By Jason Michael

EVER SINCE THE IDEA was first proposed, that the independence movement adopt a policy of voting for another pro-independence party besides the Scottish National Party in the regional list vote of the next Holyrood elections, leading lights within the SNP and the Scottish Greens have been using the term ‘gaming the system’ to describe the plan. The idea, of course, is to stand one alternative pro-independence party in regions where the SNP and the Greens are not likely to win regional list seats, thereby maximising the number of pro-independence MSPs in the next Scottish parliament – with a view to creating a pro-independence supermajority. But those already in power – namely the SNP and the Greens – are not at all keen on this idea. On the one hand, the SNP is happy with a simple majority because such would preserve the SNP’s monopoly over independence – giving it the power to determine its shape and pace, and on the other hand, if there is to be an alternative to the SNP on the regional list vote, the Greens want to be it.


Countering this plan – a plan that has arisen organically from the grassroots of the independence movement, and in a fashion – it would appear – lifted directly from the Westminster playbook, we are seeing the operation of an astroturf-media-politician manœuvre. Party staffers and their online acolytes are talking the plan down as ‘gaming the system,’ a terminology The National is regurgitating in its interviews with MSPs and MPs, which is then being deployed by prominent figures in the SNP and the Green Party to attack the plan and its proponents. At first glance, this might not sound so bad. After all, ‘gaming the system’ sounds good – to some. There are people in this movement – people like me – who’d be quite happy to game the system to get Britain and its nuclear submarines the hell out of Scotland. There are plenty of people who support the idea who are quite content with this wording, but language is important, and it’s right at the heart of every good political campaign.

It might sound cheeky, like we’re somehow getting something over on Britain, but ‘gaming the system’ is a bad thing. Now, when I say this, I don’t mean that I see it as a bad thing – certainly not in a moral sense. My moral sliding scale is developed enough and catholic enough – in a theological sense (anyone familiar with Thomas Aquinas will know what I’m talking about) – to deal with bending and even breaking the rules when the moral choice is between a greater and a lesser evil. But your average voter is – hopefully – less devious and – sadly – less Jesuitical. Your average person sees things in more starkly black and white terms. Your average voter will never go for a bad thing, and gaming the system is, strictly speaking, a bad thing:

So, while this language may appeal to some, it is being used against us by a powerful group of people who are talking directly to the average voter in a way that very few – if any – in the grassroots can. In a word, this is excellent propaganda. As we have seen, the idea that this strategy of tactical voting in the regional list for another pro-independence party is taking root. In fact, it has already entered the national discussion – our plan is to game the system; to rig it, abuse it, milk it, to cheat. And trust me, the average independence supporter does not like the thought of cheating the devil. Sure, he don’t even recognise the British state as the devil. Breaking the rules makes us just as bad as them, it lowers our sacred campaign to their level, it robs us of the moral high ground. Your average voter will not go for this, and that is precisely the genius of this propaganda.

But it’s bogus! The only thing here sullying the moral high ground is the deceitful and propagandistic words of those who are calling this plan – this perfectly legitimate plan – ‘gaming the system.’ Let’s deal with the little fish first. Green Party MSP Ross Greer, the precious little soul who referred to me as ‘Michael Collins with a keyboard,’ said:

If you’re sitting here now, with independence regularly polling above 50% for the first time ever, and arguing that ‘playing fair hasn’t got us anywhere’ you’re a bigger danger to the Yes movement than any of our actual opponents. Persuadable voters are not persuaded by cheating.

Absolutely, persuadable voters are not persuaded by cheating. But who’s cheating exactly? The idea is to have another party stand for election in the regional list vote with a view to being elected by the people of Scotland in a free and open democratic election – exactly what the Green Party (including Mr Greer) will be doing on the day. Yet, somehow neither Greer nor his colleagues in the Scottish Greens will be ‘gaming the system’ because … reasons. Another perfectly legal party seeking election on the regional list will be engaged in a perfectly legal process just the same as the Greens. One can only suspect that the Greens’ fear of the legality of this democratic strategy is that it will expose how unpopular their party is. But Michael Collins?! Come on? I don’t mind wee Greer’s anti-Irish quip, but Collins was the leader of the Free State Army. Jaysus! Had he called me Liam Lynch I would have been mighty chuffed, but I doubt Greer knows that name.

With the bigger fish – the SNP – it’s patently obvious, and to a large extent understandable. Nicola Sturgeon has taken a measured and gradualist approach to independence, one that foresees an eventual erosion of Britain’s will to hold on to Scotland. Paul Kavanagh put this well the other day on his Wee Ginger Dug blog (15 July 2020):

The Conservative party is not led by formidable political giants, but rather by cheap and shallow opportunists. Faced with a Scottish Government newly elected with a strong majority on a mandate for another referendum, a Scottish Government which is determined to use every legal and lawful means at its disposal to be a thorn in his Brexit side, Boris Johnson is quite likely to consider a gamble on another independence referendum. Either the independence movement loses, in which case Johnson can pose as the Saviour of the Union, or we win, in which case Johnson knows that he has secured his position as the champion of England. From his perspective it’s a win-win.

It’s not easy to disagree with the Wee Ginger Dug in public. Paul Kavanagh is the second most loved personality in the movement – the first being Ginger, but, and in all sincerity, I think he’s wrong here. He is dead right when he says the British Conservative Party is not led by giants. On this we agree, at the top of the Tory tree there’s nothing but a shower of chancers and the most crooked set of slimy, opportunistic cretins ever to have graced the Commons and Number 10 – and that’s saying something, and, had they to be in control, I would have to concede that the assessment of the Wee Ginger Dug is correct. But the British state is a bureaucratic state with the veneer – and only the veneer – of a liberal democracy. Prime Ministers, Cabinets, and Members of Parliament come and go. These are merely the temporary visible custodians of power. Behind this façade there are dynasties occupying the labyrinthine and Byzantine dicasteries of the British civil service who hold and have always held the invisible reins of power. While Prime Ministers and governments and policies come and go, it is these accensi – the men in the grey suits – who are tasked with the long-term strategic plans of Great Britain. These are the architects and the engineers of Britain’s grand strategy.

Scotland is Britain’s grand strategy, and let’s make no bones about that. Our oil – still the world’s most important strategic and geopolitical resource – is the breadbasket of their little empire. In a world such as this, with Britain playing the game with phantom limb syndrome with regard to its lost global empire, Scotland’s oil is its golden ticket – and no blundering buffoon of a Prime Minister is going to be allowed to jeopardise that again. Chip away at Britain all you please, what lies behind that velvet glove of soft moronic weakness is an iron fist.

Gradualism is a hiding to … a hiding. Deep in its heart the SNP understands this, and the image of Willie McRae’s motor car deserted in a Highland wilderness bears full testimony to all that cruelty and vindictiveness in microcosm; all the murder and violence and rape and pillage in India, in Ireland, and everywhere else this monster has shown its teeth. The National Party’s new guard might wear fabulous shoes and expensive silk ties, but its old guard has looked into the darkness and has felt the cold chill of the darkness looking back. This is the real reason for ‘gradualism.’ The SNP knows that sooner or later – and it would prefer later – this journey to independence will lead us right through the lair of this nightmarish chthonic beast.

We are on a collision course with England, and we grasp this. But the SNP knows that a supermajority in Holyrood would slam the pedal to the floor, the situation would be accelerated to that confrontation – and the SNP knows that it doesn’t know how to handle that chaos. So, the plan to hasten the inevitable – the plan to legally pack out the Scottish parliament with pro-independence MSPs – has to be tempered. It has to be stopped. The SNP has to hold this ship on a slow and steady course – and that is because, perhaps, the long-expected messiah has not yet come. And for the now, for the foreseeable future, every attempt to expedite this process is gaming the system.


The Murder of Willie Macrae

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18 thoughts on “Gaming the System

  1. Well here’s a thought. Consider someone in an English seat with a Tory MP with a narrow majority, and Labour coming a close second. The voter may be a strong Green Party supporter, and would certainly vote Green in a fair PR system. But in the present circumstances his or her main priority may be to get the Tory out. Therefore the rational choice might be to vote Labour as the lesser of two evils from their POV.
    Now it that or isn’t it “Gaming the System” ???

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here’s another thought. Consider there’s a party leader with a visceral hatred and deep fear of another party. That party leader may exhort the followers of that party to vote for anyone from another party, to thwart the hated and feared party. Now is that, or isn’t it, gaming the system?

    Is the Dhond’t system a “gamed system”, or is it not?


  3. ‘British civil service who hold and have always held the invisible reins of power’
    This is true, and is also true of the Scottish Government, now. When we become free from the Union, and we most surely will, we will have the same situation to deal with in our own government. If it wasn’t for the Scottish civil servants, then what happened to Alex Salmond would never have happened. They are a force to be reckoned with and are un-touchable hiding behind the SNP.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Scottish Government is run by British Civil Servants. Leslie Evans Permanent Secretary reports to WM.
      True the FM gets to appoint but from a shortlist, prepared by WM.


    1. Thanks for this link, steelewires. I just watched it. It is absolutely horrifying but the worst is, as you watch it, you have this feeling that you have known this all along but never allowed it into the front of your brain.

      There is something deeply sick in the British establishment. Other elites, eg. French, are not innocent of course, but at least in other W European countries a written constitution governs and sets the way even the elite have to see themselves. French prosecutors have dragged three French Presidents for eg to court in the last 40 years (not for paedophilia I mean, on general corruption charges): Giscard d’Estaing, Chirac, Sarkozy. Plus some senior politicians like Christine Lagarde. It shows at some level their system is working so ordinary people can trust it. When will a British PM ever be charged the way the French heads of state have been ?!


  4. “… the SNP is happy with a simple majority because such would preserve the SNP’s monopoly over independence …” . I think you are correct. Monopoly, power and control are the key to the claim of Gaming the System. The SNP remind me of the wayward bishop’s prayer, “Lord make me good, but not yet”.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jason

    I completely agree. The hypocrisy of the SNP and the Greens is up there with anything Westminster has to offer. I’ve argued for a while now that the SNP want independence but not now. They appear to be dreaming about some utopia further down the road that will never appear. The gaming the system narrative I find appalling to say the least. Those of us in favor of voting for an alternative list party are using a system set up to keep us down to our own advantage while holding the SNP to their word and that’s what they don’t like, being held to their word. Imagine a list yes party with the power to say to an SNP Government you want your budget passed then you need to do this or that for our support, that is what they are afraid of. We need the SNP but they need us more and if the members won’t hold them to account or blindly agree with them then we need to find a way to hold them to account. I become more disappointed with the SNP on the constitutional issue every day.


  6. A real Independence Party would put a mandate for independence in their manifesto if they get greater than 50% vote. It would be interesting to see what sort of vote any of these new parties got if they put that in their manifesto.


  7. Gaming the system is dangerous on two counts. First, it will probably split the vote resulting in, at best, a minority SNP government. Second, if you support anyone willing to remove the legitimate political views of opponents from parliament, no matter how much you loathe those views, and hand them power, to whom then do YOU turn should those to whom you’ve given this power no longer reflect YOUR views?

    All these new Messiahs, unwilling to even work together in their stated goal, appear to be conflating support for the SNP with support for Indy. People new to supporting the SNP, may well still baulk at the idea of Indy, particularly any of the illegal routes being mooted by the Messiahs.

    We (committed Indy supporters) remain a minority, sizable, yes, but still a minority. We’ve had head-start on those who are now waking up to reality. That’s the price we pay, having to “hold, hold, hold” until others catch up. We’re only going one way at the moment, but going ahead with a referendum, legal or otherwise, that fails for whatever reason – low turnout, unionist boycott etc. sees our opportunity disappear for decades if not centuries.


    1. How can a referendum fail for low turnout or British Nationalist boycott. Plenty of people do not vote in elections all the time. I think your comment is wrong.

      You seem so sure that we are a minority despite the polls saying otherwise all year with 54% for independence being the result of the two most recent polls – funny that is the conclusion you draw.

      ” If not centuries” – ha ha – very funny. In fact your whole post is a bit of a joke.


  8. It’s NOT “Gaming the system”. I wish people who support the right of Scots yo at least have a CHOICE in how they are governed would stop using the Unionists playbook. Anyone who choses to vote for a different party on the Constituency and the Region could be said to be “gaming the system” on this basis. So all those Green votes are people who “Gamed the system” as the Greens did not stand in every constituency.

    The Unionist parties certainly “Gamed the system” in 2016 when the encouraged the electorate to vote for the best candidate to unseat an SNP MSP. Gorgeous George’s new party want everyone to “game the system” by voting in the same way.

    So, let’s be clear. People are simply exercising their democratic choice within the available system.

    As to the idea it will “split the vote”. How so? If as predicted, the SNP swamp the constituencies – some observers believing they’ll win a majority outright on the constituencies alone – the chance of them gaining any “List” MSP are minute. So exactly what vote is being split? If you mean the YES vote, then it’s about time we understood that not every SNP supporter actually wants an Independent Scotland, and not every non-SNP voter wants to remain in the Union. The YES movement is far more than just the SNP.

    There are now many YES supporters who are having doubts about the direction the SNP is heading. Who are they supposed to vote for? SNP 1 seems clear as there is no other real choice, but SNP 2 is no longer a gimme. Perhaps it’s time the SNP demonstrated they DO still want a swift Independent Scotland, because once we get into 2021 and Brexit is for real, things here are only going to get worse. How long before the “economic fallout” of CV19 is under sufficient “control” for the SNP to revisit Independence?

    I’m already old, at this rate I’ll not see it


  9. This line of conversation is ignoring the elephant in the room, that of the Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party and the Scottish Liberal Democrat’s party. None of which are registered with the Electoral Commission yet put up candidates to ‘represent’ Scotland at both Holyrood and Westminster.

    Now that IS gaming the system….but ignored and instead we get endless cries of ‘cheat’ on another Indy supporting party, just another excuse to do a bit more downtrodden navel gazing. About time the Yes movement grew up.


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