On Tactical Voting: a message to Scottish Greenies

For all her talents, Nicola Sturgeon has never been very imaginative at colouring in.

Some Greens want to ensure the SNP landslide this election. In truth, in most seats they don’t need your help.

I will never give a person a hard time for voting ‘with their heart’ rather than their ‘head’, even if it hands a seat to someone they hate. As we ‘heart’ voters keep saying these days, the only truly wasted vote is a vote for something you don’t believe in. Moreover, when we vote tactically we don’t get a true picture of a party’s support and that keeps said party from ever getting the time and attention it deserves.

The Greens have been suffering from this for years – according to many polls as many as one in five people (one ridiculous poll went as high as 28%) would consider voting Green if they thought they had a shout at power. Imagine where they’d be if one in five people actually voted for them instead of voting tactically.

But a lot of ‘natural’ Green voters in Scotland – even party members – are saying that they would love to vote Green, but that in this election they’ll be voting SNP to aid the SNP landslide that is going to be so hilarious at the end of this coming week.

In truth, if you think the SNP are everything they say they are, you haven’t been paying attention. The SNP have a massively changed membership and a new leader. Maybe they are the party they now claim to be – the party of the vulnerable, the party of the left, the anti-austerity party. If they are I will be very, very pleased – I instinctively want to like Nicola Sturgeon and I really hope that she helps deliver what she says she will. But the SNP fought the independence referendum on policies including an unsustainable currency union, (arguably) over-reliance on oil, low corporation tax and a pro-big-business agenda, so I wouldn’t get too excited just yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to seeing that sea of yellow. As an electoral reform geek and a fan of change I have great hopes that sending a bumper crop of SNP MPs to Westminster is going to be highly disruptive and effective in nailing home the coffin lid on business-as-usual politics – or at least I think it’s our best hope of doing so with Scotland still part of the UK. It’s also going to be really funny.


“[Tactical voting] locks in an assumption which should be alien to a democratic system; the assumption that you can’t afford to vote for what you believe in, but that you must accept the ‘least worst’ option and just put up with it.” -Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convenor of the Scottish Greens

That being said, it would be nice to see the Green share of the vote at least increase in Scotland this election – we’ve fielded more candidates than ever before so more people in Scotland can vote Green, and just hitting 5% in as many constituencies as possible gives us deposits back and helps us fight our Holyrood 2016 campaign. It also helps to cement us in the eyes of the media as a party who do deserve to be on panels and at debates, in Scotland and UK-wide, as a party whose membership has also skyrocketed since September – it wasn’t just the SNP who had that.

My message to those who are, like me, keen to see an SNP whitewash for the message of hope for change it sends, but would otherwise be keen to vote Green ‘if they could’ is: check polling and predictions for your constituency. It may be marginal, and there you have my sympathies; it’s a hard call to make, heart or head, and I can’t blame you for going head (though I would on a personal level urge you to vote for the party that truly represents you).

But for nearly all of you in Scotland, your constituency is not marginal. It is likely that your area is now a safe SNP seat, often even if another party is presently incumbent. If that’s the case, and if you would like to vote Green, well, why not do it? Vote for what you believe in. Help us get a deposit back. Help us keep a presence. Your vote will still make a big difference to the Greens.

I was going to do a quick analysis of the seats across Scotland and pick out those where the SNP were not yet a total shoe-in. Fortunately, the New Statesman has done it for me and, glancing through their reasoning, I reckon it’s sound. The article can be found on their website, and I recommend going there if you’re interested in their methods and rationale:

The full list of 13 Scottish seats where the SNP might not win, quoted from the article, is below:

Fairly likely SNP gains

  • Dunbartonshire East (Lib Dem-held)
  • Glenrothes (Labour)

Four Labour seats where the SNP are slight favourites

  • Renfrewshire East (all Labour-held)
  • Edinburgh South
  • Paisley and Renfrewshire North
  • Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

The four most closely fought seats

  • Dumfries and Galloway (Labour-held but a Tory and SNP target)
  • Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Labour-held)
  • Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (Tory-held; their sole 2010 seat)
  • Dunfermline and West Fife (Labour-held)

Three seats where the SNP are likely to fall short

  • Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Lib Dem-held; a three-way marginal between them, the Tories and SNP)
  • Glasgow North East (Labour-held)
  • Orkney and Shetland (Lib Dem-held)

To reiterate, every other seat in Scotland is now considered a safe SNP seat. If you are not in one of the seats listed above, you can vote for whomever you like, and the SNP will get in anyway. (If you are in one of these contituencies, I would still urge you to vote Green for all the reasons I listed above, but that’s by the by.) So please – if you’re a Green – consider helping your Green candidate get their deposit back.

Statement of interests: Morag Hannah is a member of the Scottish Green Party and a supporter of Scottish independence.

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