a single Pro UK party competing for the constituency vote and a different one competing for the list. Give up your loyalty to Lib Lab Con or else we will lose next time and the time after that until there is nothing left to lose.