The list vote: The case for taking no risks with the pro-indy cause

James Kelly of ScotGoesPop

So what is all this raging fuss about pro-indy voters and the regional “list” vote?

Perhaps in the absence of any inter-party tensions during the current Holyrood election campaign, the best way to vote on the list has provoked considerable heat among pro-independence supporters.

The SNP, widely expected to walk away with the constituency vote, is campaigning on a #bothvotesSNP ticket and its supporters argue vehemently that any variation will risk losing a majority of pro-indy MSPs after May 5.


But other parties, including RISE and the Greens, want that regional list vote in order to boost their chances of getting representation at Parliament, and some recent polls indicate that the Greens in particular could benefit from the tactic.

The proportional model has thrown up anomalies. It is aimed at producing a true reflection of voting intentions. The SNP are concerned that while they will be the biggest party, voters’ using their list votes in a tactical way may backfire and leave the party with no overall majority.

This would dismay pro-independence supporters, even though parties such as the Greens support independence. SNP campaigners argue that the real beneficiaries might be “unionist” parties.

Then again, if there is no majority for independence in the parliament, it could be argued that this reflects true public opinion. The Yes lobby got 45 per cent at the 2014 poll, not a majority. A fair number of SNP voters at the Parliamentary elections may not be independence supporters.


James Kelly, pro indy poll blogger, of ScotGoesPop, argues in this PhantomPower video that pro-indy voters should vote SNP in both ballots.

James, a regular contributor to Newsnet Radio podcasts, looks at other parliamentary models from around the world that influenced the Holyrood system and gives a two-minute illustration of the much misunderstood D’hondt model that determines the overall make up of the Scottish Parliament. He examines the case for this and the option of second guessing the unpredictable Holyrood system, arguing that it’s a gamble that could set back the case for independence.

Watch and decide for yourself:



  1. I slightly disagree with James. Voting SNP1/Greens2, as I will be, is the optimal option for the Yes Movement in my opinion because:

    – Successive polls indicate the SNP will most likely secure a majority with constituency seats alone
    – This means a Greens list vote will be worth 10 times as much as any SNP list vote
    – A large list vote for Greens could enable Greens to displace unionist parties as the official opposition
    – Alternatively, voting SNP1+2 will guarantee a unionist opposition (possibly Tory) for the next 5 years
    – So SNP1+2 may effectively be an SNP1/Tory2 vote (given SNP list votes will be virtually worthless/neutralised)

    There are 3 main outcome scenarios possible:
    (1) The absolute worst case scenario here would be we end up with an SNP minority government supported by Greens (the latter a progressive Yes party), so still a Yes government.
    (2) The absolute best case scenario would be an SNP government and a Greens official opposition.
    (3) The current predicted/polled scenario is for an SNP government and unionist opposition (possibly Tory, which would be paraded by the msm as a major unionist ‘success’).

    Although I hope for scenario 2, I would be reasonably content with the worst case scenario (1) in the unlikely event it happened, and I am therefore voting SNP1/Greens2.

    • Your whole argument revolves around the Polling companies getting it right. These same polling companies didn’t get last years General Election right, did they?. People have pointed this out to you but you ignore it and keep on spouting this mis leading drivel. You’re either a complete idiot, or even worse a Unionist, just like the journalist Swindon, at the Sunday Herald trying to ease SNP 2nd votes away and the bosses at the ERSS. These guys all have links to the Labour Party.

      • I’m quite relaxed about sharing some ‘power’ with the Greens should that unlikely scenario transpire, though I do think such an outcome is highly unlikely. But if anything it would probably be a ‘progressive’ experience for the SNP, and no Greens policies are objectionable as far as I can see. The UK-wide polling evidence you refer to is clearly not the same as here in Scotland, where I think there is a far better handle on the reality.

      • Well they were pretty much bang on the money for Scotland as far away from the election as January or February in the case of Ipsos MORI…

  2. Great post James.

    Also pleased to see Newsnet getting this vital message out. (At last)

    We can’t trust UK polling companies. The SNP must get a majority.

    Don’t risk Independence. Has to be ……… SNP 1 & 2

  3. What’s this election for? It’s for choosing our government, not securing a referendum. People should simply vote for whoever they want to vote for. ‘Tactics’ don’t need to come into it.

    • Talking of ‘tactics’, polling suggests there appears to be a significant shift of labour (and possibly libdem) voters to Tory on the list in an effort to make Ruth’s Tories the official opposition. Only a large transfer (20%+) of SNP list votes to Greens would be able to prevent that outcome.

      • Alf, how can such a ‘large transfer’ of voters from SNP to Green be organised or coordinated? If the SNP poll less well on the constituency vote (perhaps because people believe the polls and think they’re a shoo-in) and on the regional list a high number transfer to RISE or Green or Solidarity (WHO should they vote for?) it is just as likely, if not more so, that the net result is LESS pro-Scotland MSPs.

        The particular variant of d’Hondt chosen after a fight between Labour and LibDem (for their own benefit – not a desire for a democratic solution) is only somewhat better than FPTP. It IS designed to eliminate as much as possible the ability to “game” the system. that’s why these discussions are academic.

        The ONLY way to know for sure that you can use the regional list vote (NOTE: It is NOT a second choice vote, it is a vote that actually determines the final make-up of the Holyrood Parliament, if anything it is MORE important than the constituency vote) is to now IN ADVANCE of voting the exact result in the constituency. this of course is impossible.

        The choice is actually a simple one. Vote both votes for the party that you want to Govern Scotland for the next five years. If your choice is not on the constituency, either leave it blank or vote for the best alternative. Don’t try to ‘game’ a system designed to prevent this.

        • Tony, like I said, personally I am content with any worst case scenario of a SNP1/Greens2 vote if that were to transpire, though I anticipate a more positive outcome. Greens candidates and policies are actually very impressive in my view, and in many respects are superior to SNP (e.g. on land reform, housing policy, taxation etc.). We can all see that many Scots feel likewise given the widening polling gap between SNP voting intentions on constituency and list, and the steady rise of Greens.

          Election of a Tory opposition in Scotland (as a direct consequence of an SNP1+2 vote plus unionist list tactical voting favouring Tories) would be applauded as a major ‘victory’ by the Westminister elite, and also gives the UK msm renewed anti-independence breath and energy over the next 5 years. On the other hand, an SNP government plus a Greens opposition would stop any unionist bandwagon in its tracks, probably for good.

  4. Why would I give my 2nd vote to Green as a member and supporter of the SNP. I like the SNP, and am not interested in any other parties. Yet I am being encouraged to lend my vote.

    As far as I am concerned the SNP are the independence movement.

    • Not so, “the independence movement” is the people. Moreover, parties other than the SNP also advocate independence.

      • Greens don’t unless they can get a million votes in a referendum to hold another referendum, dum nonsense.

        • Absolutely. Greens are lukewarm at best on Independence. Way down on their manifesto. Let’s get this job done with the only party, with the talent and experience for the job. SNP x 2

  5. Well said Big Jock, just look at the folk behind the article in the Sunday Herald trying to get SNP voters to switch their second vote . They’ve all got links to the Labour Party. And the report the articles are based on is from the Electirial Reform Society Scotland their director is an ex Labour Councillor. And according to Wings Over Scotland one of his helpers co-founded a “Virulently Anti-SNP” web blog.

    How long’s it going to be before one of these sad SNP 1 Green 2 folk get a counter post up…….

  6. Split your vote is the latest tactic to reduce the SNP vote, to enable Cameron to shout at PMQs ‘but your losing your support’.

    This may not be a referendum but it’s only the SNP who can GUARANTEE another.

    Independence first, last and always. After that we can vote on who should be in government.

  7. I think a list vote for Greens or RISE is a great idea – if people are content with what we have, a devolved Parliament with limited unbalanced tax-raising powers, with most powers still reserved to Westminster.

    Then all the parties can play around in the pretendy Parliament to their hearts’ content, leaving all the important decisions to Westminster who do, after all, know the best way of inflicting austerity on the poor, while filling the trousers of the rich bankers.

    If people aren’t content with that, but want a real Parliament, with all the powers, Independence, then the only way is to keep the momentum of an overall majority party which can DEMAND Indy Ref 2 rather than asking please, pretty please, and Independence will be ours within 10 years, perhaps even 5.

    Me? I’m voting SNP + SNP. I want Independence, full stop, end of the Union.

  8. I would be much happier to see Green or RISE candidates elected than any from the British Nationalist parties, but there is a problem under the D’Hondt method with trying to vote tactically.

    If people support one particular party, that is the party they should vote 1 and 2 for.

    However, the problem arises when people feel they can predict the outcome of the Constituency vote and base their List vote on that imagined outcome. It’s not possible. Also, if SNP 1 voters then vote equally for Green or RISE on vote 2, what is to stop either Labour or Conservative sneaking through?

    As we saw in the Westminster GE, Conservatives in Edinburgh South voted Labour and Labourites in Dumfries-shire voted Conservative.

    At the last Holyrood election, the SNP in the North-east gained a list seat despite winning all the constituency seats.

    It’s important to see who exactly are advocating a split vote, and work out their motivation.

    • I totally agree Ian.

      I really do not know what people like James Kelly and others can do to make the SNP 1/Greens 1 voters see what they are potentially doing.

      Nobody but nobody can predict the outcome of the election. SNP may get a majority on the constituency vote or they may not. Nobody knows not even the polling companies. They have got it wrong before and no doubt they will get it wrong again.

      If you want a strong pro independence party to be in power after 5th May then you should not be playing “I know the SNP will get a majority in the constituency so I will give my list vote to the Greens/RISE etc” because you do not know what the result of the constituency vote will be.

      To see an example of what could happen with splitting the vote go to the SCOT goes POP blog at

      Scroll down to the comment from Derick fae Yell and read his comment.

      At the bottom of the comment he shows that if a mere 1743 list voters had transferred their vote from the SNP to other parties then the final seat, which the SNP won, would have gone to Labour. 1743 votes is all it would have taken to reduce the SNP majority.

      Splitting the vote is playing with fire.

      SNP x 2

  9. Split the vote, split the vote, Yes indeedy,

    Except, all these folk advocating doing it are voting twice for themselves and if they really say they want YES supporting parties in government why don’t they just vote for the actual party capable of delivering the thing they say they want
    If you’re voting for policies of a particular entity then that’s an entirely different thing, but to pose as concerned YES voters only to attempt to subvert votes from the very party who got you there seems at the very least dishonest

    If these persons advocating this, let’s face it, GUFF were honest folk they would be trying to appeal to Unionist voters for their support, but they’re not are they, they’re seeking the far easier road of trying to persuade what they hope are compliant SNP voters by this nonsense of some Mystic Meg prediction of how people will vote, which is amazing considering the professional pollsters have been trying to do that for years and as we saw at the last General Election didn’t quite manage did they

    Chairman Harvie has form for this kind of behaviour and the other lot whom I won’t even dignify by the use of their name are just parasites (offence intended)

    Earning the right to votes is pretty important or anybody could do it, and again these people are not are they, they’re just shouting loudly “We’re on your side give us your votes” and I’m afraid that just won’t do

    Of course parasitical behaviour is common in politics (Lib Dem Tory) (Lib Lab pact) most recently of course Labour Tory in our referendum, you’ll notice in all of these cases one was betrayed by the other pretty rapidly
    So vote away it’s your right to do so, but just remember history shows us up till now, this type of sneaky behaviour is always rewarded by the same thing, where are the Libs now, where are Labour now

    So Chairman Harvie might get his little bit of short term gain but he’ll lose his anonymity and have to answer for his Victor Meldrew economics, You know the one where his answer to possible Capital Flight is “I don’t believe it” and some disappointment for his voters when he goes immediately cold on the Independence question which was the very reason they wanted him there in the first place

    Aah Politics, it’s not for the unwary you know

    • Its surely stretching things to blame Patrick Harvie for Scotland’s ongoing economic collapse, or capital ‘flight’ offshore.

      • If you knew everyone else, or at least sufficient numbers, were going to vote Green on the List in a constituency, then it might work, but you don’t and it won’t. Why not ask Greens or whoever to vote SNP to ensure we get a government committed (and committed for decades) to Independence. Then, when we’re in charge of our own affairs, vote for whom you want.

      • I think you’ll find I didn’t,
        Ongoing economic collapse?

        Once again Alf, English not your first language?

        If you must invent things folk don’t say, you must invent better

        • Dr. Jim, my apologies but I saw that you questioned Mr. Harvie’s economic competence, despite the fact he has not been in government. You refer to “capital flight” and I connected that to the recent Panama papers, and the fact much of Scotland’s economy is today owned offshore (Cayman etc). My term “economic collapse” may be too severe although worsening unemplyment, underemployment, decline in trade, manufacturing etc the prognosis is clearly not good. Our economy has depended on injections of public money/debt to keep afloat and that is not sustainable. I believe all political parties are fairly clueless on how to grow an economy probably because most of them and their officials have never worked outside the public sector.

          • You’re doing it again Alf, you say you believe political parties are fairly clueless

            Tut Tut Alf I suspect you understand a little of how the system works but it might be a tad arrogant on your part to assume facts not in evidence, which leads to anyone saying anything that they believe should be accepted by another when unsupported by anything other than The Bachelors hit “I believe”

            That’s every bit as bad as Chairman Harvie’s belief that he can order folk what to do with their own businesses, if he ever had the power of more MSPs

            Or indeed George Osbornes belief that he understands economics, which he obviously doesn’t for anyone who can count on their fingers

            If Scotland wants Independence there is only one way to achieve it and that’s people power in using their vote to ram it down Westminsters throat that they’re not wanted

            SNPx2 That simple

            A wee note to everyone else who supports Independence

            They’re trying their level best to reduce the amount of votes achieved by the SNP so that they can point to a reduction in support for Independence

            Front pages will look like “Support for Indy crashes” “Sturgeon supporters hopes dashed” “Honeymoon period for the SNP over”

            Do we want to see that in the Daily Record or the Guardian or Herald or Hootsman
            Followed up by days of analysis on the SNPs road to downfall by the State Broadcaster

            Alf here and his buddies would love to see all that and I know most of you won’t be fooled by their concerned crap but there are some that might

            I’m done playing with you Alf

  10. I’ll tell you what isn’t stretching things a bit. If the SNP don’t get the required majority at the expense of the Greens Ah’ll be blaming Patrick Harvie and the Unionist press an all the idiots or Unionists who think it’s ok to believe the Pollsters, and the Labour supporting Journalists.

    • Likewise. I’m already not too enamoured with No voters who helped land us with another 5 years (at least) of Tory abuse.

      • If YES voters really wanted to get their own back on NO voters, they would be better advised to make their second vote count by giving most of the expected 900,000 YES list votes to the Greens; that is the only sure way to deprive the unionist parties of their unhindered access to the majority of list seats courtesy of SNPx2.

  11. Having read the article and comments, plus a lot of what has been written on the topic in the Sunday Herald etc, I stlll agree largely with Alf Baird and will vote SNP 1 and Green 2. This is my instinct, having read the various manifestos. I will give my second vote to the Greens as I like a lot of their policies, though I think it very unlikely that they will become the official opposition. In fact I hope they don’t as I’d rather see Greens and SNP work together, not as a coalition (unless that is the only way to get a pro-Indy government) but co-operating on the many policies they have in common.

    To vote against my gut feeling would be tactical voting and dishonest so I will not be doing it.

    • If you have read the Greens Manifesto you’ll find contained therein not very many of the policies in common with the SNP or Labour or Lib Dems or indeed anybody
      What you will find is a hope and ambition to make Scotland the highest taxed country in Europe and the desire to compel private businesses to change their modelling

      Maybe it’s just me but when you have ambitions to compel and not persuade, people don’t tend to like that very much and it displays the Naivety of the Wee Chairman Harvie and his personal ambitions

  12. “Scots unthirldom is the poleetical muivement that thinks Scotland shoud poleetical sinder itsel frae the Unitit Kinrick, an become an unthirlt kintra wi ane govrenment an a sovereign pairlament.”

    SNP X 2 = 🙂 Alba gu bràth

  13. Ruth’s Tory Opposition-in-waiting view SNP x 2 with eager anticipation; who wouldn’t want their oponents to squander 900,000 list votes on a measly 3-5 seat pay-back? The Tories (and slab) are dependent on SNP x 2.

  14. Independence is not at the top of the Green,s agenda.

    Why don’t these smaller parties try and get votes from Labour/LibDem/Tories instead of the SNP?

    The SNP have worked hard for generations to get the vote in, so these small parties should vote for the SNP and after Independence, I’m sure, that,s when a 2nd vote may well be given to them.

    Until then it’s BothVotesSNP

    • I appreciate your reason for voting SNPx2, but not your logic. The reality of the list vote is:

      – For the Yes voter, each SNP list seat will ‘cost’ some 200,000 votes
      – For the Yes voter, each Greens list seat will ‘cost’ some 17,000 votes
      – A mass Yes list vote for SNP means unionist parties will pick up 90%+ of all list seats
      – A mass Yes list vote for Greens means unionist parties could have less than 50% of all list seats

      Question: which option is the logical or optimal choice for Yes voters?

      • Excellent point Alf, and well done for refusing to buckle down to the sneering attacks on your posts.

  15. Judging by the tone of some of the “SNP 1&2” advocates on here, I am staggered if they think their high handed attitude would persuade a single “no” voter to switch to “Yes”. Dismissive, aggressive, sneering, truly gobsmacking attitudes seem to prevail.

    Note this – there is no majority for Scottish independence, and nor will there be if the attitudes of some on here are a measure of Yes campaigners (and I sincerely hope they are not representative). Secondly, people can vote any way they like. Son 1 Green 2 is as legitimate a position as any other, stop sneering at people who actually share your general attitude to constitutional affairs but don’t feel the need to vote SNP. I thought Scottish independence was supposed to represent a “new” politics?


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