The shiteness of being Scottish is nowhere more palpable than in politics.
It feels sometimes as if the gleeful vitriol with which political opponents lay into each other in defence of ideology or party allegiance has a peculiarly Scottish taste to it. Even in a country famous for uncovering the principles of things in order to understand and communicate what is going on to the world, any clear understanding of the present condition of politics is made impossible by ideological battles and deliberate obfuscation, history is invisible to those living through it, each claiming their own strategy to be the only one that will work, or their particular ideological commitment the only one offering any truth, as all others are lying or deluded.
Regular readers will know that I am a fervent supporter of Scottish independence. To this end, since my return to Scotland I have always voted for a political party that supports independence. I do not have any delusions about this: despite Thatcher’s famous assertion that Scotland could become independent by electing a majority of independence supporting members to Westminster, when this happened Scotland did not become independent. Perfidious Albion always changes the rules to ensure that its interests are served, and it will continue to do so for as long as it remains unchallenged. There is no doubt in my mind that the struggle for Scottish independence inevitably involves conflict of one sort or another with the British state, which is capable of anything in defence of its power or in pursuit of its interests. Anybody who does not realise this has not being paying attention to history. The Scottish independence movement has always been split between those who realise this and those who do not; those who believe that Scottish independence is possible by purely democratic means, with the permission of the British State, and those who see this as politically naive.
The senior party in the governing coalition at the Scottish parliament has adopted a long view, very slowly building up institutions and introducing policies different from predominant ideologies of Britishness, which it believes will make the eventual transition to independence more straightforward. Apart from the usual bleating from defenders of the so called United Kingdom, jumping on any failing of government in an attempt to demonstrate that the devolution experiment has been a disaster, and that the Scottish Parliament should be closed down, or at least reduced to the status of parish council, there are also critics of the Scottish government who speak from positions of principle and with no desire whatever to thwart the cause of Scottish independence. Unfortunately, supporters of the Scottish government do not always get this; they appear sometimes to believe that theirs is the only political party favouring independence or that it is the only force capable of bringing this about; they see all criticism of government as coming from supporters of the Union, caught in a sterile dichotomy that obscures and conceals reality. More grist to the mill of Scottish shiteness.
The voting system used to elect members to the Scottish Parliament is designed specifically to prevent any one party gaining an overall majority, or alternatively to ensure that the chamber faithfully represents a full diversity of political opinion. Despite this, one party has been in government for fifteen years, either as a minority government, in coalition with another party or with an overall majority – a result considered by most commentators as anomalous, but at the same time is surely indication of the strength of support for that party and what it stands for. For electoral purposes, the country is divided into 73 constituencies each of which returns one member, and into 8 regions of 9 or 10 constituencies, each of which returns 7 members, making a total of 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament or MSPs. Voters are asked to choose two representatives; one for their constituency and another for their regional list. The candidate who gets the most votes in each constituency is elected as MSP for that constituency. Votes for all the other candidates in the constituency ballots are then discarded. Votes for the regional lists are supposed to compensate for this. List votes are cast for a party rather than for a specific candidate, with each party supplying a list of preferred candidates, hence the name. The first list MSP in each region is chosen by dividing the total number of votes for each party by the number of MSPs that party has already gained in the region, plus one. The winning party then has one MSP added to the number it already has, and the process of diving the number of votes for each party by the number of MSPs it already has in that region, plus one, is repeated until all 7 regional MSPs are elected.
This means that if a party wins every constituency in a region, then the votes it receives on the list will be worth only one tenth of the votes on the list for a party that has no constituency victories. This is simply a mathematical fact. It is a consequence of the system used to calculate how votes are translated into seats in parliament. Ever since I returned to live in Scotland and acquainted myself with the voting system for the Scottish Parliament, I have been able to see a fairly obvious way of gaming this system. Purely mathematically, if an independence supporting party fields candidates only on the list and if independence supporting voters are clever, then it becomes possible to ensure that parliament is stuffed with independence supporting members. Of course, as many commentators have pointed out, this in itself does not outline any specific strategy in the direction of independence. Neither does the maths guarantee that voters will actually see the potential of gaming the system like this and then cooperate, to work together en masse to bring it about. It remains however possible in principle.
Without getting into the sordid details of the last five years of Scottish government and the many controversies whipped by reactive British nationalist media, nor to regurgitate the grubby business of internal party politics, it is uncontroversial to observe that in the eyes of public opinion, domestically the coalition of the SNP and the Green Party, which currently holds power at Hollyrood is doing very well, and despite a great deal of recent and unnecessary cultural warfare about the Gender Recognition Act and the Hate Crime Bill, it is introducing sensible social democratic policies that distinguish it from the government at Westminster, the policies of which are designed only to advance the fortunes of a particular class without regard to anybody else. There is no doubt that the popularity of the Scottish government is in itself a thorn in the side of the British State. There is nevertheless a growing clamour of discontent among supporters of Scottish independence about the extent to which the SNP has been pursuing its stated fundamental aim of securing Scottish independence. In the light of this, a number of independence supporting political parties have come into existence, one or two of which registered at the Electoral Commission for inclusion in the forthcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections. All of these have advocated for voting SNP in the constituency ballot and voting for them on the list. Clearly, for as long as there is a plurality of so called list only independence supporting parties standing, the system cannot be gamed. This can only happen if there is only one list only independence supporting party standing candidates, and that it receives the votes of all those who support independence or who voted for the SNP in the constituency ballot.
So far this is just theory, speculation based only on the logic of the voting system and a broad consideration of the condition of politics in the run up to Scottish Parliamentary elections. It ignores of course the shiteness of being Scottish, of our tragic tendency to divide into sects and to fight among ourselves as battles against the real enemy are lost, positions of advantage squandered and the imperial power moves in.
But then suddenly, out of the blue, a party emerges, arguing from principles similar to those outlined above that the voting system can indeed be gamed. It is standing candidates only on the regional lists and advocates voting SNP in the constituencies. Coincidentally I am sure, all the other list only parties that had registered for the forthcoming election stand down all their candidates and advocate voting for this one party on the list, while voting for the SNP in the constituencies. The leader and founders of the party, all candidates and all of its rising membership stand by a commitment to suspend party allegiance, explicitly not to engage in personal attacks on other supporters of independence, for the sake of ensuring that the Scottish Parliament is filled at the forthcoming election with independence supporting members. In this way pushing the thorn more deeply into the side of the British State and ensuring many strategies towards independence are explored, in addition to those favoured by the current government. There is no doubt that the British State is seriously threatened by this possibility. It would lose a great deal of moral and political clout almost overnight if the strategic aim were to become reality, and it might at last begin to give in to the inexorable tide of history, to see that despite its flag shagging, all of its clandestine efforts to undermine the devolution settlement and to bypass the Scottish government, the tide of public support for Scottish independence is rising beyond its control.
From where I am sitting, the Scottish electorate is looking here at an open goal.
Sadly we all know what happens when we Scots see an open goal before us.
All it would take to score that goal would be for independence supporting people in Scotland to sink their differences in a common cause, to forget about personalities, about who said what to whom, about whose party is best, or about any specific policy issue beyond the goal of independence.
All it would take to score the goal would be for all those who believe voting makes any difference to anything and who support Scottish independence, to vote on May 6th for the SNP on the constituency ballot, because it has shown itself to be a competent party of government, and to vote for ALBA on the list ballot, because its members will ensure resources are not squandered by unionist parties picking a fight with the government for no other reason than that they are unionist parties, and to make space available within the Scottish Parliament for healthy non-partisan discussion of policies appropriate to our new country, as well as of strategies for disengaging from the British State.
Scoring that goal will not bring about independence, but it will pile up the tally, move politics in this country along with the tide of history, help us understand how the shiteness of being Scottish has left us damaged.
Time for Scotland to begin the process of healing.
If you have enjoyed reading these words, without adverts obscuring the flow, this is because I have paid for it to be so. Recently I received the bill from WordPress for the excellent service and for the next registration period for my domain names. It rather took me aback, as I am now scraping the bottom of my resources, living only from the PIP I receive from the state because I have what is euphemistically known as a long term illness.
If you feel able to contribute in any way to the cost of this site’s upkeep, please get in touch at dncnspnc at gmail dot com, or use the same address at PayPal with the reference I S B S – It’s shite being Scottish.
If you feel able to contribute to my fuel fund (when it is legal again to do so, the petrol for a return trip to the mountains in the campervan costs up to sixty quid) then please use the same address at PayPal with the reference I S B S, or get in touch in another way.
If you feel able to support the publication of my book or would like to fund me while I am writing it, please use the same email address, either to get in touch or with reference B O O K at PayPal.
If you would like me to sponsor, endorse or review technical clothing or equipment, please use the above email address to get in touch with a proposal.
Thank you for reading. Never give up.
Love and peace.