DIY electoral pact

I suppose we should be grateful to Patrick Harvie for putting the issue beyond doubt before serious campaigning for the snap UK election gets started. Once again, he has opted to put the electoral fortunes of his party before the principle of independence.

He acknowledges that the SNP are the ones who must deliver independence. But they must do it without any formal assistance from the Scottish Greens.

He recognises that a pro-independence majority would greatly benefit the independence cause. But will only countenance this if he gets a substantial piece of the electoral action.

You know it’s the old politicking Patrick Harvie when you see the pointless sniping at the SNP; distorting and misrepresenting policy in a manner that wouldn’t be out of place in a quote from Kezia Dugdale.

It’s all rather disappointing, given the hopes that were being raised over the last couple of days. But probably not too surprising. And Patrick is right about one thing. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

I wrote yesterday of how the people of Scotland have grown accustomed to doing impossible things, such as electing a majority SNP administration and taking all but three Westminster seats. I spoke of how any pact between the SNP and the Scottish Greens would have to be enabled by voters. I suggested that it could only happen if the party leaders were emboldened by a massive show of support for the idea. That emboldening evidently hasn’t happened.

It seems to me that there are now two ways pro-independence voters can go. They can effectively discount the Greens altogether and vote en masse for the SNP as the party which is wholly, unequivocally and unconditionally committed to independence. That would work. And it has the advantage of being straightforward.

The alternative is for voters to do what the politicians won’t. As Patrick says, there’s more than one way of doing things. In the absence of a formal electoral pact between the SNP and the Greens, voters can simply act as if there is such an arrangement. They can vote cleverly, with one eye on the local situation. Basically, this would involve only voting for Green candidates where there is absolutely no chance that this will jeopardise an SNP win.

The aim should be to maximise the Green vote, and thereby the pro-independence vote, while also ensuring that the SNP win the maximum number of seats.

This will not be easy. It will require a deal of calculation and a fair bit of compromise on the part of both Green and SNP members. It might even be impossible. But that’s what we do.

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14 thoughts on “DIY electoral pact

  1. Piotr


    You can’t really knock Patrick for having a punt at putting the interest of party first. It would be a dereliction of duty not to. What counts, as you say, is the calculation made by the electorate and in this case the green electorate or more particularly the independence supporting green electorate. The calculation you set out is the one to make. The Greens are not going to win a Westminster parliamentary seat in Scotland. With independence they have a real chance of becoming a significant political force.

    Splitting the pro-indy vote at this Westminster election does not favour any independence supporter. We are talking FPTP here. We are talking Westminster here.

    There are other ways of growing greens.

  2. Big Jock

    Will all be revealed when we see the list of Green candidates. To be honest as a one off no-one in his party would knock him for not standing less than a dozen candidates. Funds are tight and they already fought an election 2 years ago. Why waste money on getting nothing back and potentially helping the nasty Tory party.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      It’s an important point to make. Depending on how the Greens manage things in the UK general election, they could build a substantial stock of goodwill among voters that would stand them in good stead in future elections.

  3. Big Jock

    I predict that Mundell and Murray will go….Not sure about how the rest of this is going to pan out!

    1. Brian Powell

      It won’t matter who they like if the SNP doesn’t have the majority and as big a majority as possible.
      If they fall then nobody in the UK will be listening to any other voices.

        1. stewartb

          Frankly a simple majority for the SNP in the GE is not enough – any substantial fall in the number of SNP MPs and/or share of vote will be jumped upon by opponents of Scottish independence as a ‘defeat’, as an indication of waning support, however daft this is especially in a FPTP voting system.

          On the other hand, a Tory-free Scotland, secured by one-off, local, pragmatic co-operation between the SNP and the Greens in certain constituencies, would send a very strong signal and reinforce the mandate for Indyref2 that the Scottish Government, secured with Greens’ support, already has in place.

          This is the time for all indy supporters and especially the political party leaders to focus on the bigger picture and reach now for the big prize.

        2. Peter A Bell Post author

          That is simply not true. How often do you hear mention of the Greens in the Scottish Parliament? About the only time you’ll see them mentioned in the mainstream media is when they vote against the SNP. That should tell you something.

          Independence has to be won from inside the British political system. It has to be won by their rules. It’s a system in which the only thing that counts is brute political force. It’s winner takes all. The only party that can possibly be that winner is the SNP.

          Arithmetic might say that the Greens are part of a pro-independence majority. But that truth will never be reflected in the British media. They present their own reality. The reality that serves the British establishment. We need only look to Holyrood to find all the evidence of this we need. After the 2016 election, did the media trumpet a pro-independence majority including the Greens? Or did they trumpet a story of the SNP losing its majority?

          Anything other than a significant increase in the SNP vote in the local elections and another landslide in May’s snap election will be presented as the end of the road for the independence campaign.

          It is time to set aside party loyalties and vote for Scotland.

          1. John Thomson

            French system of voting is needed, bring it down to a straight 2 horse race winner takes all

    2. TheStrach

      I have nothing against the Greens and have been heartened by their support for independence. However, the reality is the Greens can’t win any seats at the General Election because of the first past the post voting system. They will simply split the independence vote and potentially enable a unionist to win.

      I therefore hope that the Greens will not stand in seats which might go to the unionists and that even where they do stand that many Green supporters will vote SNP on this occasion.

  4. grizebard

    Patrick Harvey is big on the Greens’ “bottom-up” approach, saying it’s down to each constituency association to decide whether they will field a candidate or not. Fair enough. We don’t know what if anything will be done behind the scenes to “inform” that process, but this will certainly be a test to see if it produces a coherent outcome or not.

    Absent a Green candidate, it’s not the case that every Green voter will transfer their vote to the SNP anyway, but nevertheless, putting one up in an SNP-Tory marginal will definitely send the wrong message.

    Conversely, standing down where it matters will create goodwill for the future and conserve the Greens limited resources into the bargain.

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