Independence is more than Holyrood

It’s that time folks: ‘now that the dust has settled’ is the opening to post-election analysis of one sort or another. Lots of gnashing of teeth and reaching for blood pressure tablets is not the answer. Perhaps a touch of self-compassion mediation is the answer. “This is a moment of suffering: feeling stressed, dealing with something difficult but not insurmountable.”

Bringing mindful awareness to the Scottish election scene is long overdue, especially for the independence movement. The frustration of not achieving independence immediately boils over as the lay of the land suggests there is no instant route map. 

The SNP are in many ways still coming to terms that they are in fact still the largest party. Many entered polling day with no real sense of what the electorate was about to dish out other than what sceptical opinion polls suggested. Strategically they are probably in the best position. An outright majority would have suggested that a one-party state is not a healthy democracy. Being one seat short allows for an element of humility. It would appear that it strengthens the First Minister’s hand to lead a minority government again or to have a more formal agreement with the strengthened Greens.

The outright rejection of Alba at the polls goes further than internecine warfare between activists. Alba will point to the lack of a broadcast platform but, in fairness to the BBC, UKIP were excluded from Leaders’ Debates for most of their existence because they had no domestic parliamentary presence to warrant a place at the table. Even now with two MPs and a handful of councillors, Alba will not be taken seriously. On the doorstep, the overwhelming revulsion to Alex Salmond summed up the Alba paradox: the grandaddy of independence politics drew in the support of some big hitters but drove the electorate away. It is right that Mr Salmond is retiring from front line politics. For Alba though, will they become the new SSP/Solidarity fringe of Scottish politics? Time will tell.

It is often said that the Scottish electorate is a lot wiser than they are given credit for. However, the Scottish voters are not a homogenous bloc. They will vote tactically when it suits them, mostly for the SNP it has to be said but just as much for Unionist candidates and parties where it matters. They were quite adroit at deciding whether to game the Additional Member System and largely chose not to. 

If one thing comes out of this election it should be that the Proportional Representation system for the Scottish Parliament should become more proportional; either through multi-member constituencies using the single transferable vote, similar to Council wards, or the constituency vote is the same vote used for the Additional Member calculations. It might not change the parliamentary arithmetic but it would stop the ‘two votes’ which some people have compared to others. Parties would have to stand in constituencies and not just pop up on the list. The SNP/Green vote would potentially be at loggerheads but as has been shown in Ireland, it is not difficult to ask voters to be vote SNP 1, SNP 2, Green 3…

Back to today though, or rather to the other night and BBC Debate Night. On that programme, Strathclyde’s professor of politics, Sir John Curtice, gave the most revealing summation of the state of the Scottish polity. He set out that the problem for the Unionist parties is that they have differing views about the governance of the UK never mind the constitutional future of Scotland. How the Tories and Labour can present a case for Scotland within the UK is therefore doomed.

Over the days, weeks and months to come, much will be said about progressing independence. Obtaining a Section 30 Order. The Scottish Parliament organising its own referendum. Perhaps even civil disobedience, and most definitely umpteen marches. Yet in all of this debate, the people will be missing. Opinion polls and even the 6 May result demonstrates that we have still a lot of work to do in persuading more Scots to support independence. That persuasion will be achieved through information and argument, engaging calmly even when we disagree. It is in this space that independence will be won.