THE time was, not long ago, when life was simpler – you had one councillor, one MP and one Member of the European Parliament in far-off Brussels to represent you. All were elected under the first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system, so the vast majority of votes were wasted, and politicians were far away and out of touch.

So much has changed since then and, I would suggest, for the better. We have fair votes for all functions of elected office in Scotland now, while Westminster, still mired in the past, sticks with a system that sees the majority of votes wasted.

The Holyrood proportional representation system was designed carefully, based upon the German model to ensure proportionality with constituency and list members. The rough (and I’m no psephologist) idea is what a party gains on the constituency it loses on the list, and vice-versa, so there remains a constituency-elector link, but the additional members guarantee a more proportionate overall outcome and a representation for smaller voices.

The Germans, of course, do this better than we do, recognising the system and why it works. The first Labour-LibDem coalition in Scotland started the degradation of our system, with the ruinous decree that list MSPs should receive less funding and allowances, thereby in a fundamental way downgrading the list members in the eyes of the media, public and politicians alike.

Wilfully stupid as it is, within Scottish politics, the perception remains that if you have not won a constituency you have not properly been elected. As an MEP, I took particular exception to this, given I was elected on the ultimate list, but that remains the perception.

The second vote is not a booby prize, it is integral to the overall outcome and the proportionality of the overall result. List members are not “back-door”, “second-class” or any other sort of insult.

Within parties, there are two distinct career trajectories: constituency member for those keen on local and community work, list for those with more of a policy or national inclination.

Helmut Kohl, the long-serving chancellor who oversaw German re-unification was a list member of the Bundestag all his days.

So the two votes are linked, the system is designed to give proportionality, with each constituent vote playing its part towards the whole. So what if, as has been suggested in Scotland, a party, person or something else only stood on the list, or only stood in the constituency?

Like many ideas in Scottish politics it is not new, merely rediscovered. This idea has been rattling around SNP and Labour circles for years, usually reserved for late-night scheming over a glass of something. Various Labour politicians suggested it should stand on the constituency vote and the Co-operative Party for the list, thereby guaranteeing hegemony. It was too rich even for Labour’s blood given that it smacks of arrogance, cynicism and treating the voters for fools.

But I’m a Nat, and I want to see as strong a result for Yes as possible, so we should look at every idea on its merits and not dismiss any idea out of hand. I’m also a democrat and believe our politics should be as accessible to anyone as everyone else, whatever their cause or inclination.

When the Greens in Stirling decided to stand in the General Election in December – despite the fact it was likely to only support the Tories, waste their members’ money on a lost deposit and look vain and self-indulgent – I admitted (through gritted teeth) that they had every right to do so, even while it was from my perspective pretty unhelpful.

PARTIES are not there to be helpful to other parties, and that is democracy. It is not like I was going to stand aside for anyone. When I first stood in 2001, the target in Edinburgh West was to get the vote above 10%, I’ve voted plenty of times since for SNP candidates I knew in my heart had no chance winning.

So by my count we now have around five vehicles of one sort or another which have expressed an interest in standing on the Holyrood list next May, from one gathering of cranks that seems more obsessed with a remarkable misunderstanding of trans rights than anything else, to others of varying degrees of credibility. One I read about with interest is to be set up by the formidable former SNP MSP Dave Thompson.

The arithmetic case is intriguing. On current arithmetic, the interaction between the first and second votes will mitigate against the SNP on the list, so there would seem to be a case for another entity, albeit I’ve not seen any calculations that suggest a significant bloc of votes is actually there to win and assumes an awful lot of the Scottish voters.

So I hae ma doots. I don’t see how anything but Both Votes SNP will deliver a solid pro-independence bloc of MSPs that can be relied upon to not go flaky at the first infight.

Scottish voters historically are sceptical of new parties, and even more so if that new party exists to game or undermine the democratic system. How would the new party be portrayed, or indeed portray itself?

I would be concerned that, given the ideological similarities to the SNP, new pro-independence parties would find their oxygen not by “taking on the Yoons” but by exploiting the narcissism of small differences.

We could rely on our media to trumpet and exacerbate this, making the collective “Yes movement” look like a shower both during the election and after.

I’m biased, I’m SNP to my bones, so my view is hardly definitive. But I’ve spent a long time fighting and mostly winning elections, and the biggest thing that wins is unity credibility and enthusiasm for a common vision. The SNP have that in spades, and it will take a lot of persuasion to convince me we should give that up now.