The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

Most will know that St Andrews is the patron saint of Scotland and that the 30th November is St Andrews Day, celebrated across the world.

Now when the Israelites were taken by the Babylonians into exile, they observed all the traditions and law by which they have always lived, they became more Jewish than the Jews back home (no Israel at that time). The same can be said of Scottish migrants across the world, they, we are told, are more Sottish than the Scots back home. And why St Andrews day is celebrated in foreign lands more than it is at home, (although this is changing with the upsurge for independence in Scotland).

Now whether by default of design (I suspect the latter) Nicola Sturgeon will give her keynote speech to the party faithful on Monday, which just happens to be St Andrews Day. Everything that happens in Scottish politics from now on will be seem through the prism of 2021 Holyrood elections. If the polls are to be believed then the SNP will be assured of another term in office, but we have been here before if a week is a long time in politics what is five months?

Today in the post I received a nice card from Oor Nicola (I must be on a computer somewhere as a likely tap) it was headed Holyrood 2021 Election Campaign Fund, St Andrew’s Appeal, pulling at the old heartstrings there Nicola. Still, the lass does take a nice photo.

After 2014 referendum and following the Brexit vote, where two-thirds of Scots voted to stay in the EU (and was told in the referendum that a yes vote would see you kicked out of the EU), many Scots felt they had not been listened too and worse still totally ignored. The ranks of the SNP swelled and became the party of choice for people of independent mind.

Six years on and now faith in the SNP to deliver on independence is waning, Nicola still insists that if they win big time in the 2021 election, then the people will have spoken, therefore Boris Johnston can not ignore the wishes of a sovereign nation and refusing to grant a Section 30 order for Scotland to hold a referendum on independence that both parties are bound by. No matter her faith in the law and fair play, Johnston is never going to give Scotland the opportunity to hold another referendum, the last one was too damn close for comfort, if given another it would be game over for the Union and Boris is determined not to go down in history as the PM that brought an end to the Union.

In her speech to conference on Monday, I’m sure Oor Nicola will try to assure the faithful that Boris can not withhold his consent, that plan A is working and there is no need for a plan B. A referendum within the lifetime of the next parliament is assured BUT only if you vote us in for a further term in office, (stop laughing at the back). I remember vividly Nicola Sturgeon being interviewed at the Edinburgh Book Festival, she told the listeners “My job is to make sure that my party remains in office”.

I think many SNP members see your job as securing independence.

So what alternative is there to the SNP delivering on independence for the Scottish people? Not much in 2021, but…………..

An idea has taken hold in the land, by using Scotland’s voting system, to secure a majority of pro-independent parties in Scotland with the SNP the main party but a strong opposition of pro-independent MSP (members of the Scottish parliament) holding them to account and pressing them on their promises to deliver a referendum on independence, rather than simply kicking the can down the road and keeping them in power for a further term.

Scotland’s voting system is in two parts the first part is straight forward enough, Scotland is divided into 73 constituencies, you vote on the first paper for the person, you wish to represent you at Holyrood, the one with the most votes win. First past the post, but this may not be the majority (combined vote) votes overall, so they came up with the Additional Member System, based on the German mixed-member the proportional system, designed to be more proportional. The idea is that the overall number of MSPs elected for each party is roughly proportional to their electoral support, (but don’t suggest they use the same system at Westminster).

So now we have two votes the constituency vote First Past the Post, and the list vote used to elect 56 additional members that will complete the makeup of the parliament at Holyrood.

In 2016, the SNP won 59 of the 73 First Past the Post seats and just four list seats, although many voted SNP on both constituency and list papers leading to the claim that voting twice for the same party is a wasted second vote. The argument is that the list vote hindered the party obtaining more seats as they have won the majority of First Past the Post votes. This has led to many voters who desperately wish independence to look at the creation of pro-independence parties in the build-up to the 2021 election.

Why is there such interest in the use of the regional vote? Many are discussing the idea of voting for the SNP but using their list vote to provide a pro-independence majority at Holyrood, arguing that this would put independence at the heart of Scottish politics, others believe that it could hinder the independence campaigning message. However, the folks up yonder are not daft and if they see a way to secure an overwhelming majority pro-independence of MSP at Holyrood they will go for it, but not to the SNP’s liking.

This is not a new idea to try and use the list system to promote a message. At the start of the Scottish Parliament, Labour considered running Co-operative Party candidates on the list to be able to win seats that they did not gain due to its First Past the Post successes.

So what are the experts to said on the subject of splitting the vote? Professor John Curtice,

“look, if the polls are right at the moment you don’t need a clever wheeze, you’re going to get a whopping majority anyway, so why risk it?”

And Dr Thomas Lundberg also had thoughts on the matter,

“I’ve read about the interest in ‘gaming’ the system, with a new pro-independence party standing only on a regional basis. There is, of course, the danger that the constituency vote is not what people expect and the regional seats are needed”

But if the list vote delivers big time will it matter that the SNP win less seats than they may have, so long is there is a big majority pro-independent MSP in charge?

You take your money and make your choice, however the Holyrood elections pan out in May 2021, this will be the strangest and the most important elections ever fought in Scotland. Our ‘Get Out of Jail card ‘independence’ or will Boris put a stick in the spokes of Scotland’s ambitions to become once more an independent nation?

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