The manipulation of the party list system is an affront to democracy, a corruption of the system. Election are our chance to get rid of failed politicians, and the use of the list to avoid being sacked is just morally wrong. Either stand on one or the other, and if you are the incumbent you defend your seat with no safety net.
Of the 21 Labour MSP’s elected in the 2016 election by the regional list, 17 of those had been either been voted out of office or otherwise rejected by the electorate.
Of the 24 Conservative list MSP’s elected on the same day, all 24 had been rejected by the voters in their respective constituencies.
The SNP retained one MSP in the above manner, the Greens 2 and the Liberals Democrats 1.
As for the manipulation of the list by the parties, this must stop. Parties should be allowed to submit a list of candidates, but that list should be a pool from which candidates are selected at random. If a party gets 4 list seats then stick the names in a bowl, like the FA Cup, and draw 4 names.
No more fiddling the system so that there are permanently unsackable characters placed forever at the top of the list. To me this practice is akin to Westminsters habit of sending rejected MP’s to the Lords: it’s two fingers up to the electorate, nothing less.
Watching the news and analysis of Thursday’s election coming it would be easy to think that Ruth Davidson of the Ruth Davidson Novelty Photo-shoots and Fun (No, we aren’t Tories, honest!) Party had won a resounding victory over the SNP, and that that Scotland was back in the unionist fold. There’s only so much I can take from the BBC, luckily Russia Today reassured me that Ms Davidson’s party hadn’t actually won, and that the world was still spinning on it’s axis as before. What did happen was that the Unionist vote shifted within itself, with one faction merely taking votes from another faction. Hardly sensational stuff, and to be honest everyone but Kezia Dugdale saw it coming. Labour have now been punished by both sides of the electorate for their treachery; by Yes voters for siding with the Tories, and by unionists angry that she wobbled in her unionism by appearing to allow a free vote in a future referendum. On close analysis the unionist FPTP vote is pitiful. Of 73 FPTP constituencies the Tories won only 7, the Lib-Dems 4 and the Labour Party an embarrassing 3. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the union, is it?
Ruth Davidson is the new poster girl of the Unionist media, be it in print, television or indeed on BBC Radio Scotland, where Kaye Adams accidentally stated that “we’re up 8 point…” before remembering where she was and correcting herself by saying that the Conservatives were up 8.1%. Tank Girl, with the aid of her chums in the media, will call on Nicola Sturgeon to forever rule out another referendum, a call she will repeat every week, day and hour for the next five years. Davidson realised that there are people who value the union flag more than social justice, more than equality, more than the NHS, more than the welfare state, and who will endorse the Tories wholeheartedly to protect the union. Never mind the policies, look at the pretty flag. For many voters Thatcher is someone from the history books, and they do not share most right thinking Scots contempt of the woman and her policies. When Margaret Curran was asked if she would prefer a Tory run Scotland to an independent one she squirmed and twisted and struggled to answer. With the death of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party she may one day have the chance to see that scenario in action.
But to spend so much time talking about the unionist situation means that we ignore the failings or successes of the Yes side, if we can still refer to them in such a manner. While most of the Yes support has gone to the SNP, those supporters must remember where they came from. Tribalism within Yes will keep us down and divided, and we must get smarter if we are to have a Yes parliament, not simply an SNP dominated one. Reaffirmation of the Yes movement is needed and agreements should be made for the mutual benefit of the independence movement. Clearly the decision by the Greens to stand against Ruth Davidson cost the SNP that seat and allowed Davidson to claim victory as an endorsed constituency candidate. In some areas such as Glasgow or Central Scotland where polling showed it very likely that the SNP would sweep the board an official SNP 1, Green 2 campaign would have had a significant effect on reducing the unionist bloc. This would mean the Greens would have to agree not to stand in the constituencies and the SNP agreeing not standing on the list. Of course where this falls down is that this would mean some people putting the good of the cause of independence before their personal ambitions.
As for the minority parties such as Solidarity and Rise, I think that we need to accept that for now they are a diversion and despite some of their fine ideals are not a realistic proposal for the pro Indy voter on the national stage. Over exposure in the National and to some extent The Herald skewed the perception of RISE, and if the don’t completely fall then perhaps the council elections next year may be a more realistic platform for them, where they can help deliver real benefits at a local level.
Surely there must be a change in electoral rules to prevent behaviour such as that displayed this week by the Labour Party (Scotland Branch), in that they waited until postal voting had opened before they published their manifesto. How can voters make an informed choice about who to vote for when they either can’t or won’t provide a manifesto? That is what they are asking to be elected on for goodness sake! Not endless clips of Kezia Dugdale posing in the few schools which remain open in Edinburgh, not the massaged soundbites on BBC Radio Scotland, not on the puff piece spreads in the Daily Record, but the manifesto. I would suggest that all parties are given a deadline which is well in advance of the date on which postal voting opens, and their manifesto’s must be published no later than that date. No manifesto, no place on the ballot.
One thing that was finally clarified by the manifesto was Labour’s commitment to stand against a future referendum, no matter what the EU referendum brings. While Airdrie Labour candidate Richard Leonard was touting a resolute No on his electoral mail, Kez (as she likes to be known in the manifesto) floundered in interviews, hovering between mibbes aye, mibbes naw, och well it’s up to the individual, ah’ll no stand in their way. Now that the manifesto has confirmed it’s a firm No this should kill off any future Labour recovery as it leaves her party scrabbling around for a third of a share of those 55% who voted No. No matter what way you cut it, a third of 55% is never going to beat that almost combined 45% So no matter how many policies they adopt which are similar to those of the SNP they aren’t going to persuade many people to switch from a Yes stance to an anti-independence version with similar policies. Which leaves her in the unenviable position of having to trawl around for the hard line unionist vote. Unfortunately for her Ruth “clank, clank, ah’m a tank” Davidson has cornered this market with her penchant for armoured vehicles and union flags. So much so she doesn’t even NEED a manifesto. Never mind the policies, look at the pretty colours. Maybe the next Labour Party (Scotland Branch) leader will have better luck…
Letter to The National, 3rd February 2016
The article by Professor John Curtice was a very welcome one, and threw up some interesting points. If his analysis of the polling data is correct and his forecasts are accurate, the SNP will pick up no list MSP’s outside of the North East, the south of Scotland, and the Highlands and Islands. This would identify those three areas as the ones most likely to benefit from an SNP 1 and 2 vote. It would also suggest that outside those areas an SNP 1, Pro-Indy other 2 would be a better bet. All well and good you might think. But with all the argument about which pro-indy party might be the best option for the second vote, we appear to have overlooked how the Unionist parties could also benefit, and they could do so in the most bizarre way. Supposing the voters (if not the parties) accept that their first past the post candidates are going to be roundly beaten, and they acknowledge that the bigger the beating they receive on FPTP, the more likely they are to receive list seats. The sensible thing to do therefore would be to actually vote SNP1 and then the unionist party of their choice with their second vote! If that is unpalatable they could abstain on vote 1 and vote for the party of their choice with vote 2. This would virtually guarantee their representation in a straight carve up of the list.
I think this illustrates what a perfectly strange electoral system we have here in Scotland; a hybrid which really isn’t fit for purpose. Unfortunately any reform of the system would only be implemented were it to redress the balance towards the Unionist parties, and that is not something we should even begin to contemplate.
Sunday Herald, 20th September 2015
Submitted to The Sunday Herald, 230915
To say I was disappointed in The Sunday Herald’s coverage of pro-independence rally Hope over Fear last week is something of an understatement. On the face of it, it would appear that the Sunday Herald has taken a strop at being denied access to the free tea and biscuits and have thrown a hissy fit. I had a peek at the backstage area and it was pretty small, not a great deal of room at all. The press were all invited onstage around lunchtime so they could get a crowd shot, then they had the run of the square to speak to people there. Sadly the Sunday Herald took to social media with claims of being banned from the event, yet other national and international media were wandering around unfettered. My recollection of your previous Hope over Fear coverage has been that it has been fairly negative: playing down the crowd numbers, suggestions of backstage shenanigans, an obligatory mention of Tommy’s colourful past, with a side helping of vitriol courtesy of Rosie Kane. It’s no surprise then that there was no red carpet laid out, but a ban? Nonsense! What could and indeed should have been positive coverage of thousands of independence supporters from all ages and backgrounds gathering to show that they are as committed to Yes now as they were a year ago instead became a negative hatchet job aimed at Mr Sheridan. The coverage contained no photos, as photos would have put paid to the assertations that there were only 1500 attending and that the Herald was denied access to the event. Anyone who was there knows that at its busiest there were around four to five thousand in the Square, yet the Herald choose to run with the BBC figure of 1500. You have to be desperate to quote the BBC as source material, as they probably get their figures from Labour’s Chief Statistician Kezia Dugdale, whose maths skills leave a lot to be desired.
In a wider context it is also disappointing that Yes Scotland has not continued in some form or other, as there are clearly thousands of people out there looking for collective outlets to express their desire for independence. Having built networks and friendships there is a desire to keep the momentum of street activism going, and this is not being met by the SNP, indeed it cannot be left to the SNP. Yes drew support from across a wide spectrum and requires a focus point, which at present Hope Over Fear is providing. Few of the people I have spoken to at these events intend to vote for Tommy Sheridan but they are grateful for his efforts in providing a chance to gather and to celebrate the positive energy of the Yes campaign.
Perhaps this latest vindictive attack says more about the SNP’s fears about losing second votes to Solidarity in 2016, but this dig was badly judged and will no doubt leave a sour taste in the mouth of many of us who have returned to buying print journalism after boycotting an openly biased unionist press. The Sunday Herald is living well at the moment on succulent lamb, and pet journalists who dance specifically to an SNP tune are as worrying to me as having a unionist biased media lined up against us, as without a fair and critical eye the SNP will be drawn into the bad practices that Labour were, and in the long run that can only damage the fight for independence.