A consequence of the rise of identity politics in recent years has been a greater enthusiasm for tactical voting.
Here in Scotland, the 2014 independence referendum had a significant impact on the following year’s general election when the majority of those who had voted Yes lent their support to the SNP. The constitutional question remained central.
This was still the case two years later, when a significant number of pro-Union Scots threw their weight behind the Conservatives. Many of them may not have been natural Tories but they considered the best way of spiking the nationalists’ guns was to back the party that had established itself as the champion of the United Kingdom.
In next month’s General Election, yet another matter of identity will be in play. Just as the independence referendum divided Scots into Yes and No voters, Brexit had split the UK down Leaver-Remainer lines. Inevitably, this has led to calls for tactical voting.
In England and Wales, the Lib Dems, Greens, and Plaid Cymru have been in talks about pacts which would see some candidates stand aside in order to maximise the chance of a Remainer MP being elected.
The Scotsman sees some merit in these arrangements. We believe Brexit to be a mistake and would very much like the next House of Commons not to be dominated by hardline Eurosceptics.
But we are bound to say that such fragile alliances are fraught with difficulties. Parties which assume voters will be willing to play along with cosy stitch-ups may be taking a lot for granted.
In Scotland, matters become even more complicated. Will someone who voted No in 2014 and Remain in 2016 really wish to back an SNP candidate as a protest against Brexit if that support is then translated by the nationalists into a declaration of support for independence?
The first-past-the-post system favours the Conservatives and Labour south of the border and, currently, the SNP in Scotland. Tactical voting, tempting though it may be, will struggle to overcome this reality.
This being so, our belief is that votes next month should be guided by conscience rather than belief that the system can be gamed. The first step in moving away from damaging identity politics should be voters asserting that what matters is policy rather than membership of a particular tribe.