Saturday, 30 April 2016

A RISE vote is an unwise vote

It's nearly that time of year again. Hard to believe almost 12 months have passed since that historic day when the SNP achieved a near clean-sweep of Westminster's 59 Scottish seats. A day that saw a number of familiar faces from the Yes campaign, some having only joined the SNP since the referendum, gain their spot on the (in)famous green benches. One of those was of course particularly remarkable - a 20-year old politics undergraduate called Mhairi Black unseating Douglas Alexander one of New Labour's stalwarts who had been there since the girl who would become the youngest MP for some three hundred years was still in nursery. I think I felt my age when I remembered back then in 1997 I was revising for exams that I would be sitting at the grammar school in Penrith!

It was easy to feel some gleeful schadenfreude with the enormity of Labour's collapse in Scotland - served them right for how they behaved towards us during the referendum! Yet that feeling soon gave in to a sense that actually Labour were finally eating humble pie and realising what was wrong with themselves. They weren't the great victors of the independence referendum that John McTiernan had so pompously predicted a few months before but rather the lambs that had sacrificed themselves to protect the union by a swing margin of just 5%. They sound like a shadow of their former self but the tone of humility they seemed to adopt wasn't going to make me forgive them anytime soon. They were well and truly tarnished by standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories in 'Better Together'.

One set of seat predictions for May 5th

Now the time comes for their painful reminder. Whilst last year we could take nothing for granted in the pro-indy camp where most of us were united behind the need to vote SNP, the result this time is pretty much in the bag. The SNP will win the Scottish Parliament elections this coming Thursday and most likely they will increase their majority. But alongside this already-won contest for first place there are another two battles in play. The Tories fancy their chances to be the main opposition party ahead of Labour (I'd hardly be looking forward to that!) and the Greens sense a real opportunity to make a bigger impact on the back of their own increased membership since the referendum with the possibility of winning a few more seats and replacing the Liberal Democrats as the fourth party in Holyrood.

It's with that last point in mind that I consider what pro-independence voters in this election should think about before casting their second vote though nearly all are expected to give their first vote to the SNP. For me it's both votes SNP, I am after all one of the original 10,000 members of the party from before the referendum. But for others they may want what they see as a more radical alternative in the second vote.

That's why I am warning seriously against voting RISE. Great personalities I don't doubt, especially Cat Boyd. However, if the people seeking the more radical choice in the second vote end up splitting their vote between Greens and RISE then there might be one or two RISE MSPs elected but it will come at the cost of those extra Green MSPs being elected. And don't tell me the Greens aren't as bold and radical as RISE. The words Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism are all words that pretty much sum up the Greens as well! For all the talent there maybe in RISE one can't help feeling they are more of an alliance bashed together at the last moment than a political party that has grown organically over time. There are concerns about the history of a number of members in RISE on certain issues but I'm not sure who they relate to exactly. What particularly annoys me about RISE is that they seem to be a reaction to a supposed lack of interest in the goal of independence by the SNP. Well hello, guess what? THE SNP STILL SUPPORT INDEPENDENCE! We haven't slowed down, our momentum is building rapidly and this summer we will hold a drive to gain more and more support for independence so that we can hold another referendum even sooner than we dared to dream in the aftermath of September 19th 2014. The SNP is on the road towards winning independence and it's just a matter of a few years.

So why am I not advising you to give both votes to the SNP? Well I will be while I wear my SNP hat in these last few days before the election on May 5th as I help deliver the remaining election leaflets through the doors of my hometown. I expect things to pan out as a decisive victory in both votes for the SNP. But many of you want a stronger other voice in the Scottish Parliament. For all of you inclined towards such a radical alternative, out of Greens and RISE get behind the party with more momentum and more chance of gaining seats, that is the Greens.

Of course I can't understate the importance of many people getting behind the SNP in both votes so that they increase their share of both the constituencies and the regional lists. The few constituencies that Labour and the Tories clung onto last time will probably be the ones where the most effort needs to be placed in campaigning for the SNP. But I hope in addition to the SNP's re-election enough voters will decide the Greens should be the fourth party in Holyrood. Because that will really prick the consciences of the broadcasters in Pacific Quay. It would be unforgivable for the BBC to pick a Lib Dem but not a Green representative in the big panel debates. If it can only be four party representatives then no longer should it be three against one when debating independence - Green representation would make that two against two!

So first vote SNP but when it comes to the second vote make an informed choice between only two parties, the SNP and the Greens. Decide for yourself and let others decide for themselves. In all likelihood, when the votes are counted on Friday both the SNP and Greens will find themselves enjoying an even more successful results night than five years ago. The best way to achieve that is when natural SNP and Green voters don't feel pressured to use the second vote tactically at the expense of the party to whom they individually feel closer. Second vote, take your pick, SNP or Green. Just do not vote for RISE.


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