Holyrood vote next year will be the 'independence election'
Dave Thompson, who is heading up the Alliance for Independence (AFI) ticket, says Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement last week that legislation will be published before the Holyrood election setting out proposals for a fresh referendum will galvanise the Nationalist movement
But pro-union chiefs have insisted that the constitution is the “last thing” Scots will want to be debating with the country still likely to be battling the effects of the Coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Thompson, the former SNP MSP said: ”We welcome any confirmation that next year’s Scottish Holyrood election is going to focus on independence.
And certainly from our perspective that’s what we’ll be wanting to achieve - that the election is the independence election if you like for Scotland
“So we welcome Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to lay out the precise details like the question, date and so on. We look forward to seeing all of that when she produces it in due course.
“We would see that as a positive development and we’ll certainly be pressing as hard as we possibly can all of the pro-indy parties to commit to focussing on independence in next year’s Scottish election.”
The latest polls suggest a majority of Scots now back independence but the UK Government has control over the constitution and Boris Johnson has ruled out agreeing to a repeat of the 2014 referendum. The SNP
Government insists this will be “unsustainable” if a pro-independence majority is returned next May. Nicola Sturgeon also says Brexit, which saw Scotland opt to remain in the EU while the weight of votes south of the border swung the outcome in favour of leave, represents a “material change” from 2014.
The AFI wants smaller pro-independence parties, like the Greens, to unite under its banner in the “second” vote for the regional list in the Holyrood election.
Mr Thompson added: “Our aim is to `max the yes’ - to maximise the number of pro-independence MSPs elected on the regional lists and we’re speaking to lots of different Yes groups on Zoom meetings all over Scotland to our request for the second vote to come to the alliance which we’re hoping will pull together a number of the small parties and therefore reduce the number of small parties overall standing on the list.”
The SNP’s share of the vote in the 2016 Holyrood election was similar to that achieved in 2011. But the party still lost it’s Holyrood majority and Mr Thompson argues that many of the votes which the party won four years ago were “wasted” on the regional list. This is because the Holyrood voting system, a mix of the traditional “first past the post” seats and proportional representation, means a party automatically loses out on regional list seats if it sweeps up in the constituencies. It was designed to avoid any party winning a majority.
Current polling suggests the SNP may even secure a majority on the constituencies alone, but it could minimise the impact of the party’s votes on the regional list.
The SNP failed to pick up any list votes in six of the eight Holyrood regions in 2016 because the party had swept up so many constituency seats in that region.
“These votes were wasted,” Mr Thompson added.
“By asking people to put their vote to us it isn’t splitting a vote, it’s actually maximising the use of that vote.”
The AFI believes it could potentially pick up 24 seats depending on how many SNP voters switch to them.
But Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said:
“The constitution is the very last thing that next year’s election should be about.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic and a deep recession, so the election must be about jobs, the NHS and other public services.
“The constitution must not be used to distract from the SNP’s catastrophic failures in government.
“It tells you all you need to know about the SNP and its allies that they would rather debate independence than what actually matters to people’s lives.
“The nationalists should drop their obsession with trying to divide Scotland and focus on bringing people together.”
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