For a Yes Alliance in May

Yes Alliance

By Gordon Morgan

Peter Arnott’s very insightful post last Sunday highlighted the tension between the broader YES movement’s expectation of a unified election campaign in May which could effectively wipe out the unionist parties, and the reality that the SNP has made no proposal for a YES alliance.

One week on this tension is resolving itself but in a disappointing way. Although the woeful Smith Commission report confirms that the strongest possible independence cohort of MPs is necessary at Westminster, various individuals such as Lesley Riddoch and Cat Boyd, who could have been representatives in an alliance, have ruled themselves out. The Greens and SSP are likely to each stand in 14 seats, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition in around 10. Overall these parties may stand in over 20 separate seats.

Whilst the SSP and TUSC are anxious not to stand in winnable SNP seats, no such restraint has come from the Greens. Moreover, the criteria for which seats are “winnable” is highly subjective. To seriously dent Labour, swings of over 20% are required. If say 10% of votes went to Green and socialist parties rather than the SNP, then Labour would likely hold the seat. This could happen in up to 10 seats. In Johann Lamont’s term the “dinosaurs” would have survived.

Before considering what if anything, can be done, it is worth reflecting how we got here.

The YES referendum campaign embodied thousands of groups and hundreds times more individuals largely independent from and certainly not controlled by the official YES campaign or the SNP. Many talented individuals blossomed in the campaign and became local or national figures. Many of these individuals were associated with RIC or non SNP parties.

A considerable time before the election, the idea for a YES alliance was raised and a number of bilateral discussions (some formal others informal) were held between the above groups/parties/individuals and individuals in the SNP leadership. These continued up to the referendum and reputedly after it.

Following the referendum, all 4 independence parties got a huge surge in membership which they are still trying to incorporate into their structures. They each held conferences which they opened up to new members. The Green party conference, perhaps forewarned, decided it would be standing next May, the SSP kept the door open temporarily to a left/YES alliance, Solidarity will decide in February. The SNP, conscious of the minimal desires of its new members, opened the door to non SNP members being adopted as candidates and standing as YES alliance.

Excluded from being adopted as SNP candidates were, however, any member of another party. Furthermore, those standing need to accept the SNP programme [I have a different understanding of this situation – the Editor]. What programme this is unclear, however, those ruling themselves out have mentioned NATO, economic policy and the monarchy, although to be fair many SNP candidates disagree with these policies as well.

One final observation on where we are.

The Greens and SNP in particular will be transformed by their membership and changes to both policy and their party structures are inevitable. The Greens will be changed by recruits from the West of Scotland, the SNP by the huge scale of their membership increase. Most new members have never been in any party and are much younger than the “seasoned” members. It is doubtful if many of the new members are fully aware of let alone consciously agree with all aspects of party policy.

Moreover, which party people have joined appears serendipitous based on: locale; who people campaigned with; access to membership forms/branches etc. There appears more in common between new members in all parties than the rather distinct and unchanging party profiles prior to the referendum.

If only new members were consulted a YES alliance would stand for the one-off election next May. A deal would be struck whereby pushing for real devolution max, fighting austerity and social injustice and giving both Red and Blue Tories a kicking were the election themes.
Can this be put on the table at this late stage? Only the SNP leadership could propose it now. It is not too late yet, however, by Christmas it probably will be.

It would as Peter suggested put internal noses out of joint in the SNP and others, however, it could on balance gain more seats for the SNP.
It might not be successful, however, not to try risks disappointing the wider movement, the SNP’s new members and overall that would be a greater set back.

For lack of a proposal the deal was lost. For lack of a deal the YES alliance was lost. For lack of an alliance some seats were lost. For lack of the seats the victory was lost. For lack of the victory Scottish independence was “postponed”.



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34 replies

  1. Independence candidates get together and work together to win their seats. If the leadership of the Parties will not come to a comity arrangement, than perhaps local branches of each Party will get together and make comity arrangements. To let Labour in because any of us are stuck on our own particular policies and will not forgo them for the sake of the one goal would be tragedy.

  2. I think the whole wider Yes movement needs leadership. I think Nicola Sturgeon should take the bull by the horns and seriously consider a Yes alliance for May 15. For Westminster only. Let the wider Yes movement field indy candidates.

    I never thought I would say this, but I think Johan Lamont was spot on when she said that the focus of politics in Scotland is now Holyrood. Westminster really doesn’t matter, as far as Scottish politics are concerned. But it does in terms of wrestling free of this dreadful union and a wider Yes movement winning the majority of seats at WM.

    • I totally agree and, notwithstanding the different policy priorities which can be resolved in the fullness of time at Holyrood, this is a unique opportunity for all of us to get together and keep the unionist parties on the back foot. Let’s get our act together now so that we don’t miss it!

  3. I am not a member of the SNP or indeed any other party and I never have been.

    But what I have come to realise is that to make any progress with Westminster you have to have a very clear and unambiguous message.

    If we send a mixture of SNP, Green & SSP MPs to Westminster then doubts will be raised as to the intention of the voters who gave them their seats.

    For example Scottish Green MPs could be voted for by someone based on ecological concerns and not necessarily indy concerns and this could be used to argue that particular MP cannot guarantee they have a mandate for supporting independence.

    There is no such argument with an SNP MP.

    Although there are many SNP policies I do not support, I do recognise that the SNP are the only party who were able to deliver an independence referendum both in 2014 and in the future.

    The only priority, at present, is to secure another referendum.

    But this does require us to send an indisputable sign to Westminster that this is the will of the people of Scotland.

    The reality is that the only sign that Westminster will recognise is as many SNP MPs as possible.

    The time for alliances is when we have secured another referendum, to ensure the correct result 2nd time around.

    • Tend to agree with you. A bloc of SNP MPs at WM is needed to try and prevent massive damage to Scotland in the UK backlash after the indyref defeat.

      However, there are seats, particularly in the Borders, South East and Edinburgh, where a Green candidate may stand more chance than an SNP candidate.

      A national electoral alliance may not yield the simple arithmetic result we desire- but it might be better for the SNP to make concessions on a constituency-by-constituency basis to aid the tactical pro-Scotland vote.

  4. What is the Greens problem? Are they just too middle class to really care about austerity (or indy) ? I notice SNP is shifting on TTIP etc, so unsure their attitude is about policies/taking moral high ground. Looks like staking your patch, & then whatever happens…Agree indy not an end in itself, but is wrapped up tight with anti austerity. Holyrood a different scenario. Are the Greens staking out an identity as a a party dedicated to middle class environmental politics with no real commitment to social justice? Some would say that is their international identity, although once in govt coalitions they often don’t even protect the environment, but become quite neo liberal. Ireland the big example, but Australia and other places offer examples on a smaller scale.

    If what this article says is accurate and Greens are willing to throw away numerous more or less anti austerity & pro indy seats at westminister by contesting seats they can’t win then the SSP and any left electoral alliance should upgrade and campaign hard on its own green,anti austerity & yes credentials, and take on as many of Greens members as it can.

    Also i think SNP offered more than any similarly positioned party would have, and have different interests to please, old & new members. They are not particularly radical but they are decent people. The question now arises to me is are the Greens’ leadership? They are showing less altruism than Tommy Sheridan in this instance, who has said he will not stand as would be too divisive.( BTW I don’t believe Sheridan is significantly more misogynist than the average man, leave critique to women).

    • The reality is that Sheridan is making a big thing out of very little. He (and other socialists) just don’t have the track record in UK elections that could see them selected as candidates in a Yes Alliance. Sheridan did stand in 2015 (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) and got 931 votes – just 100 ahead of the BNP in the same constituency.

      The larger Scottish Socialist party stood in 10 seats, got a total of 3,157 votes (0.1% of the Scottish vote), and lost all ten deposits.

      • True, but times have changed and there were ‘Labour’ voters who voted ‘yes’ but won’t vote for the SNP. They need a home. 😉

    • The Scottish Greens are pretty forthcoming on social justice and progressive economic policies.. also the Green movement is characterised by the genuine autonomy of local Green parties, so making comparisons with Ireland and Australia is irrelevant.

  5. it would appear that the political parties aren’t going to lay down their dogma.
    What about grass roots people power?
    How might it be possible to establish a YES alliance outside of the various party machines to unashamedly ask the other pro independent supporters (as opposed to leaders) to vote the only way it is possible to get Scotland a voice in westminster. it worked well in the referendum.

    I cant help thinking that the SNP are actually thinking strategically – realistically at this point in history they are the only party remotely likely to have enough support to do anything. I’v lost count of the number of times Nicola Sturgeon has said – lend us your vote. There is no point to them advocating for a vote for other pro-independents. They simply do not have enough widespread appeal to do anything but split the vote.

    It is those with the smaller memberships that are going to have to look at a bigger picture in this election. But with a bit of encouragement their supporters could be persuaded to vote strategically. Particularly if they joined because of the result of the referendum. The Smith fiasco can only strengthen the resolve of pro-independence.

    Grassroots could be the only way forward. When people are voting for something specific -such as to achieve a change in government, then the smaller parties rarely do as well as they might when there is simply a general dissatisfaction with the major parties.

    Voters need to aim at the goal – not at the other players…..

  6. i agree Kate on misogyny, It’s as prevalent as ever from all kinds of social groups. As for Greens here in Australia they are a waste of time and they rarely take on the difficult agenda staying with the feel good environmental stuff and refugees to some extent. Scotland is way ahead as far as engagement from more radical thinkers. Lucky you.

  7. If these parties don’t fight under the larger SNP banner to achieve our future independence we will come under more Westminster attacks. History will decide the damage that the Greens etc will cause our quest for freedom.Maybe Patrick Harvie has his own agenda?.

  8. The problem with the Yes Alliance idea is that it’s nice in theory, but when it comes to actually putting it into practice, it’s not very clear how it would work. For one thing, the timing isn’t good, because we’re in a period of flux. Realistically, nothing could have been done before the SNP conference, and there’s been the Smith Commission and the small matter of setting out the next programme for government in the mix as well, and now we’re already into the candidate selection process. That would have had to be put on hold until an alliance was sorted out, and candidate selection is kind of cutting things a bit fine just now as it is. Then what if talks had failed, leaving parties with even less time to get candidates sorted out?

    Let’s face it, as soon as the polls showing high SNP figures came out, an alliance was dead in the water. All of a sudden, every single constituency in the country looks winnable for the SNP (barring maybe four, although Gordon Brown’s seat won’t have the incumbency factor now). Who are the lucky branches that get told “sorry, I know you want to campaign for an SNP MP, but we decided to let the Greens have this one”? (I can also see exactly why the Greens wouldn’t be keen on the idea of simply stepping aside for the SNP, which is what many Yes Alliance supporters are really calling for – I notice a couple of comments effectively suggesting this.) The only way it could have been workable would have been to let branches decide for themselves whether to put a candidate up or not, but then how does the manifesto work? What happens when they actually get into Westminster?

    And that’s before you get into the biggest problem with the alliance idea – the assumption that it would have won. It assumes that everyone who voted Yes in September would dutifully vote for the Yes Alliance in May, and ignores the fact that the SNP can succeed amongst No voters where a Yes Alliance wouldn’t. And what about No-voting Greens? I even know of Yes-voting Labour members who are now more interested in pretending Neil Findlay can save their party and will undoubtedly vote Labour in May, regardless of whether a Yes Alliance exists or not.

    It just wasn’t really practical. If it was, it probably would have happened.

    “For lack of a proposal the deal was lost. For lack of a deal the YES alliance was lost. For lack of an alliance some seats were lost. For lack of the seats the victory was lost. For lack of the victory Scottish independence was “postponed”.”

    I’m still waiting for someone to highlight the seats where the Greens or independents stand a better chance of winning than the SNP…

    • Elaine C Smith in Glasgow East? Colin Fox in North Lanarkshire?

      I think if there had been a Home Rule/Anti-Austerity Alliance and have it titled like that it would have made it easier for internal and external candidates. Where there’s a will there’s a way. But yes, timing is of the essence and we’re up against it.

      Last point, as someone who’s not in a political party who do I canvass for?

      • “Last point, as someone who’s not in a political party who do I canvass for?”

        Ah, now THAT is an interesting question, not least because canvassing for an election is going to be different to canvassing for the referendum, where canvassers were pretty much free to say what they wanted, so long as it was honest. I suspect that would have been the case even with a Yes Alliance though, since they’d have had to have some sort of manifesto.

        (Elaine C. Smith’s already ruled herself out I believe, as have a lot of the people that were touted as possible non-political candidates, which further makes an alliance less practical than it seemed I think.)

  9. There is no point to this discussion the ‘silent majority’ will remain blissfully ignorant of the purpose or aims of a Political YES Alliance and the media will continue to focus only on the main parties ,they will drive the election campaigns to again suit the establishment agenda. Business as usual!
    Voters will again vote for recognised mainstream party candidates .

    What a YES Alliance should be doing is creating a working platform for YES activists to continue to deliver material of a high consistant standard to voters throughout Scotland. I want to be out engaging wth voters on the subject of independence! distinct from Party Politics.
    The GE is an entirely separate issue. where members of the SNP and other parties will inevitably concentrate on their respective manifestos and constituency campaigns.
    I would suggest that a YES Alliance needs to be an active and respected background organisation entirely focused on the Independence arguements and on persuading / preparing those of the 55% how and why a Independent Scotland can work to benefit all .
    Forget the GE and concentrate on maintaining activity in our communities. Regularly leafletting and canvassing to ensure that a continuous flow of information is provided to the Scottish public. We need a grassroots leadership who can create a YES ALLIANCE brand. Updated logos, Car Stickers, a leaflet campaign. Crowd-funding. etc. essentially a continuance of a YES Campaign .
    There are many like me who wish to ensure that a focused independence message is being maintained .This activity can best be achieved outwith the SNP etc.
    IMO the RIC / JRF and other YES Groups need to quickly focus on pulling together into one cohesive national campaigning organisation. An effective YES ALLIANCE is needed now.

    I appeal to Robin McAlpine Cat Boyd Alan Bissett Lesley Riddoch and the many other high profile non political YES campaigners to grasp the opportunity to create a meaningful legacy from the YES Campaign.

    WE cannot expect the momentum to be maintained by Political Parties they have to get back to their core purpose winning elections and delivering policy and government via Holyrood and Westminster.

  10. This is all very frustrating, but as someone who would almost certainly have been voting Green had we won a Yes vote on the 18th, I shall be voting SNP in May 2015.

    Realistically only the SNP has a real chance of ousting sitting Labour MPs, and only that can send the strong message we need to Westminster – Scotland is awake and will not now shut up.

    So, for me, it’s SNP in GE2015, then I’ll weigh up the party’s policies for Holyrood in 2016 and probably vote Green.

  11. I don’t think the Greens/SSP etc. have much the track record for the SNP to worry about splitting the independence vote. I think a formal alliance that weighed up chances in a seat on past party performance would see the SNP candidate selected in every case.

    For the SNP, the political calculation may have more to do with concern at the number of past SNP voters who liked their managerial approach but who didn’t favour independence – and who were insulated from that policy by the commitment to a referendum.

    Many of the SNP heartlands voted No, and the SNP may take a conservative approach by playing down independence to retain those seats (stressing devo max instead, for the moment), rather than gambling on securing seats in the new Yes heartlands by pushing independence.

    I think the same political calculations will also apply to the SNP approach to income tax.

  12. Gordon Morgan says this: “Whilst the SSP and TUSC are anxious not to stand in winnable SNP seats, no such restraint has come from the Greens.” While I cannot speak for the Greens or the SSP my understanding is that TUSC “will be holding a conference in late February to finalise its manifesto and list of candidates for the general election in Scotland. In the meantime the expanded steering committee will be writing to trade union organisation, socialist groups and others to invite them to take part in building a principled electoral challenge to austerity in May 2015” and that “TUSC candidates would stand on a pledge of “refusing to carry through cuts by setting No Cuts needs based budgets,” as well as socialist policies like public ownership, an end to anti-union laws and a living wage.” So I do not get where he thinks that TUSC will not be standing in winnable SNP seats. In fact TUSC specifically considers as SNP Councils and the SNP Government are carrying out the Condem Government’s austerity programme, to the tune of £3.5 since 2010 and a further £2Billion to come, a “vote for the SNP or a so-called Yes Alliance in May next year, an idea put forward by a number of left organisations and individuals in Scotland, cannot be supported. While all the organisations that take part in TUSC, including the RMT, called for a Yes vote in the referendum, there can be no support given to candidates who are not prepared to call for non-implementation of Tory cuts.”
    So Gordon Morgan needs to clarify his statement.

    http://socialistpartyscotland.org.uk/2014/11/03/successful-scottish-tusc-conference-votes-stand-anti-cuts-candidates-2015/

  13. I really disagree with the comments about Greens being ‘cuddly middle class environmentalists’.
    The emphasis on the world outside is because the world can do fine without us, but we cannot survive without the world. [How we respond to] climate change is therefore much more a political and social problem – and opportunity – than an environmental issue. Much of Left v Right politics seems to exist in a vacuum of the world around them.

    Problems in how society relates to nature are driven by problems in how people relate to each other – domination of nature is driven by domination of human by human. Only equitable and fair societies based on solidarity and collective benefit will bring a more equitable relationship with the rest of nature that humanity is a part of; and unleash the human creative potential for better and more meaningful lives for all of us.
    …it’s not about who owns the factories, it’s about whether factory hierarchies are a good way of living, and it’s about not sacrificing the collective future for the personal wants of the now.

  14. I support having leading figures of the YES campaign standing for election. However if we don’t present a united front then the unionists (and unionist media) are expert and opening that division.
    The compromise must be broad agreement to follow a party line. Many Greens for example oppose Independence and would object to their Party not putting up candidates in as many seats as possible.

    We do not have time to massage all the ego’s between now and May. Party unity requires party discipline.
    The SNP is a broad church but all have compromised to focus on the bigger issue of Independence in order to build a fairer society. We would not have had a referendum or YES campaign but for the SNP.

    The only solution I see is an even broader SNP church for Westminster.

    THE SSP and Greens may feel their voice will be lost.However I think they will be even stronge post Independence. A compromise could be an agreement to boost the Greens and SSP at Holyrood.

    Take a hard look at the SNP – it is already a YES coalition – ask members about the previous party membership and you will find every party represented (even Tories !!!)

    As in our past – forget the Clan feuds and join shields.

  15. One of the problems with a Yes Alliance is that you risk making the 45 per cent-55 per cent independence referendum split permanent imo. The referendum result was a vote that decided how people thought about independence on the 18th September. By advocating A Yes alliance you are making it much more difficult to give some of the 55 per cent who voted No a change/an opportunity, and a space, to their minds in the future. To deliver independence more people need to be persuaded to vote for independence in a referendum. Is this really going to be achieved by means of only appealing to the 45 per cent who voted Yes? I don’t think so. Splitting the electorate into two is only going to encourage tribalism.

    • “By advocating A Yes alliance you are making it much more difficult to give some of the 55 per cent who voted No a change/an opportunity, and a space, to their minds in the future.”

      This.

    • However, came across this which, if true, means that this may not be an issue at leads in GE2015 . .

      “One unpleasant little stat was tucked away in the latest Survation poll and received little comment, probably because the other figures were so encouraging: only 7.4% of No voters intend to vote SNP in May. The recent Panelbase poll had that figure at 8%. These figures are disappointing in themselves, but more so in that they show virtually no improvement since the referendum. The last comparable figure was from Survation back in July, which had 6.6% of No voters planning to vote SNP.”

      Anyone got any further information on this?

      • Colin, don’t worry about this.

        Remember a General Election is first past the post, not proportional. This has been mentioned on Wings, described as the ‘tipping point’. Effectively you need a much lower percentage of the vote in FPTP elections to gain seats than you do in a proportional set up, hence why the SNP majority in Holyrood 2011 is quite staggering.

        The SNP could claim a total of 30% of the Scottish vote and win every Westminster seat in Scotland.

  16. I despair! Thoughts of an alliance are noble, but will certainly lead to disaster, because an alliance will not emerge. In the short term available we must all concentrate on maximising the SNP vote. It is the only realistic option. In 2016, we can select our own individual options for Holyrood.

  17. The conclusion of the article is, I hope intended, as more of a warning of inaction rather than a prediction. We certainly want to avoid having to say next June:-
    “For lack of a proposal the deal was lost. For lack of a deal the YES alliance was lost. For lack of an alliance some seats were lost. For lack of the seats the victory was lost. For lack of the victory Scottish independence was “postponed”(again).

    Do let us all try to make deals locally and also suggest to our respective party HQs that a “one off” understanding is made nationally. With the antiquated Westminster voting system we want to avoid Greens standing in the same constituency as SNP, Scottish Socialists and Labour for Independence. We need to try to ensure that only one of each party stands in each constituency and that party workers from each party work towards electing the pro Indy candidate. We need to wipe Westminster based parties from the political map of Scotland. Why should we be continue to be represented by parties based in another country and parties which therefore owe allegiance to that country?

  18. Is there not an issue regarding such a thing as a ‘YES Alliance’? I agree with the idea of an alliance to remove BLAB, but I think NO voters could be put off by naming. After all I am sure many a NO voter just had the fear factor and needs the reassurance of a more inclusive banner. Perhaps a more inclusive alliance name would create a more inclusive name would allow a more all encompassing environment for discussion?

  19. I understand the SNP reluctance. But they have a chance to create their own opposition in Holyrood here as well as winning more seats overall which they’re not taking. You stand aside giving the SSP/ Greens seats they can win and you can virtually guarantee anyone who would normally support these parties would give their vote to the SNP. So that would increase their chances of actually winning seats for Westminster.

    But the most important part for me is that you give the Greens and SSP legitimacy and you would have a lot of list seats going to them in Holyrood. In fact, it is borderline insane to vote SNP on the regional list in a raft of regions where they will win lots of constituency seats due to the way those seats are allocated. Each vote for the SNP in those regions makes the election of pro union MSPs more likely. However, if those who vote SNP in the constituency ballot switch to SNP/ Green on the regional vote then you end up with those two parties probably creating the bulk of the opposition to a minority SNP government…

    If the SNP don’t do that, then you have a more than plausible risk to them as soon as the next Holyrood election of being unable to form a majority. And Labour, the Lib Dems, and Tories would have zero qualms about forming a coalition together to “end one party rule” or something like that… I think people are forgetting how unlikely getting a majority in the Holyrood electoral system is. In other words the SNP could be reliant on Green or SSP MSPs in just over 18 months.

    The SNP are currently a popular government. That’s lasted 7 years. They have the opportunity to create a second block of independence support which means they can govern from the middle ground they’re most comfortable doing (and present themselves as pragmatists whilst doing so). And the opposition from the left of them could be a pro independence one…

    Tactically there’s a reason for the SNP to say no to any alliance. Strategically it would be a mistake in my opinion.

  20. I always had my doubts about whether high profile people from the Yes campaign would stand for election. Because it’s a 24/7 job being an MP. You have constituents to represent, a constituency and parliamentary office to run, committees to attend etc. It’s a huge commitment. And you have to be in London half the time. Why would people want to do that unless they actually want to be politicians, as opposed to having strong political views?

    I was also sceptical about an electoral alliance. Firstly under FTPT there is no seat where the Greens have a better chance of winning than the SNP. Secondly, the Greens will see Westminster as a good profile raiser for candidates in 2016. Thirdly, even if we wanted to we can’t make Westminster elections just about independence. The party of independence is the SNP. They are the only party whose primary aim is winning independence. The Greens, Socialists all have other priorities. As they have a perfect right to.

  21. In their own long term interests, I believe that the non SNP pro Independence parties should encourage their supporters to vote SNP for the Westminster election. This will ensure the maximum number of pro Independence MPs are sent to London, and be the best chance for the biggest transfer of effective power to Holyrood.

    That Parliament, with its PR system, is where the Socialists, Greens, and others can campaign most effectively; where their voice will be heard and their supporters votes will mean something.

    That would be the best sort of Yes Alliance, for everybody (except Scottish Labour and the London establishment.)

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