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  • Jim Manclark

Holyrood 2021 & the List vote saga



So what did we learn from this experience? Did we learn anything? Or did we just stumble onwards following the haggis of independence leading us only to the next election in 2026? To get to where we are at now regarding list voting, we need to do a little bit of historical digging first.


In 2019, two new parties were formed to promote independence on the regional vote or list vote as it is also known. The People's AYE Alliance, which changed to Alliance for Independence following it's inaugural conference. After some wrangling with the electoral commission, this was changed again to become AFI (Action for Independence). The other party was the Scotland Independence Party, which also after some wrangling with the electoral commission was changed to the Independence Scotland Party or ISP.


Both parties appealed to voters who would traditionally lend their votes to the SNP but only for the regional vote. Both parties promoted the SNP in every constituency. The main difference was that ISP were a stand alone party and AFI were an alliance of parties and independent candidates. Namely, AFI working with Solidarity and the independents Martin Keatings and Craig Murray among others.


There was a lot of resistance to the idea they were promoting. In the previous election, over a million SNP votes went to waste and only elected 4 regional or list MSPs. Many people saw the sense in what was being proposed while others followed the SNP line of both votes SNP regardless of how many votes would be wasted. The point being put out was that the SNP needed those regional votes as a backup, just in case.


In 2021 news spread that Alex Salmond was looking at getting back into Holyrood. He was approached by the leader of AFI and was offered the leadership of the party since AFI already had a full setup and were organised across the eight Scottish regions already. Did ISP make the same offer, probably but I have no confirmation of that.


It was known at this time that several other new Scottish parties had been registered with the electoral commission. In the week that both ISP and AFI announced their candidates for the 2021 holyrood election, Alex did a tv conference announcing that he was going to be the leader of one of those newer parties and called on all indy supporters to join him in his new party called Alba.


With the support he had, it was obvious to both AFI and ISP that they could not compete on the list with this new party as it would take away their potential voters but also mean three parties going after the same votes. AFI immediately withdrew all candidates and within a week, ISP had done the same.


Even though many people from both parties went to work with Alba, no candidates from either party were selected to stand as Alba candidates. This was something that upset many people within the parties that had stood down. With no organisation in place and with only six weeks to the election it was going to be an uphill struggle.


This brings us back to today, one day after the final votes were counted. During the election campaign, many of the Green party supporters also seized on the idea of what had been proposed re the regional vote. They then went out promoting SNP 1 Greens 2. As least they could see the advantage in doing this and see how it could get them more MSPs.


The whole premise of the SNP second vote was that it would get them regional list seats. What AFI and now Alba were saying is that if the SNP won their target constituency seats it would actually cost them list seats. This was proved to be absolutely correct and the south of Scotland region showed that to be true. The SNP took two additional constituency seats in the south and subsequently lost two list seats. The only real gain they made was with the taking of Edinburgh central by Angus Robertson. This meant that they finished with 62 constituency seats (Up by 3) and only 2 list seats (Down by 2) instead of the 4 they had previously.


Yet again, just as in 2016, over 1 million votes were thrown away for the sake of getting less than a handful of list seats.





Had those wasted votes gone to either Alba or the Green party, they could have both gained multiple MSPs at the expense of the current unionist crop now returned to Holyrood. Yes, the SNP may have lost their two list seats but we could have gained more than 20 additional pro independence MSPs and removed as many unionist MSPs from our parliament. The maths is very simple and easy to understand but it seems too many people will blindly follow orders and not actual think tactically.


To further that point, The unionists voted tactically in many marginal target seats and increased their vote in holding them. This prevented the SNP from getting an overall majority like they did in 2011, even with a high turnout and increased votes. Yet in the same vein, they accused the YES movement of trying to game the system? You couldn't make it up. Voting tactically though for the greens got them an additional two seats in Holyrood.


One further point to make that is being put about is the idea that the votes that went to Alba could have gotten the SNP another seat or two on the regional lists. This is entirely ficticious. If you added all the Alba votes to the SNP, they would still have to be divided by 9 or 10 (depending on which constituency) which means that it would not have been anywhere near enough to gain any additional list seats for the SNP. Many people simply look at the actual votes cast and don't take into account the divider that is used to break down the total votes. For the SNP to gain more regional lists seats they would have needed well over 20k additional votes in even the closest regions.


So what are the lessons for going forward? The SNP say they will go for another section 30 order in 2023 once we are clear of the pandemic but we all know that this will be refused as it has been every time of asking. They will then put forward a bill to have a referendum anyway, which the UK government will obstruct and drag through the courts. The likelyhood then is that they will campaign for a possible plebiscite election in 2026 and ask for both votes SNP again. Both votes SNP didn't work in 2016, nor in 2021 and is very unlikely to work in 2026. We need to work with and build a pro independence majority and not just rely on the unlikely event of another SNP majority which may never come again no matter how we vote.


So where do we go now? anyone have a crystal ball handy?


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