Splitting the nationalist vote

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by a Newsnet reader

I have been reading several comments on Newsnet Scotland about the dangers of splitting the nationalist (or pro-independence) vote.  It would be a bad thing, right?

Well, here’s a “what if” for you to think about.  What if there was a second pro-independence party in Scotland which only contested regional list seats while the SNP only contested First Past The Post (FPTP) constituency seats?  Let’s call this party the Scottish Independence List Party (SILP). What if the SNP & SILP cooperated in Holyrood?

If we look at the election results from 2011 and 2007, and assume that all the SNP’s regional list votes went to the SILP while all other parties and candidates received the same votes as they actually got, what would Holyrood look like? The results might (or might not) surprise you.  The new numbers would look like this:

  2011 Actual 2011 Hypothetical 2007 Actual  2007 Hypothetical
SNP 69 53 47 21
SILP 42 37
LAB 37 25 46 41
CON 15 7 17 14
LD 5 2 16 14
GRN 2 0 2 1
IND 1 0 1 1

The 2011 results would have been 95 MSPs for independence and 34 against.  Margo and the two Greens would not have been elected, and neither would Willie Rennie and his two LibDem list colleagues.

The current Scottish Parliament, for comparison, has 72 MSPs for independence and 57 against.

Would “splitting” the pro-independence vote really be such a bad thing?  If done properly it could increase pro-independence representation by 32% and reduce anti-independence representation by 40%.  The downside? The SNP would lose its overall majority (a very difficult feat to achieve, let alone repeat) but would be guaranteed cooperation or a coalition with SILP.

With only one major pro-independence party contesting Holyrood seats the electoral system is rigged against that party gaining a majority. With two or more major pro-independence parties the numbers change dramatically.  The Unionists, after all, have three parties “splitting” their votes and this allows their cause to achieve representation far in excess of its popularity.