Thursday 18 February 2016

Facile assumptions, fallacies and falsehoods

The Green's failure to capitalise on STV's decision to include them in its pre-election debate line-up is far from an exceptional occurrence. They have form on this kind of thing. I well remember when, during the first referendum campaign, the Scottish Greens officially announced that they were joining Yes Scotland. This should have been an entirely upbeat moment focused on the aims of the independence campaign. Instead, Patrick Harvie found himself unable to resist some petty sniping at the SNP. He too readily succumbed to the very partisan politicking that the holier-than-thou Greens claim to eschew.

And yet Lesley Riddoch assumes that we must all "admire" the Greens. They are the eternal "good guys" of Scottish politics. Such is the myth.

Some might argue that these PR failures are trivial. That there are more important matters to deal with. Well, one can always make that claim. Whatever particular issue happens to be the focus of discussion, somebody can always resort to the diversionary tactic of insisting that we really should be talking about something else. And they will tend to do so whenever the discussion looks like it might get "interesting" in ways that make them uncomfortable.

The Greens aspire to play in the big leagues. They want to be taken seriously as a party of opposition and, potentially, as part of government. However much they might turn up their noses at the thought, presentation is a crucial part of politics. Always has been. If the Greens can't get their act together in this regard, maybe there is less cause to "admire" them than Ms Riddoch takes for granted.

The coming election is crucial in ways that I would sincerely hope Lesley Riddoch understands. It is certainly not an occasion to be making decisions on the basis of facile assumptions about the inherent worthiness of parties or politicians. The Greens and other pro-independence parties (OPIPs) have to prove themselves worthy of electoral support. They are not entitled to demand votes simply on the basis of being pro-independence - however tentatively, nominally or conditionally. They have to demonstrate that they will be effective as parliamentarians. Particularly in regard to taking forward the fight to restore Scotland's rightful constitutional status.

Dispassionate analysis - which seems to be lacking in much of what is being advanced by proponents of 'tactical voting' - strongly suggests that OPIP MSPs would add nothing to the pro-independence credentials of an SNP majority government. Indeed, such rational scrutiny suggests that they might diminish those credentials. For one thing, only the SNP is unconditionally committed to independence. The various OPIPs make their support for independence conditional on diverse and shifting policy agendas.

And, in purely practical terms, we can be sure that the British media would totally discount OPIP MSPs. They would be ignored. Just as Yes Scotland was sidelined in the first referendum campaign in favour of a simplified "all about the SNP/Alex Salmond" approach, so it would be with a handful of OPIP MSPs. They only time they'd get media attention would be when they were attacking the SNP and/or saying something that could be spun as problematic for independence. They would be more hindrance than help.

The facile assumption that more Green MSP must inevitably be a good thing needs to be challenged.

And if the decision in May is too important to be based on facile assumptions, it surely shouldn't be informed by fallacies and falsehoods. The fallacy that there is a simple way to game the electoral system in order to achieve an outcome of dubious value need to be knocked firmly on the head. Especially given the vital nature of what is being risked in the almost certainly futile hope of contriving parliamentary diversity by including people and parties not strictly qualified to be there.

Then there is the fallacy that the essential SNP majority is a foregone conclusion on the basis of the constituency vote alone. This is, of course, pernicious nonsense. Yet it is ever part of the rhetoric of those promoting the notion of a Magic Pick 'n' Mix Parliament.

Most foolish of all, perhaps, would be to vote on the basis of a blatant falsehood. We had enough of that with the false prospectus flogged by the anti-independence campaign in 2014. The assertion that a second independence referendum is "not part of the SNP’s Scottish Parliament manifesto" is such a falsehood. It just isn't true. But, again, it has been absorbed into the narrative of the Green/OPOIP effort to induce voters to put the crucial SNP majority in jeopardy.

It is, to say the least, disappointing to find Lesley Riddoch peddling this untruth. For the umpteenth time, let me remind her and all those who consider trying to mislead Scotland's voters what Nicola Sturgeon said on the matter. I mean what she ACTUALLY said!

"Our manifesto will set out what we consider are the circumstances and the timescale on which a second referendum might be appropriate, but we can only propose.

"It's then for people in Scotland, whether it is in this election or in future elections, to decide whether they want to vote for our manifesto and then if there is in the future another independence referendum, whether that's in five years or ten years or whenever, it will be down to the people of Scotland to decide whether they want to vote for independence or not.

"So at every single stage this is something that is driven by and decided by the people of Scotland, not by politicians."

It must be clearly understood that very particular circumstances prevail in the coming election. Circumstances which dictate that we must be especially assiduous in rejecting facile assumptions, simplistic fallacies and blatant falsehoods. Whatever our preferences and ideals, we must recognise the massively overriding importance of ensuring an SNP majority in the next parliament. Next to that, policy agendas and party loyalties are vanishingly inconsequential.

The only 'tactical voting' strategy that makes any sense in these circumstances is #BothVotesSNP.

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