If the opinion polls are to be believed, the SNP is set to do well at the Scottish Parliament election in May and win a majority of constituency seats – potentially enough to secure a majority in the Scottish Parliament. There has been a concerted effort by smaller political parties to use those opinion poll results to argue that the SNP therefore doesn’t need to win regional list seats and moreover, that we can’t win those seats in the event of a resounding victory in the constituencies. However, both of those propositions are incorrect, and clearly just a pitch for SNP supporters to give their regional list vote to one of the smaller parties. They would say that, wouldn’t they?
So why is it important to cast both our constituency and regional list votes for the SNP? Firstly, as members of the SNP we should always aim to maximise the number of SNP representatives elected. Not a single vote has yet been cast for the Scottish Parliament election. We cannot take anything for granted. We, of course, aim to win every seat at every election, but we cannot assume we will win enough constituency seats to form a majority. There is a lot of hard work to be done before polling day to turn encouraging opinion polls into a decisive victory. Using regional list votes for any other party will only weaken the position of the SNP. And we know that when the SNP is at our strongest, Scotland’s interests are advanced.
Smaller parties like the Greens and Rise are pitching for SNP votes on the regional list on the basis that this will help secure a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament. But you can never assume that tactical voting under the Scottish Parliament electoral system will deliver what you anticipate. Splitting the pro-independence vote may only assist the unionist parties. Independence is only part of the policy platform of parties like the Greens and Rise. Plus, the Greens were divided on independence during the referendum, with prominent members such as former leader of the Greens, Robin Harper, campaigning for a No vote.
The SNP needs regional list seats, even if we win a majority of constituency seats. There is no guarantee that we will win enough constituency seats to secure a majority in the Scottish Parliament. In 2011, we won that historic majority thanks to a combination of constituency AND regional list seats. We need 65 for a majority. We got 69 due to a combination of 53 constituency seats and 16 list seats. Without these regional list seats, there would have been no SNP majority, no majority for independence and no referendum in 2014. We need every vote and every seat possible.
We can win regional list seats, even if we win a majority of constituency seats. In 2011, despite an amazing result – winning 53 constituency seats – we still won regional list seats in 7 out of 8 regions. Also in 2011, we won all 10 constituency seats in the North East AND a regional list seat in the form of Mark McDonald MSP. Not only do we need regional list votes, the 2011 results have proven that we can win regional list votes even if we win every constituency seat in a region. That can only happen though when as many people as possible use both their votes for the SNP.
So, the key message is to give the SNP both votes.