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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.
Asked John Curtice about the Alliance party. He said: "It's intriguing that people suddenly seem to want to game th… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Andrew Learmonth (@andrewlearmonth) July 14, 2020
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.
@MrMcEnaney Check out Michael Collins with a keyboard.—
Ross Greer (@Ross_Greer) August 07, 2017
Aaron Carr (@ScaryChildren) August 08, 2017
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.
Clacks Greens (@ClacksGreens) March 20, 2019
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