The Scottish Parliament is a relatively young parliament and as such is still in many ways is finding its feet. Apparently designed to produce a more consensual, cross party politics it has in effect produced an almost even British Nationalist/Scottish Independence split, with only the Greens tiny presence tipping the balance in our favour. Even as a young parliament though there’s now enough data on previous elections to start making changes to the way that we vote. Having crept to minority power in 2007 the SNP were fortunate to win the 2011 Holyrood election with the perfect combination of constituency and list seats to give them an outright majority. However their continued success then worked against them in 2016 as their constituency gains disproportionately wiped out their list representation. The simple to understand ‘SNP 1&2’ mantra met the real world and the vast majority of SNP voters saw their second vote sit idle as the Britnats hoovered up the list seats. It is said that he who doesn’t learn the lessons of history is destined to repeat those mistakes. Many Scots have learned and determined to ensure that doesn’t happen again, hence the formation of the Independence for Scotland Party (ISP).
There are many arguments against the formation of another independence party, given that we already have the Scottish Greens, Solidarity and the Scottish Socialists. With such a wealth of choice there is apparently little room for another, after all RISE sank, and yet Scotland’s electorate aren’t really giving them votes in significant numbers. Why is that? The latter two are simply too small, both are fishing in the same pool of socialist voters and at present don’t appeal to large numbers. That leaves the Greens, the ones who at present tip the balance in favour of independence, but whose raison d’etre is environmentalism, and who I personally view as the weak underbelly of the independence movement. We recently have seen disturbing entryism in the SNP which is raising concern but is still containable and can be dealt with due to the size of the party, but the Greens are small enough that a number of determined people of a British Nationalist bent joining could see them become neutral or pro UK. After all, where does the British Nationalist environmentalist put their vote? The Greens have also been seen to collude with the Britnats to scupper the popular OBFA legislation and even have one prominent MSP who has referred to the readers of this paper as “zoomers”, so for many people they simply aren’t a popular choice. Some people might consider the tactic of “Hold your nose and vote Green” but what should those who don’t want to hold their nose do?
The SNP will undoubtedly use the vote ‘SNP 1&2’ line again, and if the Greens would only field list candidates then they might gain from an ‘SNP 1, Green 2’ approach, but hubris will ensure that doesn’t happen. So why not consider another way?
The Independence for Scotland Party would certainly use the ‘SNP 1, ISP 2’ message and that would be a clear rallying call to the Yes movement across much of Scotland. With the SNP forecast to sweep the boards on constituency seats the ISP would not stand in areas where they would damage the SNP list chance, but where they could do maximum damage to the combined Britnat representation.
There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from within the SNP at the emergence of this party, and that’s entirely to be expected. Having seen the horrendous infighting within the party over who even gets on the list and what position you get, there will at least be a degree of unity against a perceived external threat. But if we vote wisely the only ones threatened will be the rejected elected, the Leonards, Lennons and Lockharts who creep in to undermine our parliament via the list.
Scotland sent a majority of SNP MP’s to Westminster with the mission of settle up, not settle down. Perhaps we also need a party in Scotland with enough profile and clout to also remind the SNP that their main role is to guide us to independence, not simple to provide stable and competent colonial administration in Edinburgh. We can certainly do that if we get smart, do the homework and get behind a party like the ISP. I hope that independence supporters will go back to being the open, receptive movement they were in 2014 and give this idea a hearing. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Let’s not discount this new party out of hand.
(Letter sent to The National, 15/05/20)
Published in The National, 16/05/20