By Hugh Kerr
The latest Sunday Herald lead story (Battle is on for second vote) has further fanned the flames of the sharpest debate in the Scottish Parliament elections. It’s not about who is going to win the election,everyone accepts that will be the SNP, as Labour and the Tories battle over who will be the official opposition.
The real battle is over what you should do with your second vote on the regional list. A fair stooshie has broken out. The Sunday Herald has in particular been pushing a second vote for the Greens or RISE no doubt partly to damage the SNP but also to plug RISE. The frequent plugs for RISE in the Herald and the National are part explained by the fact that a number of their columnists are RISE candidates and that their political correspondents would like to see RISE beat Tommy Sheridan and Solidarity in Glasgow. I predict that they will be disappointed and that Tommy will easily beat them in Glasgow, although neither will be elected!
I predict that RISE and Solidarity will fail to be the “Phoenix” of the left in Scotland and will register little more than 1-2% in the elections, although Tommy will do better in Glasgow. I recorded the best vote for Solidarity in Scotland in 2011 but it was still only some 800 odd votes. With a rampant SNP there is little room for a socialist grouping on the left. Don’t forget when the Scottish Socialist Party did well in 2003 the SNP was unpopular under the colourless leadership of John Swinney, and only got 26 seats. The SSP got 7% of the vote and six seats and were very close to two more, stopped only by the intervention of Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party. The SSP also had in Tommy Sheridan the best known and most popular leader of all political parties in Scotland. As Willie Mcillvanney wisely observed, it will take a generation for the socialist left to rise again in Scotland,and it’s not going to be 2016.
So that leaves the Greens as the alternative on the left and the signs are that they will do well. The polls have them running at around an average of around 7-8 per cent, enough to secure them one seat in most regions and possibly two in their strongest region, Edinburgh and Lothian. The SNP are aware of this and are desperately reinforcing their message of both votes for the SNP as well as using the name of Britain’s most popular politician, Nicola Sturgeon, at the top of their ballot paper. Now I don’t want to go into an elaborate analysis of the D’Hondt system (the Belgian who invented the voting system), but it is pretty clear that in most regions of the country the SNP are unlikely to win seats on the regional list, as they will win all the constituency seats in that region.
This is confirmed by the latest Daily Record poll which puts the SNP on 53 per cent for the constituency poll, which would win them almost all the constituency seats and indeed enough for a majority in the Sottish Parliament. Significantly, the SNP are only at 43 per cent for the regional list and the Greens are at 12 per cent, enough to win them 10-12 seats predicts the Record. Indeed the Record poll asks who would you like to come second to the SNP, and although Labour are preferred by 38 per cent, the Greens reach an astounding 23 per cent.
The Greens have been getting much better coverage in the election campaign and Patrick Harvie has now become a seasoned TV performer. Of course breaking down the predictions for each region is tricky since the polling numbers are very thin and one or two votes can make a difference. However I confidently predict that the SNP will win all the seats in Glasgow and Edinburgh and therefore will win no seats on the list. The seats will therefore be picked up by Labour who will I predict get overall around 25 seats, down from 36, the Tories will get around 18, the Liberals 6-7 and the Greens 8- 9. I also predict UKIP will fail to win a seat not least because of the disastrous leadership of their MEP.
Many will challenge my analysis, not least the SNP to which I belong. However I think the electorate in Scotland are very sophisticated and have been energised by the referendum experience. That led to the massive SNP victory in the general election last year and will ensure a big victory this year even in an electoral system designed to stop one party domination. However this politicised electorate also show signs that they are prepared to use their second vote to vote Green. Indeed in an anecdotal basis many people on the left both from the SNP and Labour tell me they are voting Green on the list. This is particularly true in Edinburgh, the Greens’ strongest base, where their number two on the list is the well known land reform campaigner Andy Wightman. Many people would like to see him in the parliament to contribute to the urgent business of land reform in Scotland.
I have just dispatched my postal vote and as an SNP member have voted SNP for my constituency candidate in Edinburgh Central. But I have voted Green on the regional list. I am aware that this public declaration may cause me to be expelled from the SNP but I think it’s important to be open and honest in your political judgements. I used to tease Caroline Lucas and Robin Harper that I was Britain’s first Green parliamentarian because when I was expelled from Labour as an MEP in 1999 I joined the Green Group in the European Parliament. This time in the 2016 election I think it’s important to vote Green in most regions to strengthen the pro-independence forces in the parliament. I think it’s the right thing to do.
Hugh Kerr was an MEP from 1994-97 for Labour and 1998-99 for the Green Group in the European Parliament. He was also press officer for the Scottish Socialist Party from 1999 till 2004. He is currently a member of the SNP.