Sunday 8 May 2016

A Yesser's appeal to hard nosed party political 'enlightened self interest'.


Mr D'Hondt
I am not a member of any political party but I am totally committed to the Yes movement and an Independent Scotland. 

After reading a very interesting and thought provoking post-election article over on Arc of Prosperity  these are some of my own (non party political) thoughts on the issue of d'Hondt and pro-independence majorities. I would really like to thank Tris and the Republic for giving me the opportunity to try and develop that discussion on here as a guest post.

I think, after the heat of party political battle is over, the electoral evidence is now becoming clear for all to see. The voting system, which Scotland currently operates under, is designed (and was selected specifically) in order to try and make the devolved governance of Scotland reliant on the formation of coalition politics (of some sort). This is at the heart of unionist reasoning behind d'Hondt as their voting system of choice for Holyrood back in 97. 

I.e. IF Scottish governance is made dependent on coalitions and the SNP are the only effective Independence party in the country to vote for, then it will never have a coalition partner party to form a majority government with. Therefore the SNP will be unable to pass Independence Referendum legislation while in government, no matter how popular the SNP becomes. This is central and must always be kept in mind when thinking about Scotland's current electoral system.

It also explains the reason behind the Libdem leadership's point blank refusal to enter into coalition with the SNP in 2007 (and, dare I say, Lord Nicol Stephen's shock resignation as Libdem leader and subsequent enoblement in 2008). 

It was this refusal that forced the SNP into forming Holyrood's first, 'shock horror'... minority government. Also, worth noting that even the SNP themselves bought into the accepted political narrative of the time and really didn't want to take (or see the political opportunities) that minority government could bring. 

This refusal of the democratic will of the electorate to form a coalition with the SNP shocked many of the Libdem rank and file, and was the start of Libdem electoral rot in Scotland thereafter. What it did do however, was absolutely ensure that there was no Indy Ref during that first term of enforced SNP minority rule. 

I.e Short term, the system worked exactly as designed. 

As ever, though, unionist long term thinking has been shown to be more tactical than strategic and even in those terms limited and inept, as during the period of exceptional circumstances that followed, we the Scots electorate were able to first experience successful and competent minority SNP governance, and then watch the stars align during the 2011 election as the d'Hondt system was broken (just) through what we now know was a lucky balance being struck between constituencies won and regional list votes cast. All resulting in the SNP winning an incredible (and d'Hondt busting) single party absolute majority. 

The evidence of the extraordinary nature of that result at the time was seen in the total and utter shock of even the SNP's own leadership, as well as the hilarious absolute blind panic and horror that followed from all other sections of the Scottish (and UK) political establishment. This 'breaking of their system' at the root of all the 'Holyrood-as-anti-democratic' psychosis and unionist schtick that still fills their media output to this day.

Yesterday we just saw a return to the normal way that the voting system was actually designed to operate. That is, no matter how popular a single party becomes, in a multiparty d'Hondt system, it will most likely NOT gain a majority. This is again shown to be true by the fact that the SNP voting figures actually went up from 2011 yet their seat count went down.

If all the above is taken into account and properly rationalised, then there is only one relatively simple way to ensure that democratically endorsed pro Independence electoral results in Scotland always have the ability to produce equally strong pro independence majority governance in Holyrood (along with all the democratic abilities that will naturally bring, such as referendums on Independence as often and as regularly as the will of the Scots electorate will allow).  

The answer is simple; don't try and 'game' the system by attempting to form a single super supported (and therefore super powerful) single Independence party that can somehow regularly overwhelm d'Hondt, as this strategy will inevitably risk wasting hundreds of thousands of pro-Indy votes on the list every time that attempted majority fails (750 000 votes in the case of the SNP on Thursday). Far better to simply go with the grain of d'Hondt and purposely set about helping the development and establishing of a good, strong and electorally successful moderate second pro independence party that can be relied upon to form strong and effective pro independence coalition governments with. (After Thursday, this is looking like it could be the Greens).  It's that simple.

As the main creators of our devolved electoral system, SLabour's leadership never truly saw the LibDems as an electoral threat in Holyrood, rather they viewed them as their key to consistently forming (and leading) majority Scottish governments.  Term, after term, after term. This is how the SNP (and the Yes electorate) should start thinking about the Green Party. There are many overlaps between SNP and Green party policy priorities (other than just Independence) within which a sensible and workable, progressive eco friendly programme for government could be formed.

Now that SLAB and the LibDems are up to their necks in the same d'Hondt electoral trap they hoped to lock the SNP into, it's that very same opportunity of consistently leading (though perhaps not totally dictating) the policy agenda of Scotland over many, many terms of majority government that now presents itself as the enormous prize to the SNP (and Greens as junior partners). 

All that is required is that each can somehow see past traditional UK party political tribalism. It's not happy clappy idealism that I am appealing to here but instead simple, hard nosed party political 'enlightened self interest'. This is what d'Hondt is designed to reward and it is through this (along with a powerful and autonomous YES grass-roots movement) that Scotland will quickly win it's independence.   

I think this is the lesson that the Independence movement will learn from yesterday's frustrating experience of the d'Hondt system. Hopefully all this will also be cemented in place during a term of government where the dominant pro indy party (SNP) learns to work effectively and builds strong political relationships with the other, much smaller, pro independence party that was also returned by Yes supporters to sit alongside them in Holyrood (The Greens). 

It's essential that both these parties manage to control, and then throw off, those 'me-only' party political attitudes developed and inherited from the British adversarial 'first past the post' system (essentially two party politics) and begin to adopt the more consensual, coalition based political culture that we all hoped Holyrood would help usher in (and which yesterday proved, will be needed) if timely Independence is to be achieved within the designed limitations and political realities that we the Scots electorate find ourselves having to operate under.

Thanks for a great article, Arc of Prosperity, it was much appreciated, and thanks again to Tris and Munguin's Republic for the opportunity to discuss it further in the Republic :-) 


  1. I'm dubious about this theory. How come it didn't work for the unionists? If the answer to that is "the Lib Dems", then the Yes movement has to work out how it's going to lock out RISE and/or a restored SSP.

    Either way, this kind of multi-party electoral alliance can't achieve maximum efficiency without publicly playing the system, probably by telling everyone to vote SNP 1, vote other 2. Without being able to do that, doubling down on the single-issue party or releasing everyone to vote their conscience are the only democratically acceptable options.

    I understand the frustration of the Yes movement - but the reality is, we don't have much more than 48%. If we had +50% behind us, all this scheming to win a multi-party majority on less than a majority is insane(especially as we've got that multi-party majority anyway).

    If we get 60% in favour of independence and willing to vote SNP to get it, the campaign is won. D'Hondt assures a significant number of list seats even with a total constituency sweep under those circumstances! So let's focus on winning that 12% over to the wider cause, instead of how we're going to steal 60% of the next Parliament on 45% of the vote. Christ.

    1. Ah. its not just me. We polled 46.5% of the constituencies. If we polled the predicted 50%+ ( and 62% at one point ) we could all be justified in rejecting the electoral system on this result. Our actual votes cast went up. What happened to the 5 - 10% of voters who were on our side at the start of the campaign?

      In my opinion, it was the exact same thing as they did to us at the indyref. The opposition seized on something ( and which I had heard on doorsteps). They made the election in the last week be all about independence. The MOT ran with it. And all those people we had patiently explained our record to - for that was what we ran on, not indy2 tomorrow - panicked and came out to vote against us.

      It is not the fault of greens that people voted for them - under the 7 - 9% they were polling. If you look at the numbers and compare them to polling two weeks earlier it seems that the R-DUP benefited from a motivated group of rabidly anti independence voters making sure they voted. She played a blinder. Remember, the R-DUP were meant to just overtake Kez. They humiliated her.

      And there you have it. Its the failure to convince the same group we failed to convince in 2014 that they have nothing to fear from independence.

      The result is actually good. We will still run everything - and we will hope to remove labour from most of the politicised urban councils next year. We can hope Andy Wightman pushes us to correct the appalling situation in rural Scotland viz land ownership. The gun jumpers on Indyref2 can be restrained. We have pushed the Labour branch into introspection.

      Now lets get on with governing. Lets stop bickering. Lets patiently build support for independence. When - and it is when - we are polling 55% and rising routinely in favour of independence. Then we can have the next go.

      If its necessary to have another pro indy party may I suggest it comes from the centre right. Many of the self employed support independence. Several of our leading business people support it. This is a project about all of our people. Bigging up Rise scares the horses. They are great and dedicated campaigners, but there are about 20 times as many supporters of toxic toryism as there are of world socialism. We don't need a convince the left to win this.

    2. Sorry. Left my handle off.
      Saor Alba

    3. Hi Saor Alba,
      I totally agree that the election results are very, very good news for the advancement of Independence and I also totally agree that the winning of any Indyref2 will happen in the communities and on the doorsteps. (My view is that this will have to be achieved by a strong autonomous grass-root, non party political Yes movement).

      All I am stating in this article is the importance of a stable pro indy party politics in the ability to call that second referendum whenever it best suits that grass-root movement.

      To that extent I am relieved, but still concerned at how close we came on Thursday to losing that parliamentary 'Yes majority' through the out and out SNPx2 push for an illusive single party SNP majority. That being much harder to achieve than a coalition 'yes majority' (as the surplace 750 000 SNP list votes goes to show).

      Agree that the second party coming from the centre right would help party political support for Indy but would make it difficult for left leaning SNP voters (majority I would contend) to easily take advantage of a pro Indy second party choice with their list vote, pretty much defeating the purpose of the exercise.

      The second party best placed to do the job is emerging through the democratic pressures being exerted by a very clued up Scottish electorate. Whither it's the Greens or another party will depend on how that party responds to those democratic pressures (and how it behaves in parliament in it's relations with the dominant pro Indy choice of the Yes voters: the SNP).


    4. Its not to give SNP supporters a centre right alternative that I espouse one. It is to give centre right voters a party to vote for which reassures them they will have a voice in the future Scotland.

      I speak to people who would be sympathetic to independence, but want to keep the union because they fear confiscatory socialism. I suggest to them that the economic system we have broadly works, and that is why we have it. My argument is that everyone should have equality of opportunity. That is denied in a country where the upper echelons are dominated by public schoolboys and the descendants of aristocrats.

      We have nothing to fear from self made men. But I object to inheritance trumping competence.


    5. Hi again S.A.
      Yes, a center right pro Indy party successfully standing in Holyrood would be great, but for the purposes of assuring a Yes majority in Parliament in order to simply be able to pass Indyref legislation any time we feel it necessary, then that center right party is not strictly required. So I do agree, but the priority of the article was slightly different.

      In the absence of that center right party however, come the next Indyref campaign, I do think that more ground can (and needs to) be made up on wooing the kind of center right voters that you are talking about (and areas you are talking about).

      In my view this will depend on much more effectively decoupling what should always be an obviously and vocally non party-political Yes movement from any single political party or manifesto. Visions of a future Scotland cannot be allowed to be seen to be limited to a single party political policy agenda, as that will so obviously alienate possible yes voters with very strongly held opposing party political policy ideals. Hope and visions for their own view of a future Independent Scotland should be encouraged. This can only be done by effectively running strong local indyref campaigns targeting each individual (and local area) with a campaign designed to address the pre occupations of that individual (and area). Glasgow will therefore have a very different campaign focus from Jedburgh.

      For this option to be viable however, we will need a very strong, independently organised, non party political autonomous grass-root Yes movement able to impact strongly on the strategy of the next Indref campaign. A big task but practical plans for forming just such a grass-root body will be getting published very shortly... So, keep your ears open S.A. ;-)


  2. Hi Alan,
    no one is proposing to try and steal anything. As I see it, we are operating under a system designed to frustrate Scottish independence. My interest is in maximising the party political opportunities to legislate for a referendum whenever and however often it is considered feasible. Currently this has depended upon the SNP overcoming d'Hondt.

    As you say Independence is a single issue, but the SNP are (by necessity) far from being a single issue party. This means that we are asking a large minority of the yes vote to consistently compromise many of their political ideals and continually tactical vote for the SNP on Indy alone (even when it's not explicitly stated front and foremost in their manifesto). I don't think this is a viable long term strategy.

    Far better to allow people to vote for a variety of governmental policy approaches (via different party manifestos) while still being confident that the single issue of pro-Independence is taken care of by in the policy overlap.

    As far as I am concerned, the electorate has shown itself as more than capable of settling on which second indy party is best placed to play the role required (and that party will be guided by their electorates desires in the usual democratic ways).

    Far from being a problem, other indy options in the form of 3rd (SSP?) and 4rth (rise?) indy supporting parties will simply keep the pressure for party number 2 (greens?) to stay true to supporting Indy. No one is proposing normal democratic pressures on the parties be suspended.

    In fact, by corralling the section of the Yes electorate that has doubts about many of the party political policies an SNP government promise to enact, into voting tactically for them anyway on Independence alone, is what actually does suspend normal party political pressures on what is a party of government. This is what D'Hondt used properly, could avoid.


    1. Oh and it didn't work for the unionists because they have thrown away electorate trust during years and years of petty knee jerk SNP bad politics. This really began to be seriously exposed to the public (and even some of their own rank and file) after their disdane of democratic principles by refusing to work with a party that 'won' the election in 2007. Continual petty petulance since then, from all three unionist parties, is the obvious reason it has not worked for the unionists. Not a position the SNP or Greens find themselves (though petty bickering among Yes parties with considerable overlaps in electoral support, could start developing similar public cynicism) This is the point of my article.


  3. Tris,

    Apologies if this is lengthy:

    Braco - thsnks for the article. We are all struggling to make sense of what the damned voters actually did! And sometimes apocryphal tales of intrigue and deceit.

    I think, call me a democrat, that people largely voted for what they thought was 'best'. I do not think that there is any attempt to game the system on behalf of most electors. The naive, and that was nearly me, thought that a split vote, SNP constituency and Green on the list would increase the overall number of pro-separation MSP's.

    And be in no doubt, that is what I want, party title be damned.

    But D'Hont is designed for proportionate representation based on overall votes cast. Which means that the Unionists (c.f. the Referendum) have votes too, and between them damn near took a majority for independence away from us. Praise the Lord for the Greens!

    There is an ongoing argeument about whether SNP 1 & 2 was the right strategy or whether an SNP constituency / Green list voting pattern would have been better. As far as I can tell, see Scotland goes Pop, the jury is out.

    I think the new composition of Hollyrood plays into the hands of the SNP, and to give them credit, the Greens too.

    1. Morning Douglas, and thanks for the thanks :-)

      I think your point illustrates the confusion. d'Hondt is as you say designed to give a proportionate result when used by the electorate for that purpose. However, what it actually does in practice is supply the biggest party with the lions share of first past the post seats and then 'evens' things up using a 'handicap' system in the regional list vote.

      This is the system and why, from the start, parties have struggled with forming effective constituency vs list strategies. As the constituency strategy becomes more successful it inevitably changes the requirements of the list strategy (and vice versa). No single strategy can work for individual parties over time across elections. (see SLAB history in Holyrood).

      When it comes to Scotland, historically we are a tactical voting nation, the union has ensured this. How else does a Nation of 5 million have it's voice heard (at all) when counted within a 'state' of 65 million.

      It is this that has resulted in the apparent domination of single parties over decades throughout our democratic history (in modern times Scottish Unionists up to mid 50s, Labour from mid 50's until arguably 2007 or 2015 and now the SNP).

      The Unionists selected d'Hondt for tactical reasons not representative ones and until Scotland removes herself from the UK, that underlying tactical voting necessity which Scotland as a nation finds herself in will remain as strong as ever.

      d'Hondt is suffering simply because our electorate is (and has always) viewed its operation through the lens of single issue politics. That lens is now getting more and more focused, resulting in the current discussion. This is inevitable until Scotland resolves that dominating single constitutional issue.

      My girlfriend is German and when I asked her to read over the article to check for legibility etc. she commented on how ridiculous it seemed to her that an article essentially defending effective coalition government and proportional voting systems had to be written in the first place! This made me think...

      My answer at the time was: Scotland is still a 'first past the post' tactical voting democratic culture trapped in an 'apparent' proportional voting system chosen by a partisan establishment in order to tactically further their own side of the national constitutional argument.

      No wonder we are all in such a mess! :-/


  4. An interesting article, but what you suggest is for a large pro-independence supporting party backed by a smaller pro-independence supporting party in order to 'defeat' the AMS system and deliver a pro-independence majority. With the SNP on 63 seats and the Green's on 6, isn't that what we have got?

    The problem here is that the Green's do not necessarily agree with the SNP on the trigger for the next referendum. It is not inconceivable that they would vote with the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems to defeat the SNP on proposing a new referendum following a Brexit vote.

    Instead we should support the concept of 2 votes for the SNP. Had the SNP achieved the same % of list votes as they did for the constituencies, we would have an SNP majority now and no doubt about the triggers for another referendum and should those triggers be met then no chance of losing the vote in Holyrood to bring it about.

    So in essence the real pro-independence majority was lost by suggestions like these to attempt to 'game' the system by suggesting in some way an SNP list vote was wasted.

    1. Thanks Alan,
      I do understand where you are coming from re the simplicity of a single party 'trigger' for Indyref2, however lets be honest and say that the SNP 'trigger' for a new referendum was itself very carefully and crafted to be difficult to pin down. As you say, referendum legislation can be passed in the parliament we have now as soon as the parties feel the general public want that referendum. This 'yes majority' however was a very close run thing on the night (even with a surplace of 750 000 pro Indy list votes). All this article is trying to voice is a more practical and consistent way of achieving that 'yes majority' using the system we have to use.

      In reality it's more complex than that though (see my reply to Douglas above). Interesting times


    2. You said (rightly in regard to your theory) that 'in reality it's more complex than this...' which I agree with.

      But with the '2 votes SNP' it is much simpler. If SNP constituency voters had not been side tracked by the tactical voting campaign and had simply voted SNP twice the SNP would have a majority.

      So the reality is simple, don't water down the votes of the only pro-independence party with a chance of winning a majority.

      The SNP majority has been lost by those advocating tactical voting and by those listening to them. I'd appeal to you to stop this now to avoid potentially more serious consequences in the future.

    3. Morning Alan,
      SNPx2 may be a simple slogan, but it's an incredibly difficult reality to deliver (and will only get harder at the next election and the SNP's potential 4rth term in office). The d'Hondt system makes my suggestion the far less riskier method to ensure a pro yes majority is returned to Parliament next time around (and regularly thereafter).

      Your assertion that
      'The SNP majority has been lost by those advocating tactical voting and by those listening to them.'
      Is simply not true for two main reasons.

      1. the Snp did not get their pro YES vote out. The Tories got their (and Labour's !) NO voters out. This is how SNP lost their constituencies and so their majority.

      2. You conveniently forget to include many SNP constituency votes which were gained via tactical votes from the smaller pro- Indy parties. Ruth Davidson's win being a rare example of where those tactical Green votes were denied the SNP in a constituency race.

      I am not wanting to rehearse these dry circular arguments all over again however, as it was this kind of discussion that drove me to write the article in the first place.

      Perhaps you and I will just have to agree to differ Alan, but I won't be stopping talking about this issue any time soon and I don't think it's at all healthy to appeal to me to do so.

      Far better to put forward your arguments (as you have) and see where the logic leads us (especially FIVE years out from the next election) If the conversation cannot be had safely now... then when can it be?


  5. Could not agree more with this post. It echoes my sentiments. It was what I wanted to see long before the election last week. It was my hope since before GE15, but maybe now people will start to consider it.

    1. Thanks Squidgy :-)
      As SLAB are finding out to their cost, the constitutional question is simply not going away (on the contrary is becoming central to politics in Scotland). Lets hope an informal 'yes alliance' is able to form itself inspite of our current adversarial party political culture. 'Enlightened party political self interest' being the main hope and driver for that formation.


  6. I did some calculations for Highland using an UNMODIFIED de Hontd.
    The divisor (total votes divided by 7)163919/7=23417
    SNP 81600 = 3 rounded down, unused votes 11349
    Con 44633 = 2 rounded up, unused votes nil
    Lab 22841 = 1 rounded up, unused votes nil
    Grn 14871 = 1 rounded up, unused votes nil
    If the greens had less than 11349 votes the SNP would get another seat.
    It wont be dead accurate 'cos I haven't got the total votes cast, however you'll get the idea.

    1. Hi quines's Da',
      for me the replacement of one pro indy party with another on the list is not the problem. The problem is ensuring net gains of pro indy parties on the list when a single party (the SNP) is set to dominate in the constituencies generally, and by doing so consistently secure some numerical comfort for the pro 'Yes majority' available at Holyrood.


    2. I was making the point that the UNMODIFIED de Hontd system is far more proportional than the version used in Scotland.
      In Highland Region the SNP would get 3 seats to the detriment of the Cons and Lab.
      I still don't believe that you can tactically vote in what is basically 2 separate votes for the Scottish Parliament.

    3. Think I am saying (just an opinion) that a great majority of current SNPx2 voters main aim is to advance Independence. If that was shown to be most easily, safely and regularly achieved by voting SNP on Constituency and second pro indy party on list, then those voters would do so (and not tactically as it suits their aim).

      This is also why I don't believe that it would take much coordination or coaxing either. If shown to clearly be how the current d'Hondt system operates (and was chosen in order to operate that way) then it seems to me quite simple logic to follow. This is why the SNP had to be so vociferous with SNPx2. It goes against the grain of the d'Hondt electoral system's logic (when the mechanics of how it actually works in practice are understood).

      Coincidentally I also think the above also applies to many SGreen/ Rise/ssp etc voters too. It's just that they already tend to split their votes to maximise their pro Indy voice in Parliament. SNPx2 could be argued to have alienated that vote for the SNP in the constituencies. What I am proposing would hopefully reduce that alienation in future.

      This is what my article was trying to address, not the pros and cons of the individual parties as such.


  7. Braco, thank you for your piece.

    I agree that we need a mosaic of political parties in Holyrood who put self determination in their manifestos. The three established London based Parties have no mandate from their bosses in London to do so and are essentially vassals or slaves to their London masters. They are reaping the electoral harvest of that.

    The Scottish Greens are however Scottish based and thus free to pursue their agenda, which is more likely to be served in an independent Scotland than through the existing Westminster system.

    My problem with the S Greens is that they seem to be "too democratic" in that taking a cross section of any dozen you will get 15 opinions. That leads to factionalism and venetian politics. To be honest, some of their decisions are just bizarre.

    I remember how they approached consensual politics with the SNP's first budget when they said they would not support it unless they were given concessions which clearly impossible for the SNP to give. Margo, on the other hand always made sure she was given something that deliverable. They never seemed to learn from that.

    Moving on they consulted with the one English Green at Westminster, Caroline Lucas, and she voted in the H of C against the SNP's motion of FFA because of that. WTF?

    They are like a Teachers Common Room in a Primary school, akin to trying to herd cats.

    The SG are going to have to grow up quickly or they will remain, in my book, the real successors to the Liberals; destined to be a sounding board but never in Government because that would require taking ownership and responsibility and that frightens them.

    The three Unionist groups would need to dissociate themselves from the Westminster system and pledge allegiance to the Scottish people. I don't see that happening ever with the Tories but Labour may just do so before their death. The LibDems, well who needs them if we have the Greens.

    Holyrood is now entering a period of independence supporters against London vassals. I hope the S Greens fulfil an indie role but I hae ma doots about their bottle.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Morning Bugger le Panda,
    I agree re the Greens previous, shall we say, less predictable decisions in earlier parliaments. However we can only hope that the experience of success and clear yes electorate expectation will have a maturing effect on the party decision making when it comes to consensual pro indy politics.

    This is what I mean by the second party being placed under normal democratic pressures by the presence of other smaller pro indy parties. The SGreens for example have slowly morphed into a steadily left wing party in order to tap into and serve Scotland's left wing electorate. Hopefully that same sensitivity will be shown to their pro Yes focused electorate too overtime. If not, they will lose it and any hope of advancing to shared power in Holyrood. Simple.

    As you say, the unionist parties, being led from another country are free from those Scottish democratic pressures to serve their electorates wants and needs and are therefore simply dying on the vine.


  10. Braco

    The system is what it is, if I remember correctly the SNP took little part in the designing of the parliament at the time and I suppose that was their view they wouldn't win either way. I don't really like the system as it allows parties to have MSPs, rejected by the voters, returned via the list, thats dishonest as far as I am concerned and it should be that you can't stand on both.

    The result, I am not too stressed out about. I am like you, not a member of any political party. I was a member of the SNP years ago and recently gave the Lib Dems a go, a mistake to be fair. I was never comfortable as a member of the SNP for a million reasons and believe that the Greens now are more socially liberal than the Liberal Democrats.

    I am very passionate about YES and I am 100% convinced the long term well being of Scotland is as an independent country. It will take more time though, the YES campaign was wrong in many areas at the time and many pointed this out. Currency was a huge issue and they should have said we go with our own currency at a certain point but use the pound until things settle down, even going as far as having a design competion, name for currency. People needed to be engaged in the economic debate, including the design of social security. If I was the SNP I would quietly working on that now.

    However the result is no bad thing. There is now a clear dividing line in Scotland between YES and NO, Holyrood and Westminster. There is no hiding place for the Tories or the unionists any more and the actions of Westminster are now front and centre while at the same time the SNP need to play it smart and build alliances, listen to the YES movement/supporters who are not members of the party and slowly convince the soft NO voters of the way ahead. I don't doubt that independence is coming at some point, it may take another 10 years to convince enough people or will need another major world economic collapse, no one wants that but it could happen as neo liberalism economic models continue to hemorage jobs etc to the east and the West becomes in the main impovrished and more desperate at the lowest level. You can drive down people's living standards so far, you can only punish people so much for the crimes of ill health, old age and unemployment. The SNP need to play it smart, not shout Westminster bad all the time but quietly and calmly inform and educate.

    Interesting times indeed, but a really interesting article, thanks.


    1. Morning Bruce, and thanks for your response.
      I am in agreement with you that Thursday's election result is really very good for the advancement of Independence (on all fronts) and for the same reasons you mention.

      The Tories seem to be oblivious to the destruction that their association wreaks on everything they touch. Up until now its done exactly what they wanted it to do, that is, destroy every political opponent that they snuggled up to for power and self advancement. This time however they are snuggling up to something they profess to love ... The Union. I think the results will be the same.

      My point in writing the article was certainly not despair of the result on Thursday but rather relief at it, considering how close we came to losing any kind of Yes Majority at all (especially taking into account the incredible surplus of SNP list votes we had).

      I want independence ASAP (as I am sure you do too Bruce) and for that one pre-requisite is to ensure (regularly and safely) that we the YES Movement have the parliamentary capability to call a referendum on Independence whenever the best moment arises.

      It was with those two issues in mind that I reconsidered the current d'Hondt system as chosen by our opponents and wrote the article. Really glad you found it interesting. :-)


  11. I will only vote for a party that has 'indy' in its constitution.
    Until the Greens have that, they will never get my vote.
    My main political aim is independence, not Green policies, though Green policies would probably be more likely to be voted for in an 'indy' Scotland.

    1. Hi Juteman,
      totally understand your position. I am also only after Independence. (Party politics is a luxury only afordable after Independence has been achieved). Just trying to analyse the best way to advance that cause using d'Hondt, which remember was originally chosen by our enemies as the best electoral system to 'democratically' frustrate that shared aim of ours.

      I have found these discussions so far very interesting and enlightening. Hopefully these kind of open, reasoned discussions will help avoid some of the friction we saw within the Yes Movement generally through the whole SNPx2/split-vote debate during (and now after) the recent election.


    2. I understand what you are saying about Party politics, but i don't think of the SNP as a political Party, more a movement. The SNO already has Greens, Socialists and dare i say even those of a more right wing persuasion in its ranks. The British State would love to split that movement into seperate Parties, and are probably working in the shadows to do so. The strength of the Indy movement is its solidarity in my opinion.

    3. I am also absolutely with you both there, but unfortunately I have a feeling we may basically have already maximised the possibilities of using the SNP (which is a distinct political party with distinct non Indy based policy agendas of it's own) as the sole umbrella party a the movement so clearly made up of a membership with strong party political policy agendas of their own.

      It appears also to have unfortunately 'maxed' that support out just at the electoral point where a pro yes coalition majority becomes threatened every time that sole SNP majority fails to materialise. This is the point of my article.

      Is there a better pro-Indy, multi party electoral balance for the movement when taking into account the realities of the d'Hondt electoral system we currently operate under?


  12. I'm curious why you think it is somehow Machiavellian or dishonest of the LDems to have not wished to continue in government after 2007. By that point they'd been in power in Holyrood since 1999, it is only natural Nicol Stephen might want to remain in opposition for a term.

    A decision made even more understandable given the LDems are committed to a federalist UK, not a separatist narrative.

    This aspect of your article just seems unfair, and obsessed with a 'worlds against us' Nat-centric mentality.

    1. That Dean is a totally wrong analysis of the situation and mean spirited to boot.

      in 2007 there were elements of the LibDems who wanted a discussion with the SNP but Nicol Stevenson, Ming the Doddery, (really a Tory in disguise) and some money men said no way. Stevenson and Ming have been rewarded with their baubles and pension for life.

      So, that affection for Federalism has led them to where they are now and 47 lost deposits with enough MSPs to fit in a taxi. The World is certainly against "US," the "US" being a political outpost in mortal danger of being overrun and annihilated by the local savages.

      how many votes did the LibDems actually garner, Dean?

      By they way, are you still in China?

    2. Yes, still in China. The weather has finally heated up, but after two years come June I really miss hame and the familiar.

      I don't understand what you and this article is saying.

      Let me try and get it straight:

      SNP 'won' a 'right' to be in power, in coalition, despite not winning a majority in 2007 and not getting close to 50%+ of the national vote...but still because they are a large minority party they somehow are entitled to being in power with a usable majority (presumably using someone elses votes and support)?

      And further, if the LDems after eight years in power choose not to remain in power as the junior partner yet again...they've somehow sold out for personal gain? (never mind they got electorally destroyed...some personal gain there)...

      If anyone is being mean spirited it is those unable/unwilling to accept that the Nats were (and are again) a minority gov't because they are not a majoritarian party - that is to say, they didn't get a plural majority of the vote and thus aren't entitled to have their cake and eat it.

      The voters didn't wish the Nats to have a majority, so didn't vote to give you one. And it really is up to individual parties if they wish to negotiate coalitions or not. They aren't obliged to negotiate if they do not wish to.

    3. I'm not comfortable with the (very common) phrasing "the voters didn't wish".

      Each individual voter had a wish, perhaps, but voters as a whole don't think as a lump. Converting "not enough people wanted Party X to have a majority, so they didn't" into "voters actively didn't want them to have a majority" doesn't make sense to me.

      When I vote, I don't consider how many other people will vote the same way.

      I'm not getting at you personally; as I said at the start, lots of people say similar things.

  13. I enjoyed reading this well written article. I am in two minds however,. After Thursday I too felt numb at the "loss" of all those SNP votes but on reflection, a few hundred votes in the constituency vote would have seen a majority.

    Wbo would have thought that Jackie Baillie would hold on? Or Iain Gray? And even tbough I am sympathetic to the Greens, I have to question their logic in where they field candidates.

    In looking at tactical voting, we do so with the benefit of hindsight. At the next election the SNP will have been in power for 14 years and their constituency vote may well be slipping back, they would then be relying on the list.

    Howevrr, we must not forget that it was a great result and I would rather have more Greens than Unionists in Parliament. It is sad that there now seems to be recriminations between people on the Yes side. I hope we all learn from this and move forward positively, I for one am prepared to give the Greens a chance in this Parliament.

    1. The Greens manifesto stated they'd only support #indyref2 if there was 1m signatories on a petition first. That smacks of the long grass game to me. Are you sure the Greens, 20 months on from the last indyref, actually want to fight it all over again?

    2. Hi Provost and thanks for the compliment (much appreciated :-)

      Yes I think you are correct that come the next election the SNP vote will be difficult to sustain at the current numbers (both in the constituencies and the list).

      That, however, is why I think it's so important to reduce the electoral pressure on the SNP in being the sole provider of a pro-indy majority in Holyrood.

      I am suggesting this can be done by having a workable pro indy party alongside them in Holyrood with which a strong Yes Majority can be assured. That's how Labour managed majority government at Holyrood (alongside the Libdems) after all, and with a much smaller vote share than the SNP have or are likely to have at the next election.


    3. No, I think the Greens would prefer to wait a few more years for another referendum. However they are at least open to the idea, the other three parties are of course implacably opposed.

      My personal view is that if another referendum were to take place in the next year or so, it would produce a narrower No victory. A vote towards the end of this Parliament would be my choice. But who am I to say?

    4. An Indyref late in the parliament would suit me just fine too! :-)

      Thanks for the discussion Provost.


  14. Dean, I never said anything about wining a right to do anything. What they did was, as the largest individual Party by seats have a right to try to form a stable Government with or without other partners. That is the norm in democracies which have a form of voting designed to reflect the plurality of voting intentions.

    In fact, Dean the d'Hondt formula is one method designed to do just that. The Holyrood Debating Chamber is shaped like horse shoe to physically reflect that desire. It is supposed not be a Punch & Judy Chamber like Westminster.

    I consider your position that LibDems taking time out from Government to be an abrogation of political responsibilty and two fingers to the people who voted them.

    Vote for us and we will change anything, just shout from the sides.

    Shanghai or Beijing?

    1. sorry typo

      we will not change anything, just ....

    2. Wuhan, Hubei province. Central(ish) China. 11m people, 20 years into its 'economic miracle', with a typical AIQ measure of 100-200 (so...not as polluted as Beijing, but hardly healthy!)

    3. "Vote for us and we will change anything, just shout from the sides."

      A party in Holyrood can wield influence disproportionate to their size, even outside of government! Just as Annabel Goldie, and all those concessions she gained off of the SNP (when they were happy to do deals with us) back in the 2007-2011 parliament :P

    4. Wuhan; I think I have been there, but they all look alike to me and some just seem to merge in my mind. Chengdu was different because it is older and has loads of Pandas.

      Is Wuhan on the Yellow River or Yangtze?

    5. Yangtze.

      I went further up to see the 3 Gorges Dam, incredible piece of engineering. Really something. But Beijing and the sites remain breath-taking.

      As for Pandas, sadly the Wuhan city zoo doesn't boast of any :(
      I'll just need to wait till I return home in July to see any.

      But I'll be spending 4th July with my US friends in NY State, enjoying the partying as they celebrate their independence day (the irony isn't lost on me, believe me lol)

    6. Hi Dean,
      think Bugger has made most of the points I would have made. At the time I can assure you that many rank and file Libdems (even councilors) were disgusted by their parties unwillingness to engage with the possibility of continuing in government with an SNP coalition. Especially as you say, they were federalists and the SNP were making noises about coalition negotiations that could follow that path to more powers.

      In the end the rights and wrongs of the LibDem leaderships deciosions and the reasons behind them have been judged in the court of Scottish public opinion and electoral support. That goes for all the 'Scottish' Unionist parties in general actually.


    7. That doesn't go for all the Scottish Unionist parties. There is a new kid on the block, the Scottish Ruth Davidson Unionist Party (I jest).

      Seriously though, seeing us Scots Tories jump from 13% and 15 seats to 22.9% (regional) 20% (constit) and 31 MSPs sounds like the court of Scots public opinion voted to boost at least one Unionist party.

      As for the rights and wrongs of the LDems, we'll agree to disagree. I understand where you're coming from, I just think it's a bit harsh on the poor endangered flightless avian LibDems.

    8. 20 % Dean? Up 7% yes, but directly taken from SLabour collapse and it's own wee blairite unionist fundamentalist wing. Looks like a redistribution of any previous electoral remains from the last sitting of the aforementioned 'court of Scottish public opinion and electoral support'. But Dean, enjoy what you can. That's always been my outlook too ! ;-)


  15. Sorry No I disagree, if the Greens want independence and I somehow doubt it, then get into bed with the SNP, they are the only one ones who want independence want the best for Scotland, all the rest have agendas which do not bear looking at. Give the Greens a bit of carbon capture/more wind power and they will sell themselves out of Independence. If we cannot get out independence the democratic way then other ways will be found. Believe me I am no one who postulates violence but the Brisith Empire has the history.
    This D'Hondt system wa intended to ensure that there always would be a coalition if it makes it hard for those who put it in so be it. Scotland will have it's independence, just leave it to Ruth, she has to convince those who are unable to work out what they will do without the benefits handed to them by the pro independenc SNP and how the rich elderly will just love spending their money on Bus travel, NHS and prescriptions that they have presently considering most of them have locks on their wallets. Somebody out there did not look at what she was talking about too closely. By the way in case anyone missed it WE WON on Thursday, so no long faces. we did not get the unatainable majority but by gum WE WON. Helena

    1. Hi Helena and thanks for responding. Most of what I would reply to your post I have already said in previous responses to other posts so I hope you don't mind me not repeating them here.

      'if the Greens want independence and I somehow doubt it, then get into bed with the SNP, they are the only one ones who want independence want the best for Scotland, all the rest have agendas which do not bear looking at.'

      Just let me say that it's the absolutist, them and us tone set in your preceding quote which alienates and risks splitting what is, by it's national nature, a very varied (and wide ranging, politically speaking) Independence movement.

      We need this movement to stay together to defend and deliver on the principle of Independence, It's not necessary for every single last person in that Yes Movement to climb into the same party political vessel.

      In fact the whole article was written to show that failure to achieve that unrealistic goal may, under the current d'Hondt electoral system damage our movements prospects of securing Independence.


    2. Sorry Bravo,still feel they do not have Scotland's best interests in mind. Patrick Jarvis can allay our fears by issuing a statement that he will not be swayed and that nothing will get in the way of the fight for Independence,but no, he says nothing, he switchers.I would believe Rise before the Greens and I an not alone. The movement a nd by that by that the people who truly believe and belong to parties or none as suits. Helena

    3. Sorry for the typos,kindle and predictive text. Helena

    4. Hi Helena,
      think we will just have to agree to differ, but that's alright isn't it. Thanks for the discussion I have really enjoyed it.


  16. They have been shitting in their own nest for far too long.

    They smell and it is not nice.

    Good Night.

    1. Sorry Bugger, but who have?


  17. LibDems

    Ddean's analogy of the flightless avain.

    Should have been a reply link but published as though it was a new thread.

    1. of course! :-)


    2. I assumed the Greens, Oops.

    3. Ruth Davidson and the tories as official [!] opposition will be the unifying force which brings independence ever closer.

    4. Morning Dan,
      the Tories that seem to be oblivious to the destruction that their association wreaks on everything they touch. Up until now its done exactly what they wanted it to do, that is destroy every political opponent that they snuggled up to for power and self advancement. This time however they are snuggling up to something they profess to love ... The Union. I think the results will be the same.

      At least during IndyRef 1 they were self aware enough to know that they required Scottish Labour to front the No campaign and act as human shields for the union between them (the Tories) and the Scottish electorate. I have to ask myself... what's changed since that necessity.

      My answer is nothing, in fact things have gotten worse! Therefore, an indyref2 No campaign fronted by the Tories will (alone) inevitably result in many, many more yes votes than before.

      Happy days.


  18. I very much agree with this post, indeed I have been thinking along
    the same lines for some time. The results from Thursday have confirmed this.

    My own thoughts coincide with the scenario mentioned on the arc of prosperity link you provided.

    SNP stands on constituency only, Greens stand on list only.

    To my way of thinking this has so many advantages that any potential disadvantages pale into insignificance.

    For example: The arguments that were given great attention before and after the election are redundant, how can a party that is only standing on the constituency be a one party state? The unionist media spent months trying to split the vote, that would be what we would actually be aiming for.

    When the unionist media claim its a done deal, no point in voting, etc. This can be countered by "you only have one vote this time, don't waste it" I believe it would increase the SNP constituency vote because of this, plus some who argued that the SNP were being greedy asking for both votes would be more likely to vote SNP. Plus no wasted votes arguments.

    Do not think for a second that the unionists have stopped working to kill independence, they already have a compliant media spouting their
    propaganda on an daily basis. It will only get worse, not better.

    For those who think that the First Minister will wipe the floor with Davidson at First Ministers questions, yes, she will, but no one will see it happen, unless they watch it live, and very few do. The unionists state propaganda outlet the bbc will doctor and clip it till it is unrecognisable. Look how finishing a distant second has been spun to look like a victory.

    This only works if the Greens AND the SNP are fully committed to independence rather than party advantage. If they are then for me it is the best way to counter any unionist tactics next time around.

    Best of all it would result in the decimation of the unionist msps, imagine the result of a hundred plus pro independence msps. That would be a mandate for independence never mind another referendum.

    1. Hi Neil, and thanks for the response.

      Don't know what the electoral commission rules would be on your idea but it's the very same thought I had a year or so ago when the SNP were polling in the high 50s for the constituency vote.

      I do think that for the Greens to get that kind of endorsement from the grass-root Yes movement though, they really would have to write support for Scottish Independence into their constitution. Not an impossible task for all their new Yes members since the referendum to set themselves.

      All in all, I think its a great Idea Neil, and if the Greens aren't up for it I'm sure there are other ambitious pro indy politicians out there willing to consider such an electoral prospect.

      Nice one :-)


  19. How many list MSPs would the Greens have won if SNP voters had voted,

    1st vote SNP. 2nd vote Green.

    Would it be approximately this?

    SNP, 59 Greens, 30 Tory's, 21 Lab, 12 LibDems, 4

    1. Sure. If you like the idea of ~45% of voters gaming the system to gain 80% of the representation. Sounds rather anti-democratic to me. Why did we even bother with any form of proportional representation? Good ol' FPTP would give us our thumping legislative majority(see Scotland results, 2015 and see also constituency results 2016). And once a referendum is held, bam. No independence.

      Winning no voters over is the only solution. If Scotland becomes 55 or 60% Yes, this kind of electoral alliance will be pointless, because either there'll be enough dedicated SNP and Green voters to win the votes in their own right or because the SNP is handed an absolute majority on the List.

      The idea that d'Hondt makes majority government impossible is nonsense - it is possible when a party gains an absolute majority of the popular vote.

      I have absolutely no problems with the Greens managing to soak up another 10% of the vote - as long as they get them from undecided or unionist voters. Yes parties only got ~48% of the vote last week. That's our real problem, not the system.

    2. I voted SNP with both votes, its plain to me my 2nd vote was wasted, 950,000 votes for 4 list MSPs is not a good return.

      Next time I will vote SNP 1st, Greens 2nd, its not gaming the system, to me its commonsense.

    3. Alan,
      you are talking like a multi party election for the government of a country (even a devolved government) is somehow similar to an Indyref. It is not.

      General elections are exactly that... general, and the electorate have to balance and assess competing policy priorities of the different parties in order to choose a suitable government for the next five years. Things like the NHS and Education etc. tend to take priority (or at least figure strongly) in their considerations. A referendum on the other hand allows for a complete emphasis on the constitutional arguments and how they will impact long term (and more generally) on those subjects that usually dominate general elections (health and education etc).

      It has become accepted reality (through years of SNP election campaigning policy) that a general election majority is never going to lead directly to Independence, and therefore the electorate are free to vote accordingly (hence some of the previous SNP Holyrood heartlands voting NO in the ref and Labours all voting YES). There is no direct read across between party political support for Holyrood and YES or NO in an Indyref.

      My article is only trying to discuss an easier, more effective way of using the d'Hondt system to produce regular pro-indy majorities in our parliament in order to give the Yes Movement the essential ability to call that referendum whenever we feel confident of the ability to win the campaign.

      As far as your point about gaining a majority out of what is supposed to be a proportional system goes, well, are we not hearing a lot of upset and blame being spread around over the loss of the previous SNP majority? That SNP Parliamentary majority (the one that allowed the calling of an Indy Ref for the very first time in 300 years) was actually won on less than 50% of the national vote too. You see my point?

      I could also add that we very nearly won that first referendum when polling for Yes was as low as 25% before the campaign got into full swing. It was therefore the campaign, and the ability it allowed the electorate, to consider the constitutional question as an issue in its own right which was instrumental in swinging folk from NO to Yes. That and the necessity of knowing that each voter HAD to come to some sort of decision on the issue by polling day,(no matter what). It will be exactly the same for Indyref2.


    4. Hi Alexander,
      I think you are correct. It's no more 'gaming' the system than asking everybody to vote SNP when it's already been acknowledged that the SNP vote is currently made up of Greens, SSP, RISE, etc. tactical voters who are prioritising Independence.

      Tactical voting is tactical voting, whiter in SNPx2 or split vote form. For me the only question is which is most effective and in what circumstances.

      As you say, sounds like common sense to me. ;-)


  20. Great article and one which needs to be circulated widely.
    I have to confess that ,like I suspect many others (especially as an Edinburgh Central constituent!),to being apoplectic when the Greens split the constituency vote and the SNP lost to Ruthie.And by the way I had previously said my ideal national result was exactly what we got!!Scizoid like many SNP voters I would suggest
    However when I got up and realised that the Green candidate in Central had effectively 'allowed' Andy Wightman to be elected on the list I was overjoyed. I am now totally signed up to the idea of an INdy alliance assuming the Greens can deliver. I know it is not that simple but it is as Braco suggests possible

    1. Thanks Fourfolksache, much appreciated.
      Like yourself (I think), after a difficult Thursday night/Friday morning, I am beginning to feel like the movement as a whole may have started to pass through a new maturity threshold. Early days yet but the mood music from Patrick Harvey (and the Green voters I have spoken to) is sounding very good to me. Lets keep our fingers crossed and do whatever we can to keep whatever gentle pressure on that we can...

      It's been a great discussion so thanks again,


  21. I will only ever consider voting for a party which has competent government at the core of it's policies. That means occasionally, that a single issue party like the greens has to occasionally bite the bullet and compromise.

    They did not do so at the time of the last minority government (for instance they teamed up with the rest of the opposition parties to take money from dualling the A9 project and gave the money to the Edinburgh tram project).

    If they make the same mistake again, they may lose much of that membership. I hope they bear that in mind. Additionally, they might want consider how much of their agenda they would get from being in coalition with the three unionist parties.

    1. On the main issue, which is independence in case any of us forgets, Patrick Harvie has stated categorically that he would not stand in the way of a second referendum. Of course they will try to push 'green' policies at the SG, it would be astonishing if they didn't. But on the constitutional issue the Greens are on-side.

      And the Edinburgh trams project should, at the very least, be completed. I do not think that that was a mistake, exactly. What was a complete utter disgrace was the overspend.

    2. Morning bjsalba and Douglas,
      my view is that electoral success does bring the kind of party political 'maturity' that you are both talking about. It's also important to recognise that it is very much up to the new 'post No' Indy party membership surge to make their feelings and presence felt in the running of their parties. IF the do, I would have very little worries on this score.

      These are the normal democratic pressures that I was speaking about in earlier replies. It's those pressures that hopefully will enforce the 'hard nosed party political enlightened self interest' that inspired the article in the first place.

      Any way yous two, thanks a lot for engaging with me on this prickly issue. The discussion has been great and given lots to think about and hopefully move forward with.



  22. Braco,

    Thanks for lighting the fire, very good article, or have I said that already :-)


  23. Wery fascinating the nats still imagining they could win
    a yes vote when all the robust factual evidence prove.
    there aint a majority within Scotland for a vote to pass
    indeed the snp er Nicola has admitted that relevant fact.

    It matters not a jot if the snp alongside the greens ram through
    against the settled will of the Scottish people a referendum
    already decided you will still be rejected .

    Enlightened self interest I mean really though ever read any Ayn Rand doyen of right wing neo-liberals

  24. Naa Niko... you being the good unionist, it's only plain old fashioned 'self interest' that appeals I suppose ?