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Why Scottish Green Party supporters don't owe the SNP their vote

My Twitter feed has been filled with politics recently, and with good reason. The UK is having a General Election on the 12th of December.

This General Election is more crucial than usual due to the looming monsters that are Brexit and the Climate Emergency (you know that in 10 years time climate change will be irreversible, right?). Not to mention that the Tories have thrown some of the UK’s most vulnerable citizens into the gutter.

Oh, and we have a bumbling buffoon as a Prime Minister.

Emotions are high (mine certainly are) and political Twitter has been, shall we say, contentious. It’s darker here than it usually is.

For me personally, the deepest darkness has been from SNP supporters coming out in force to attack the Scottish Green Party for daring to partake in democracy by standing in an election.

Who on earth do we think we are? A political party standing in an election? How preposterous!.

Their argument essentially is “you’re splitting the vote” (with no actual examples or statistics to back it up). I’ve become used to the bile that Twitter nats sprout about the Scottish Green Party over the years, but this time it has been more forceful than usual and has left me shaking in rage.

The thing is: this is a democracy, and if the Scottish Green Party wants to stand then they should. Nobody owes anyone their votes. This includes all parties since I have also spotted Labour voters annoyed at the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, the Tories annoyed at the Brexit Party, and the Scottish Socialist Party voting not to stand candidates to avoid splitting the socialist vote.

But “splitting the vote” is a tired excuse and an affront to democracy, and here are 13 (!!!) reasons why (using the SNP vs Greens as my primary example since that is the debate I’m closer to).

We’re a different party with different policies

This feels like the most obvious point, so I’m going to get it out of the way first.

The Scottish Green Party might agree with the SNP on Scottish independence and Brexit. However, the two parties disagree on a lot of other issues.

First up is climate change. The SNP’s approach to climate change is to do just enough to for some good press and to appeal to voters who think banning plastic straws is the answer (it’s not) - while still keeping their mates in the oil industry happy. Case in point: their recent climate conference was sponsored by BP and Heathrow Airport, those famous beacons of environmental concern.

Very recently, the Scottish Parliament passed a Climate Bill, which was drafted by the SNP and backed by all other parties aside from the Scottish Green Party.  The reason the Scottish Green Party didn’t back it wasn’t because we don’t want to reduce emissions, but because the bill was very weak on how to go about it. Targets can be moved around and while the targets do make good headlines, they don’t mean anything if the SNP keep allowing oil companies to drill in the North Sea.

Nicola, if you’re reading: we’ve only got 10 years to save the world, so get a move on.

The Scottish Greens, on the other hand, have launched the Green New Deal. It focuses not only on reducing emissions but refocusing Scotland’s economy in a way that can save the planet (I repeat: we only have 10 years to fix this) while still protecting workers who make a living in engineering, oil and gas etc. It is based on a report by the New Economics Foundation that is available here.

Another recent example of the Scottish Green Party going up against the SNP is the Gender Recognition Act. The planned update to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 would allow trans people the right to legally self-identify, as opposed to medical professionals deciding for them (a process that many trans people have described as traumatic and stressful).

The SNP shelved it after giving in to pressure from TERFs but that’s not all, they have “gender critical feminists” in their highest ranks, such as MP Joanna Cherry (for Edinburgh South West) and MSP Joan McAlpine (South Scotland region). So much transphobia, that a trans SNP councillor in Dundee quit the party, citing the party’s “institutional transphobia” as his reason (and let’s not forget the problematic Women’s Pledge).

This is in direct contrast to the Scottish Green Party. The Scottish Green Party is committed to the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and our policies are voted on at our conferences. When Patrick Harvie spoke in support of trans rights in his speech at the Autumn Conference in 2018, the crowd cheered, when we passed a motion supporting trans rights at the same conference, it passed without a blip.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: the SNP’s failure to reform the Gender Recognition has been utterly disgusting. I am a bisexual woman, and I forever and always stand with everyone who falls under the LGBTQI+ banner. That includes trans people, and their right to decide their legal gender for themselves.

The SNP’s treatment of trans people is the number one reason why I can’t just hold my nose and vote for them (especially since I don’t even live in a risky seat, but we’ll get to that). The climate emergency and Scottish independence are both complex matters - politically, scientifically, and economically. There’s a lot to flesh out and it’s going to be a long journey. But respecting a trans person’s right to live their life as their chosen gender? Why is this even up for debate? This isn’t complex economics, this is basic human dignity.

Not that long ago the SNP were standing for Westminster knowing they couldn’t win

The earliest election I ever remember was the 1997 General Election when Tony Blair achieved his landslide. I’m still under 30 so in the grand scheme of things this election wasn’t that long ago.

In that election, the SNP stood 72 candidates but only won 6 seats. In the 1992 General Election, they also stood 71 seats and won 3. Within my own lifetime (and I repeat: I am under 30) I have seen the SNP grow from a fringe party with a handful of seats to a political powerhouse. And you know how they did it? Their own determination for one but also because people were willing to believe in them and voted for them even when they were told that it was a wasted vote. Where would the SNP be if they’d listened to all those Labour campaigners telling them not to split the anti-Tory vote from 1935 until 2015?

The Scottish Green Party are just doing exactly the same thing a generation later and would appreciate the same level of respect.

Scottish Independence isn’t the only issue on the table (and we’re not going to win an independence referendum anytime soon, anyway)

I get it: the SNP’s central policy is Scottish independence and if you’re a candidate, member, or supporter of the SNP then Scottish independence is probably high on your political priorities.

And you have every right to make that choice.

But so does everyone else, and Scottish independence isn’t that important to some voters. Yes, I support it but I have other issues that are more pressing right now (like, uh, stopping the world from imploding). I don’t support Scottish independence in principle. I support it because the UK is a hot mess of a country and I believe that Scotland is being held back by Westminster.

But if the UK stopped being so wild, I’d maybe change my mind. Who knows.

However, the main reason why I’m not putting Scottish independence higher on my priorities is this: we probably wouldn't win a referendum at this point. Polling (depending on who’s doing it) still hovers around the 50% mark. Even if we did get a mandate for a referendum, there’s a real chance that it would still be a no.

We’re going to have to be patient. Support for Scottish independence is higher amongst the younger generation, and it feels naturally inevitable. Yes, support seems to have increased since Brexit but it still isn’t high enough. And if being pulled out of the EU against our will, a blonde rubber duck as a Prime Minister, the Eton elite as his backing dancers, the dismantling of the NHS, and the rise of the far-right still haven’t convinced voters that Scotland is better off as an independent nation - then I’m not entirely sure what will.

You know what is inevitable? The planet overheating. An overwhelming majority of scientists have said that we have 10 years to fix this mess or the damage becomes permanent (and we die). We literally do not have time to be sucking up to the SNP’s mates in BP. There is a deadline here. Scottish independence doesn’t have a deadline. We’ll get it when we get it (which we probably will, eventually, after the planet is officially dying).

And even if we did magically win a referendum, we wouldn’t become independent overnight. The 2014 Independence Referendum had an 18-month campaign period and in the SNP whitepaper, it was suggested that the process of leaving the UK would take 18 months. That then leaves us with 7 years post-independence to save the planet (bearing in mind that even more damage might have occured in that time). Saving the planet will require a complete overhaul of our infrastructure and energy sources. Not a ban on plastic straws or whatever else the faux-eco warriors are suggesting these days. A change in infrastructure is not a simple process and certainly can’t be done overnight. If we want to save the planet, we have to act now (not when we get independence because by that point Scotland might have already sunk into the North Sea).

Before I say my next point I want to make it clear that I say this as a person and not a Scottish Green Party member: I believe that referendums that propose a big constitutional change (such as Scottish Independence and Brexit) shouldn’t rely on a simple majority. If I was in parliament drawing up an independence referendum bill I’d be looking for a supermajority, somewhere between 60-70% of the electorate. Just look at Brexit as an example of what happens when a referendum that demands constitutional reform wins by a small margin.

I’m also going to share a little tidbit about the Scottish Green Party that you might not know about. The Scottish Green Party is officially a Yes Party, by virtue of having voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence multiple times at our conferences. But we are okay with our members voting no. No one will get chucked out if they choose to campaign for Better Together. There are probably a small number of no-voting Greens (albeit I don’t have data) who are very unlikely to vote SNP purely on constitutional grounds, never mind our other points of divergence.

Finally, some people vote SNP because they like the candidate or the party’s social democratic policies. Not necessarily because they want independence. How people decide to vote isn’t as simple as “independence = good, UK = bad”.

The Scottish independence movement needs alternative voices 

I might be pro-Scottish Independence now, but I used to be a hardline Unionist (sad trombone I know). What made me change my mind?

The Green Yes campaign.

I had always found (and still do) the mainstream Yes Campaign to be a bit lacklustre, and only strives for an independent Scotland that would be mildly better than the UK. The Green Yes movement, however, offered a vision of a country that I want to live in - but makes the clear point that Scotland can’t become a progressive beacon for the world while still ruled by Westminster.

If you want the support for independence to grow, you need to stop shouting over the top of other pro-yes voices. The SNP aren’t the only voice in the Scottish Independence movement (and thank god, because some of us would have never been convinced otherwise.)

You lost seats in the last General Election...and the Greens only stood three candidates

I have two tables below showcasing the overall vote share in Scotland in 2015 and 2017 General Elections. Have a look at them.

Do you see it?

Do you see that the SNP lost votes in the 2017 General Election?

Do you see that the Scottish Green Party stood in fewer seats in 2017?

According to SNP Twitter logic, the SNP should have performed better in the 2017 General Election, since the Scottish Green Party were standing in fewer seats and weren’t “splitting the vote”. But that didn’t happen.

What the SNP should be doing right now (instead of harassing Green candidates and voters on Twitter) is working out what went wrong in 2017, so that they can perform better in 2019. Why did you receive fewer votes despite fewer parties standing?

Scotland doesn’t have a big impact on the outcome of elections

It’s well documented that Scotland doesn’t have much of an impact on which party forms the UK government. There are 650 constituencies in the UK, but only 59 are in Scotland. So in percentage terms, that means that only 9% of MPs are elected by Scotland. Even if Scotland sent down 59 SNP MPs something really bizarre would have to happen in the rest of the UK for the SNP to become a Westminster powerhouse.

If you want to block Brexit, Labour is your best bet

Labour can be just as bad as the SNP-ers in regards to complaining about “splitting the vote”. In reality, both parties should respect democracy and campaign on the positives of voting for their party.

However, I can understand Labour’s logic. You can’t vote for the SNP in other parts of the UK, so if you want a pro-Remain majority in the House of Commons, well, it might be best that Scotland holds its nose and sends down 59 Labour MPs.

If the SNP won’t consider standing aside for Labour, then the Scottish Green Party shouldn’t stand aside for the SNP.

(P.S. I wrote this post before there was talk of SNP backing Labour).

Glasgow Central won’t elect a Tory

On a personal level, I live in a constituency where a Scottish Green Party candidate is standing. So I’ll be voting for them and before you claim that I’m splitting the vote, let’s look at some stats from my own constituency.

In the 2017 General Election, the SNP candidate won with 44.7% of the votes. In the 2015 General Election, the same SNP candidate won with 52.5% of the vote. Labour came second in both elections, and then the Conservative party were third (but a very far behind third).

By voting for the Scottish Green Party in Glasgow Central, it’s very unlikely that I’ll be letting a Tory through. In fact, I would pay good money to see a posh Tory knocking on doors in the area I live in.

If Greens can’t vote Green they won’t necessarily vote SNP

First Past the Post is an unfair system that lends its hand to tactical voting. As much as I don’t like tactical voting, I sometimes do it and if I was living somewhere where a Tory might slip through, I’d consider voting for the lesser of the evils (even if it meant not voting Green).

However, my vote might not necessarily go to the SNP.

This is what some SNP-ers don’t seem to grasp: if the Scottish Green Party didn’t stand that doesn’t mean that they’ll vote for the SNP.

Let’s nip back to my own constituency of Glasgow Central. The Scottish Green Party stood someone in the 2015 General Election, but not in 2017. If you were to apply SNP theory, this means that the SNP vote share should have increased because Green voters naturally flock to the SNP when they don’t have a Green candidate on the ballot paper.

Reader, the SNP vote in Glasgow Central dropped by -7.8% between 2015 and 2017. On top of that, the vote share of Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats all increased. This is despite there being five fewer parties on the ballot paper. Granted the turnout was higher in 2015 (maybe because there was a wider option of candidates and we’d just held the Scottish Independence Referendum?). But their drop in vote share has nothing to do with the Scottish Green Party (because we didn’t even stand).

I’m also going to point out that the Scottish Green Party isn’t standing a candidate in Glasgow North East, a constituency served by Labour MP Paul Sweeney. I feel roughly the same way about Labour as I do the SNP (in that I can tolerate them), but I do have soft spots for certain figures within the party. Paul Sweeney is one of those people. He is a capable politician who shares a lot of my values. I know Greens who live in his constituency who are happy with his performance and intend on voting for him. If I was living in his constituency I’d also be “lending” him my vote.

The Green voice is always important, and it shows people care about climate change

Honestly, I’d be shocked if Glasgow Central sends a Scottish Green MP to Westminster. I’m not going in there actually thinking we’ll actually win.

What having a Scottish Green candidate on the ballot paper (and at debates and at local hustings) does is helps keep green issues on the table for discussion. If people vote for the Scottish Green Party knowing that they can’t realistically win? Well, that just proves that there is an appetite for green policies that can’t be ignored. It might encourage other parties to increase their own commitment to climate change (which no other party is doing).

Keep abusing us on Twitter, and we might not ever vote SNP again 

One of the most common threats I keep seeing on Twitter is that SNP voters will no longer vote for the Scottish Green Party on the Regional List (a few of them have even said they’ll vote for the transphobic Wings Over Scotland instead, Lord give me strength).

That is a risk the Scottish Green Party need to be willing to take.

However, this works both ways. The SNP is sometimes lent votes from the Scottish Green Party supporters. In the 2017 General Election, I voted SNP and I vote for Nicola Sturgeon on my constituency ballot in the Scottish Elections (I have my issues with the SNP as a party, but I believe Nicola to be a solid leader).

The Council Elections have a much fairer voting system where we rank candidates in preference. I always vote Scottish Green Party first (and Allan Young in my Govan ward is a very solid councillor) but after that, all bets are off. Councils have diddly squat influence on Scottish independence and Brexit, so those issues don’t influence my decision in an election about play parks and bins.

Maybe some SNP voters will never “forgive the Scottish Green Party” for potentially splitting a vote. But you know what? The Scottish Green Party candidates and their supporters won’t forget the vile we’ve been receiving on Twitter in a hurry either.

If you want to win, get out there and win fair and square

Sometimes when you’re campaigning for a party, you do need to point out the failures and problematic policies of other parties. In a constructive way. Heck, I do it myself. But, as I said, in a constructive way.

SNP voters: if you want people to vote for you and not the Scottish Green Party explain to us why in a constructive manner. Don’t angry tweet us complaining that it’s personally our fault if Scotland isn’t independent within your preferred timeline.

Scotland voted Remain

It’s well documented that Scotland is being dragged into Brexit by other parts of the UK. As a nation, Scotland largely voted to remain.

So when Scottish voters come at me with “this election is about Brexit and I don’t want to let through a Leave party” I like to remind them that this mess was caused by the other parts of the UK, and Scotland can’t do much about it.

We are relying on England to vote for the Remain parties in order to stop this national embarrassment. Maybe take to Twitter to try and persuade English voters to vote Labour? I’m followed by a lot of English people on Twitter and I regularly post political content that is more relevant to them than my Scottish followers.

The alliance with the Green Party of England and Wales is about cooperation, not shutting someone out

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party of England and Wales have created a Remain Pact to keep out MPs who support Brexit and that is great. I am not against it.

(Though I could go on a rant about the Liberal Democrats being untrustworthy).

What makes this different from the Greens “splitting the vote” is that the SNP is not interested in working alongside the Scottish Green Party to keep out Tory voters - they are straight up just telling us not to stand. That is not the same thing as the Remain Pact.

It’s just not democratic

Bottom line: asking a party to stand down because you want their supporters to vote for your party (even though there is no evidence that they would) is a slap in the face to democracy.

If you want your party to win the election, then get out there and earn those votes and if the Scottish Green Party (or whoever else) is “splitting the vote” that you feel undemocratically entitled to, then your party needs to attempt to understand why people would rather vote for them than you (especially if it’s for a party that won’t realistically win).

That’s how democracy works. You’re not entitled to anything.

That includes my vote.

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