Voting for Dummies

Looking at blogs and Twitter, I see a disturbing lack of knowledge about how the Holyrood voting system works. Even the basic fact that you have two votes seems incomprehensible to some voters. Given that the next Holyrood election will be upon us in or before Spring 2021, and is likely to be crucial for independence, readers might welcome this short ‘Voting for Dummies’ guide.

1. You have two votes. One is called your ‘constituency’ vote, and elects the MSP for your constituency. It operates under the first-past-the-post system (FPTP). We’re all thoroughly familiar with that, so it needs no further comment.

2. Your second vote has various names – your ‘regional’ vote, your ‘list’ vote, your ‘second preference vote’ – but they’re all unsatisfactory, so for the moment let’s just call it ‘your second vote’.

3. Your two votes are votes for different things. With your constituency vote, you vote for a person, the person you want to represent you, albeit they have a party identifier attached to them. With your second vote, you vote for a party, and your ballot paper shows no candidates’ names (though it may show the name of the party leader).

4. Your second vote determines the make-up of the Parliament: in the final result, the number of seats each party has will match its share of the second vote. So if the shares of the second vote, across the whole country, were these:

SECOND-VOTE SHARES: SNP 49%, Con 24%, Lab 18%, Green 5%, LibDem 4%

then, in a 129-seat Parliament, each party would end up with the following numbers of seats:

SEATS TO MATCH VOTE-SHARE: SNP 63, Con 31, Lab 24, Green 6, LibDem 5.

This was indeed the result of the 2016 election.

5. Given that some seats are filled by the constituency vote – 73 of them out of the 129 – how does the system ensure that the final number of seats matches each party’s share of the vote? Simple: to each party’s constituency seats, it adds the number of second-vote seats that will bring that party’s total up to the required percentage. Of the 129 seats, 56 are distributed in this way. In 2016, the 73 constituency seats were:

CONSTITUENCY SEATS: SNP 59, Con 7, Lab 3, Green 0, LibDem 4,

So to bring the each party’s seats up to the required percentage, second-vote seats were allocated as follows:

ADDITIONAL SEATS: SNP 4, Con 24, Lab 21, Green 6, LibDem 1,

giving the ‘Seats to Match Vote-share’ shown above.

6. We needs actual bums to put on these seats – bums of Members of the Scottish Parliament – so where do they come from, given that the second vote is not for a person, but a party? The answer is that each party maintains a list of candidates who are called off to fill that party’s second-vote seats. So the Conservatives, for example, needed to have at least 24 candidates standing by, and Labour at least 21, to occupy those seats. The Members to whom these seats are allocated are sometimes called ‘list’ members.

7. A number of points need to be made before closing this short guide:

7a. The system as a whole is called the “additional member system”, or AMS, because it adds second-vote Members of the Scottish Parliament to the constituency Members.

7b. The final proportions of seats are based on the second vote, not the constituency vote or the total vote, because consitutency votes are notoriously prone to tactical voting. Your second vote answers the question, “Which party do you want to form the government?”

7c. Because the second vote allocates seats to lists of members, it’s often called the ‘list vote’. And because the country is in fact divided into regions for the allocation of second-vote seats – more on that in a later post – the second vote is often also called the ‘regional’ vote.

7d. Because second-vote seats are allocated proportionally, it’s not possible to vote tactically with your second vote.

I’ll take these points up in my next post, quite soon.

Jocks Away?

According to a recent poll, if achieving Brexit meant that Scotland left the UK, then 63percent of Conservative Party members would consider that a price worth paying. This is of course good news for independence. The Unionist narrative for the last decade has consistently been that Scotland lives off England’s £14bn annual subsidy, a fiction that GERS was designed to support. In that case, you might ask, why does the UK not just get rid of the scroungers and used the saved cash to paint another slogan on a bus? The reason is in The Answer That Dare Not Speak Its Name: that Scotland in fact contributes so much to the UK economy in natural resources and human skills that, without it, the UK Battleship Galactica would be holed below the waterline and bound for the deep glug-glug. A call to kick out the scrounging Jocks exposes this Unionist hypocrisy, and leaves Unionists with no message.

Wee Ginger Dug puts this far more forcefully than I can, so I give you his words:

What British nationalists thought was their greatest strength has turned into their greatest weakness. This poll is actually a victory for all those people who have been constantly producing graphs telling Scotland and the world that Scotland is a financial basket case which relies upon the goodwill and largesse of the rest of the UK in order to stop it turning into an even more impoverished form of Greece, only without the nice weather. It’s a victory for those who never question the methodology or politics of the annual GERS figures because they are eager to use those figures as a weapon. It’s a victory for those who think that the supposed financial and economic weakness of Scotland, a land blessed with an embarrassment of wealth, talent, and natural resources, is an argument for the UK instead of an indictment of generations of Westminster’s rapacious financial mismanagement. – Wee Ginger Dug, 19th June 2019.

Do read the rest of his post.

A Message from Mac

Reblogged from Wings Over Scotland, 8th May 2019.

Mac says:

Just had my account banned at the Guardian for this posting… I am wondering whats wrong with it. Any clues?

My country has sucked the good years from my bones and rewarded me with a brittle poverty in retirement.

I paid for bishops and lords I didn’t elect and illegal wars that I didn’t support. I fired expensive missiles at foreign families in a rich man’s oil war. I paid for duck moats for dick wads to control me, and bonuses for bankers to break the fabric of our financial system. I bailed banks that were resold at a loss to me.

I watched our political system lord over decades of financial and cultural incompetence. A system not fit for the purposes and needs of a modern world, hampered by ancient tradition, debilitated by class stricture and structure. A system choked by nationalistic pomp and circumstance and run by an ossified establishment. It’s a heavy burden for an ordinary man.

As I struggled to secure a roof and education for my sons, and lived honestly and frugally through each economic crisis, I watched the rich become richer and the poor eke an existence in a corrupt democracy of cash for questions, cronyism, expense scandals, and skimming politicians.

They sold my railways, energy companies, water and hospitals and I paid tax to private companies to keep them running. They devalued my currency four times, while propping up their cronies in the City.

All the money I generated over the decades, my personal GDP, was wasted in government ineptitude and inefficiency. My pensions were decimated. The taxes and cost of living crippled me.

My sons left for London and New Zealand. I don’t blame them; I blame the UK class system. A lifetime of yoke and boot. A lifetime of housing, heating, eating and education, necessities that were costed like luxuries. Democratic rights sold as privilege. And thus the continuation of the extreme Scottish economic immigration that is a great shame on the UK.

And through these decades, I have had the misfortune to suffer the false promises and prophecies of Scottish Labour. The party that adds insult to injury. The party that are simply a more incompetent version of the Tories, nothing more.

I had to listen to the lies of Project Fear and currently endure the blitz and bombardment of Westminster propaganda against the slightest ambition in Scotland to change the status quo.

With Brexit, I voted to Remain, along with the vast majority of my countrymen. The EU is better for the North. There are economic, political and cultural differences between Scotland and England.

But we are dragged along by this undemocratic, hegemonic Tory & Labour duopoly, into an embarrassing mess that demonstrates the incompetence and unsuitability of a huge number of MPs for any type of leadership. And confirms again that Westminster is no longer fit for purpose.

And in ten years, little has changed:

The parliamentary expenses watchdog tried to cover up data showing 377 MPs, including nine cabinet ministers, have had their credit cards suspended for wrong, incomplete or late claims. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), set up in the wake of the expenses scandal 10 years ago, initially tried to claim the information should not be released because it could hinder the operation of the expenses system. – Guardian Today

For forty years I travelled and worked freely across Europe. Proud of my heritage and respectful of other countries. And now I am ashamed by a Brexit that is about Southern populist xenophobia and the British Establishment clawing back power and control, both in the mistaken belief in an Empire that collapsed a long time ago.

And the cherry on the cake? The new Royal Baby has been given the title of the Earl of Dumbarton. A big rock on the Clyde where I was born. Aye, right.

I am deeply ashamed of this United Kingdom in its current state.

Hands full of Aces?

What is going to happen with the indy ref? And why did Theresa May call the 2017 general election?

Theresa May didn’t call the 2017 general election to strengthen her majority – she already had a working majority of 17 seats. And she didn’t call it to weaken Labour – Labour was weak enough. In fact, that was the problem. Labour’s job – from the Conservative perspective – was to contain the SNP in Scotland, and Labour wasn’t doing that. But Scottish independence on the back of Brexit would be a disaster for the Conservatives, since the loss of Scottish resources could lead to the annihilation of the neo-liberal dream. So they needed to get into Scotland, win the seats that Labour wasn’t defending, demolish the SNP, and squash the independence movement for ever. They threw at it money and data: data to identify target voters, and money to inundate them with leaflets. And they nearly succeeded: the SNP lost more than one-third of its seats (21 out of 56), its vote-share went from one-half down to one-third (50% to 36%), and Alex Salmond was out. They didn’t reach their goal – the didn’t quash the SNP, or demolish the independence movement, and polls show that support for independence continues to hold up – but they sowed misery and dismay through the upper echelons of the party. They even left some prominent party members brainwashed into believing May’s mantra that “now is not the time”.

I’m indebted to the blogger at A Wilderness of Peace for the above analysis of this election, which I find convincing. But what has it to do with the indy ref? The answer is that it gives us a pointer to the UK government’s likely attitude to the first port of call in the independence journey, namely Section 30 permission to hold an indyref. Other things we need to factor in are what to do if permission is refused, and the SNP’s constant prediction stating that “Scotland will not be taken out of Europe against its will”.

So this is where I think we are now:

  • The UK government will not grant a Section 30 order. David Cameron agreed to one in 2014 because he thought indy would lose, and that that would remove independence from the agenda. That’s no longer the case. The 2017 general election didn’t demolish the indy movement, and the UK government isn’t fool enough to believe the mainstream media’s constant burble that the people of Scotland don’t want another indyref (they jolly well do). No way will they now see a Section 30 order as a risk worth taking.
  • The First Minister has said, pretty well unequivocally, that she won’t mount a referendum without UK agreement. There are obvious tactical risks in doing so (the opposition will make hay with the Scottish Government for allegedly exceeding its powers, an anti-indy boycott could deprive the result of authority, a challenge in the Supreme Court could delay the whole thing), but surely the real point is that it wouldn’t achieve the independence movement’s, and more particularly Nicola Sturgeon’s, overriding strategic priority. This is that independence, when it comes, must be with the consent of the whole country; the last thing we need is a vicious campaign like the EU referendum, that leaves a country irreconcilably divided and bitter. There’ll always be a hard core of bigots, of course, and for some the consent will be grudging, but we must leave every voter in no doubt that the issues have been fully and fairly debated, and that this is what we’ve agreed to do as a nation. That can take time. Phantom Power’s recent report on Norway set out how Norwegians reach consensus by debate before doing anything at all, and “it took us forty years to build an airport”. Let alone a new country.
  • If a Section 30 order is off the table, and the Scottish Government will not mount an independence referendum without one, that looks like the end of the road. It leaves only the option of UDI (which can be dressed up in various ways, but is still UDI). Given that we need to build a consensus, however, UDI would be catastrophic. So it really is the end of the road, isn’t it? Well, no, if we listen to what our politicians have been saying, and perhaps it isn’t.
  • “Scotland will not be taken out of Europe against its will”, they say constantly, turning the issue into one of EU membership, rather than one of Scottish independence. So the next Scottish referendum will not be solely about independence, it will also be about the EU, and the two issues will be bundled together. “Should Scotland join the EU?” would be a good first shot at a question. We all know that Scotland can’t join the EU without first becoming independent, so the question is a proxy for that. And it’s difficult for the UK government to forbid us to ask that question, since they asked it themselves in 2016. Also, there are further factors that make it attractive to bundle the two issues together:
    •  It acknowledges both the conditions set out in the 2016 mandate: “clear and sustained preference for independence” and “material change of circumstances”;
    • It makes victory wholly attainable: 62% voted to Remain in 2016, and that figure has almost certainly increased since then;
    • If the 38% Leavers boycotted the referendum, that still wouldn’t be enough to cast doubt on the result.

The clincher, of course, is that if we can run the campaign like we did in 2014 – that is, as a largely straight campaign that engages people with the issues, rather than like the EU referendum, which was based on all sorts of make-you-boak nastiness and lies – then we place anti-indy in a deep cleft stick. The only argument they have for keeping the Union together is that England needs Scotland’s wealth, and that’s the one thing they can never admit. So it looks like our hands are full of aces here.

 

Quips for today

Nice wee comment from Dr Jim on Wings over Scotland recently, about Scottish cultural practices:

Damn Scots insisting on being Scottish, they’ll be wanting to speak their own language next, dear God what’ll happen if they decide to drive on the wrong side of the road or do *all* their counting in centimetres

Yoon wummin/manny goes into a shop and says can I have 3LBS of Ayrshire potatoes please, the assistant says *It’s aw Kilos noo* Yoon wummin/manny says OK 3LBS of Kilos then

It’s the future

Trouble is, I can’t find this comment on the WoS website. I think it was time-stamped as 12:56pm on 1 March 2019, but there’s no post of that date in the WoS archives. But thanks to Dr Jim all the same.

It’s wrong to think that politicians are more hated now than they’ve ever been. Viscount Castlereagh was probably the world’s leading politician in the first 20 years of the nineteenth century, masterminding the recovery from the Napoleonic Wars, re-establishing the old elite and stifling aspirations of liberty throughout Europe. So it wasn’t unexpected that he should be savaged by Shelley:

I met Murder on the way,
He had a mask like Castlereagh.

and (of Castlereagh and his buddy Sidmouth):

Two scorpions under one wet stone…
Two vipers tangled into one.

Castlereagh, the epitome of stability and frozen power, committed suicide by cutting his own throat on 12th August 1822. Byron marked it with this epitaph:

Posterity will ne’er survey
A nobler grave than this.
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and piss.

Our invective skills aren’t what they were. I blame the SNP.