By Alasdair Galloway
SNP 1, Alba 2
John, I have to take issue with your recent blog “Less popular than Boris Johnson? Aye right!”
I agree with you, as I agreed with John Curtice, that the Greens are threatened by Alba running candidates on the Regional Lists (you can find Curtice at https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/19192169.alex-salmond-alba-stands-party-boost-pro-independence-msp—may-cost-snp-majority/).
The error, I would suggest, you both make is to presume it is the Greens who are at most risk from Alba. The reasons for this view are obvious,
- It is known that some who vote SNP in their constituency vote Green on the Regional List. This will include Green Party members, who are unlikely to be swayed by Alba, but it also includes some SNP supporters who, perhaps, are aware that a List vote for the SNP is a wasted vote. In 2016 the SNP secured a List vote of 751,770 in six of the eight Regions but elected no one. Alba would be an obvious home for these votes.
- The Greens have fewer members than other parties (except the Lib Dems) and thus are at more risk of being wiped out.
It is hard to argue with both, but they are, I think, if not wrong, then limited.
Let’s address the first one – the danger of being wiped out. Certainly, with only six seats, all List, this is a danger for the Greens. However, if we examine the List votes of their current MSPs, it seems that at least four of them – Patrick Harvie, Alison Johnstone, Ross Greer and John Finnie (though John is not standing in this election) were elected early on in the allocations of List seats. Ceteris paribus, we might argue that others are at more risk than these individuals.
It is though fair to say that Mark Ruskell is at some risk, as certainly would Andy Wightman be (if he stands it wont be for the Greens) as he was elected in the final allocation in Lothian.
So, a more finely grained approach suggests the danger imputed to the Greens is not entirely well-founded. However, another challenge for this theory is that the Green vote, 6.6% in 2016, seems likely to have grown since then – in a recent poll Survation estimated their List vote to be 11%.
Thus, at worst, the danger to the Greens seems to me to be exaggerated, but it also misses the point, going along with what I suspect is a Unionist fabrication.
Hearing Humza Yousaf criticising Alba for “splitting the vote”, was the worst kind of political tribalism and bile. We all know – or it’s easy to establish – that with the polling figures they have just now in the constituency section the SNP are very unlikely to win more than a couple of List seats (probably in South Of Scotland region). The SNP List vote might be enormous, but it is largely impotent – it will elect very few MSPs
Harping on about the Alex and Nicola show, questioning Salmond’s fitness for office (which is almost funny if you have read about the most recent sexual shenanigans of our current PM, which he lied about when the lady was given public funds, during his tenure as Mayor of London), focusing on the conflict of the Greens and Alba, never questioning #bothvotesSNP, all deflect us from one important truth.
This is that the parties with most exposure to Alba on the List are the Conservative and Labour Parties. Of the 31 Conservative MSPs, 24 (including Murdo Fraser!) were elected through the List. Of the 24 Labour MSPs, there were 21 elected via the List (including not only Richard Leonard, but also Anas Sarwar).
It is this which caused Ross to panic over the weekend, sending letters to both Anas Sarwar and Willie Rennie, looking for cooperation during the election and “delivering a Scottish Parliament focused on our national recovery afterwards” (Better Together Mk2, I suppose). To his credit Sarwar told him to “grow up”. While nothing has been heard from Willie Rennie, it seems unlikely Ross will get his way (though it may help him win the votes of more convinced Unionists).
But the clear and present danger of Alba to many of their MSPs must be clear to the Unionist parties. It’s where the notion that the independence side are “not playing fair” or even “cheating” (https://wingsoverscotland.com/the-snp-love-tories/#more-128531) originates. Of course, the fact that the entire electoral system is gamed to, as far as possible, to prevent the possibility of any party winning a majority is ignored, as is the unaccountable and undemocratic power that Westminster has to prevent Scotland determining its own future.
But even that is hardly surprising. John moots the possibility of 20 Alba MSPs. Where do we think they are going to come from? Even if the Green Party was entirely wiped out, the majority are going to be from Conservative and Labour.
Let’s suppose that the SNP fall very slightly short of an overall majority – say 64 seats, which is one more than they have now. Let’s suppose too that the Greens hold what they have – 6 seats – but that John has been a wee bit optimistic with his 20 Alba seats – let’s suppose 16. That would be 86 seats taken by independence supporting parties.
To the suspicious among us, it could appear that the total of 86 was not accidental, but on purpose – and you would be right. The significance of 86 is that it is two thirds of the Scottish Parliament, which would give the independence parties the option of calling another Scottish election whenever they felt they had the need to demonstrate their support (though Theresa May’s experience in 2017 perhaps is a reason to be careful?).
Thus, the message to get out is
- The Greens can probably look after themselves
- Einstein reportedly said that “a definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome”. We only need to examine 2016 – when the SNP’s constituency vote was even higher than in 2011, yet they ended up a minority – to see that #bothvotesSNP is a recipe for the same old, though the SNP are going to harp on about it)
- Voting SNP in your constituency and Alba on the List – though I might make an exception in South of Scotland for both votes SNP – is the route to maximising the independence vote in the next Parliament.
Why do we need to do this? Well, we all have our own reasons for supporting independence, but in today’s National there is a very prescient article by Andrew Tickell (formerly Peat Worrier) – you can find it here, and I strongly recommend reading it, https://www.thenational.scot/news/19192647.jacks-attack-reminder-devolution-will-always-threat/
The core of the article are Article 33 and Article 35 of the Scotland Act.
The former allows the Advocate General, the Lord Advocate or the Attorney General to refer Scottish Parliament Bills to the Supreme Court to establish if they are within its competence. Thus, Alister Jack has written to John Swinney to complain that the recent passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, on the grounds that it “constrains the UK Parliament’s ability to make laws for Scotland.” Set against that, has to be that the UK Government signed the Convention as long ago as 1990! I will leave you to work out their concern.
Jack also has problems, on the same basis, with European Charter of Local Self-Government which Andy Wightman got into Scottish Law. This Charter was drawn up by the Council of Europe, of which the UK is a member. Once again, I think we have to ask, why? Perhaps just to show who is in charge? Or that some of it is a bit wishy washy liberal.
Tickell writes in relation to votes for 16 and 17 year-olds, in jest I am sure (though not entirely), that the present “UK Government .. believes children and asylum seekers should know their place – not at the ballot box, but suspended in a cage over Priti Patel’s desk, saturating the Home Secretary’s office with the invigorating pitter-patter of their tears”.
Article 35 prevents the Presiding Officer from putting forward for Royal Assent, a Bill that has passed through all its Holyrood stage, on the grounds that it “would be incompatible with any international obligations or the interests of defence or national security”, or “it applies to reserved matters and which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters,”
As Tickell notes “The first power was used to spike Holyrood’s Brexit legislation in the Supreme Court in 2019. The second power has never been used. Well, there’s a first time for everything.”
Tickell’s conclusion from this is that “if the Conservative and Unionist Party become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism or Unionism: they will reject devolution.”. One example is that, should there be another pandemic, it has been reported that Tory MPs want the response to be coordinated from London without the involvement of the devolved administrations.
Tickell argues that Jack’s response to these two Bills is a “foretaste of things to come”, and that is why a supermajority is not just desirable, but essential, and political sensitivities and certainly not careers, should obstruct this.