This site has never told readers how to vote in Scottish elections and never will, partly because its editor has no vote there and doesn’t have to live with the consequences whoever wins. (Something that ISN’T true about independence, in which case Wings would relocate to Scotland, which is why we freely express a firm view on that.)
It’s in that context that we make the following observations about next month’s vote.
1. RISE AREN’T GOING TO WIN ANY SEATS.
They’re just not. They could multiply their current support by 10 in the next two weeks and still be nowhere near. In terms of winning representation at Holyrood for the next five years, a vote for RISE is – categorically and indisputably – a wasted vote.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote for them if you agree with their policies (even if they’re somewhat confused or flat-out contradictory, like a £100,000 salary cap and a 60% tax rate for people earning over £150,000). Every political party has to build from nothing, and in a broader sense there’s no such thing as a wasted vote.
But in THIS election, right here right now, voting for RISE is saying “I’m going to leave who Scotland’s list MSPs are to fate, because my vote will count for nothing”.
2. A “PRO-INDEPENDENCE OPPOSITION” IS IMPOSSIBLE.
The only thing even remotely akin to a meaningful runner-up prize in an election is to be the largest opposition party, which gets you privileged treatment in parliament and the media. But the second-biggest pro-independence party is hoping, at best, to come fourth in this election, which gets you nothing.
Even fourth is a pretty big ask. But to lead the opposition the Greens would have to go from 87,000 votes to more like 500,000. If every single Tory, Lib Dem, socialist and UKIP list vote from 2011 had gone to the Greens instead, they’d still have been short of Labour’s total. Whatever else happens in May, “the opposition” will still be Unionist.
(And of course, in terms of independence then by definition it will ALWAYS be so.)
3. A “PRO-INDEPENDENCE OPPOSITION” IS MEANINGLESS ANYWAY.
There are only two possible outcomes of a Holyrood election – either the governing party gets a majority or it doesn’t. If it does, then the composition of the opposition is irrelevant, because the government can pass whatever it wants.
And if it doesn’t get a majority, it only needs however many of the opposition’s votes are required to reach one. If a minority governing party is only (say) three short of the 65 seats needed at Holyrood, then it doesn’t matter if 63 of the 66 opposition MSPs are against it. It only needs the other three to pass its bills.
4. THE SNP AREN’T GOING TO WIN EVERY CONSTITUENCY SEAT.
Whatever polls say, realistically it simply isn’t going to happen. In Orkney the SNP trailed the Lib Dems in 2011 by 11%, while in Shetland the Nats were a massive 35 points behind. The islands resisted the SNP tsunami in the Westminster election last year and one or both is very likely to do so again this year.
The Borders will be tough ground too. In the 2011 Holyrood landslide not one of the three seats adjacent to England went to the Nats, and they trailed by up to 19 points.
Even allowing for Labour’s collapse, there are numerous places where the SNP is defending very small majorities and could be vulnerable to Unionist tactical voting. In 10 of their seats the majority is under 1000, the lowest being Glasgow Anniesland where Bill Kidd won in 2011 by a mere seven votes.
In Glasgow Kelvin, meanwhile, the SNP finished just 882 votes ahead five years ago, and this time Patrick Harvie of the Greens is standing for the constituency seat as well as on the list, creating a serious possibility of splitting the Yes vote and letting Labour sneak back in.
In short, then, there are at a minimum 15 constituencies where the Nats will face, at the very least, a serious fight. If they were to lose just over half of them they’d fall short of a majority and would need list seats to get across the line.
5. THE GREENS’ COMMITMENT TO A SECOND INDYREF IS LUKEWARM.
The Scottish Greens manifesto is clear that the party would campaign for a Yes vote in the event of a second referendum. It’s a lot more vague on actually bringing that second referendum about. The current stated policy is that a second vote would require a “citizens’ initiative”, taking the form of a petition comprising one million signatures, unless there was a counter-petition AGAINST a referendum with more.
In other words, to back a second referendum the Greens want to have a mass public voting contest first – in effect a referendum about a referendum.
The party’s position, put more candidly, is that it will campaign for independence should a second referendum somehow happen, but they don’t really want it to happen, even in the event of a Brexit vote in the UK.
The obstacles the Greens have put in place of supporting another indyref in the next parliament are to all practical purposes insurmountable. Should their votes be crucial to passing a referendum bill, it’s very far from certain it would be delivered.
At the risk of repeating ourselves, none of the above is necessarily an argument for voting for or against any particular party next month. The constitution is not the be-all and end-all of politics, and for many people other issues may be more important than parties’ stances on independence or referendums.
But this is a pro-independence site, not a party political one, so we view and analyse things from that perspective and present facts relevant to that aim. Readers may do with those facts and that analysis what they wish.