LAUNCHING any new party is an exercise fraught with danger and difficulty, as those in the Independent Group For Change at Westminster found to their cost. In Scotland alone there are just under 30 parties, including the main UK parties, yet only five hold seats at Holyrood.
It is in light of this caveat that the Independence For Scotland Party (ISP), led by Colette Walker, announced their registration recently with a view to standing on the list seats in the next Scottish election, currently set to take place in 2021. A number of comments have been made, mostly positive, but some critical or questioning, and that is only right. “Who are you and why should I vote for you?” is a question every voter should ask.
There seems to be some misunderstanding around the various types of elections in Scotland and it is worth briefly covering those. Local government elections use a Single Transferable Vote, where voters rank the preference of the candidates, ensuring that every vote matters. As a candidate drops out, those votes cast for them pass to the voter’s next preference. In the Holyrood elections, there are two ballots cast – a constituency vote based on the same “first past the post” system as is used in the Westminster elections, and a second List or Additional Member System vote based on the D’Hondt PR voting method. It is the list system in which ISP intends to stand.
D’Hondt is often dismissed as too difficult for voters to understand, but although complicated it is relatively easy to explain. There are seven additional seats in each of the eight regions and seats are allocated based on a calculation of the number of votes divided by the constituency seats won, plus one. In short, the more constituency seats you win, the more votes you need to gain on the list to win one of the seven seats. That is why the SNP won only four list seats for the almost one million votes cast while the Conservatives won 24 for half a million votes on the same ballot.
Some have claimed a new pro-independence party will split the independence vote, but this is false and flawed as it would only apply in the “first past the post” seats that the party won’t be contesting. But on an Additional Member System, casting your vote for two different parties can actually maximise the impact of your representation.
A valid question then is, why vote for ISP when the Greens and indeed RISE are pro-independence? Beyond the simplistic argument that more choice is good, the Greens are, first and foremost, a party with environmental issues at the basis of all their policies, and it is through that prism that they shape their support for independence. RISE, on the other hand, demand a “radical” left-wing socialist independence.
ISP, however, believe in independence for independence’s sake and that giving the people of Scotland the power to make different decisions and taking the country in whatever direction the people choose is more important than prescribing beforehand what that independence should look like.
The other big question asked of the party is in terms of policies. Beyond being pro-independence, what else do the party stand for? We do have a range of policies which we will launch when our website is up and running.
ISP is a progressive and pro-equality party. But beyond these fundamental principles of fairness, equality and pro-independence, the rest of the party’s policies will be announced in the coming weeks for voters to digest and potential members to decide if they align with them.
ISP aims to encourage the almost one million pro-independence voters who didn’t vote in 2016 to get out and vote. There are Labour, LibDem, even Conservative voters who support independence. There are ex-SNP voters and those who never bother to vote in Holyrood elections whose vote for ISP could see anything of up to eight or nine MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament at the expense of Unionist parties.
A pro-independence majority at Holyrood does not guarantee a win in an independence referendum, but it does guarantee that if the vote is won it will be respected and implemented. We don’t want to find an independence vote end up in a mire of pro-Union parties trying to reverse the vote or demand a best of three.
Those in the party do not underestimate the challenge ahead and are aware that others have tried before and failed.
The road to independence is not an easy one, but ISP are committed to that journey and will not take no for an answer.