Friday, 13 November 2015

A “Pick ‘n’ Mix” Parliament?

There are a number of problems with the notion of orchestrating voters in order to create a "Pick 'n' Mix" parliament. Others have tackled the psephological aspects. I would suggest that not the least of the problems is illustrated by the lack of any consensus about outcomes. It seems form ll of this that, even if it were possible to achieve coordinated tactical voting - which it really isn't - the result would remain unpredictable.

Superficially, the idea of having a large number of non-SNP pro-independence MSPs seems attractive. And ridding our parliament of as much as possible of the British parties is obviously desirable. But there is reason to question how effective a group of "Other Pro-independence" MSPs might be. In the first place, what chance is there that they would, in fact, be a group. This is the infamously factional and fractious left that we're talking about. Experience tells us that they are likely to expend more of their energies on internecine squabbling and partisan point-scoring than in working together towards a common goal.

We have to wonder, too, if these non-SNP pro-independence parties actually share a goal, either among themselves or with the SNP and/or the broader independence movement. Much has been made of the diversity of the Yes campaign. And rightly so. But the thing that unified the diverse parts of the Yes campaign was a straightforward, no-strings commitment to independence which was not conditional on any particular political agenda. Of all the pro-independence parties, only the SNP maintains this stance. For all the others it's a matter of "independence if" and "independence but".

When we talk about the potential effectiveness of these non-SNP pro-independence MSPs we have to be clear about the context. As the opposition at Holyrood they would have to try very hard to be worse than British Labour in Scotland and the other British parties. It would certainly be good to have an opposition which was doing more than just throwing a ludicrously protracted tantrum at having been dispossessed of the power and status to which it presumes entitlement.

But in the context of advancing the cause of restoring Scotland's independence, there is reason to doubt that these other pro-independence parties would have much impact. Principally because the British media would simply airbrush them out of the picture altogether. Cast your mind back to the referendum campaign and ask yourself how often Yes Scotland or any of the myriad organisations and groups operating under the Yes Scotland umbrella were even acknowledged. As far as the Brit-centric mainstream media was concerned, it was all about the SNP and Alex Salmond. The same attitude would prevail in relation to RISE, Solidarity etc. To the considerable extent that being effective in the independence campaign requires a significant media profile, these parties and their MSPs would be only marginally effective as they were denied any media profile at all.

Look at the way the Westminster elite have sought, with some success, to sideline and exclude the SNP group at Westminster, despite their massive democratic mandate. A handful of Green/RISE/Solidarity MSPs at Holyrood will be as nothing by comparison.

The only exception to this media blanking of the entire Yes campaign other than the SNP was when one or other of the Yes groups or organisations did something that could be spun as embarrassing to the SNP. Likewise, any non-SNP MSPs at Holyrood after May would only ever find themselves getting any media attention if they were sniping at the SNP administration. They would, in effect, be used as sticks to beat the SNP, and little else.

And we have good cause to suppose that these other pro-independence parties would lend themselves readily enough to being thus used by the British nationalist propaganda machine. Far too many of their supporters appear content to take their cue from the British parties and the British media rather than formulate their own rational and nuanced critique of the SNP. If all we are going to get from the Green/RISE/Solidarity contingent is a dumb parroting of "SNP BAD!" drivel then we'd find no improvement over the British parties at Holyrood. Indeed, it might be argued that we'd be worse off. At least we can attack the inanity of the British parties' anti-SNP propaganda without being seen to condemn another part of the independence campaign.

That these other pro-independence parties are guilty as charged will be proved by their response to these remarks. That response will consist almost entirely of an echo of the unionist line that exposing the distortions and dishonesty of the anti-SNP propaganda equates with a claim that the SNP "can do no wrong". More thoughtful people will realise that refuting one allegation, or even a series of allegations, in no way implies a total absence of imperfection. But it is much easier to eschew such thoughtfulness and go straight to idiocies about "blind allegiance".

To summarise, I see two very big questions looming over the notion of a "Pick 'n' Mix" parliament. Is it even feasible? And even if it was, would it be of any great utility to the independence campaign?

My expectation is that Scotland's voters will, for the most part, disregard all the conflicting and confusing pleas for cunning tactical voting. I think they will make their choices in much the same diverse ways as ever. I am not about to join in with those who presume to tell people how to vote. Not least because I am perfectly aware that I will be ignored. And deservedly so. I would say only this. In the SNP we have a force sufficient to shake the British establishment. That force has been created by the people of Scotland, and it is at their disposal. It is our big stick.

As I have found occasion to remind people, the SNP offers the ONLY path to independence. It is the agency by which the people of Scotland will achieve the goal of securing their nation's independence. Without the SNP, that simply isn't going to happen. You can be non-SNP and pro-independence. You cannot be anti-SNP and pro-independence. Bear this in mind both in the campaign for the Holyrood elections and when you vote. Think very carefully before being tempted to set aside the dull, misshapen, imperfect but very, very big stick that we have in favour of some smooth and shiny but rather small new stick.


  1. Absolutely right.

    I'm not going to tell other people how to vote, either. All I can say is that, for me, it's going to be SNP constituency and list. I want independence for Scotland.

    As for RISE, in particular, they appear to be doing a good job of undermining themselves. They like to portray themselves as deep thinkers, but they ain't all that...