BlogScottish Politics

SNP, RISE or Green: On the Morning of September 19th We Were United in Grief, We all Felt That Pain

As the Holyrood election of 2016 approaches, the wider pro-independence movement faces its greatest challenge yet. Emotions are already running high, and if we’re not careful, that rainbow coalition which made up the Yes campaign looks set to become more than a little frayed around the edges.

As with so many of these things, it’s an entirely unnecessary situation, based largely on fear and misunderstanding; fear that a pro-independence majority might not emerge as the next Scottish Government, and a widespread misunderstanding of our – admittedly confusing – voting system.

For the record, I have not endorsed any political party in May. My decisions regarding Holyrood elections are governed – as they always have been – by what seems the most likely route towards independence. Obviously, given that the first vote is reached on a first past the post (FTFP) basis, it would make sense that independence supporters back the SNP – so far so simple – and it looks as though that’s exactly what’s going to happen… The SNP are polling consistently above 50% on the constituency vote alone. What that effectively means, is that an outright SNP majority is extremely likely before the second, regional list seats have even been calculated. So, even if every single voter in Scotland gave their second vote to the Tories or Labour, the SNP would still win a majority larger than it did in 2011.

Unsurprisingly, the SNP are keen for people to give them both votes in May, and party activists are already hard at work punting the slogan “Both votes SNP”. And why ever not? If your vision of Scottish politics, and indeed the road to another independence referendum is best represented by the Scottish National Party, you should give them both your votes.

The beauty of Holyrood’s proportional second ballot though, is that it allows us to cast a vote for whoever we want, without the tactical concerns raised by FPTP, and the beauty of the wider Yes movement was that it carried more than one vision for Scottish independence. The Scottish Greens and the newly formed RISE coalition, are not – generally speaking – competing with the SNP for constituency votes, indeed it is tacitly accepted that pro-independence solidarity will see the SNP largely unchallenged on the first ballot. That said, the animosity directed towards these so-called “fringe” parties has served as a sobering moment for those of us who still believe in the bipartisan legacy of the Yes movement.

There are a small band of SNP activists on Twitter who might benefit from a well placed cold shower, and perhaps a lesson or two in political history. They would do well to remember that almost every single person who plans to vote Green or RISE in May, also intends to vote SNP on the first ballot. Thereby all but guaranteeing the SNP an overall majority. On the other hand, if SNP supporters are to spend the next five months referring to RISE voters as “Citizen Smiths”, or accusing them of stirring up division within the independence movement, they will simply enact their own, self-defeating and self fulfilling prophecy.

Many Green party and RISE activists put blood, sweat and tears into the Yes campaign. Many gave everything they had (and then some) for the cause of independence.

Whichever party we supported, on the morning on September 19th 2014, we all shared in the same harrowing disappointment, we all felt that pain. For that reason, I would never presume to point the finger at a fellow independence campaigner and tell them they were hurting the cause because they don’t back the same party as me. That’s not the Scotland I want to live in, and it’s not the independence I’ve spent my life campaigning for.

So in that spirit of fraternity and shared purpose which made the referendum campaign such a unique and inspiring experience, let’s ensure that its legacy is reflective of all those things which made it great.

Group hug. No arguing, group hug, and – as I’ve been saying since long before 2011 – however you vote, vote independence.

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