IT should come as no surprise that as an elected representative of the SNP,

I will be asking voters in May 2021 to give both of their votes to the SNP. These are votes which we, as a party, cannot take for granted, votes we must fight and work for.

However, the time, energy and column inches which are taken up on the debate over giving both votes to a single party or splitting between the SNP and other independence-backing parties is time which, I believe, would be better spent on policy discussion and the fight for independence itself.

The current voting system for Scottish Parliament elections is the additional member system; a step away from Westminster-style elections but a hybrid that still uses first past the post to elect constituency MSPs, before the list system “tops up” the number of MSPs from parties that otherwise wouldn’t be proportionally represented. If we were to move on from this system and fully adopt a “purer” method of proportional representation we could end the “Both Votes SNP” debate once and for all.

From its inception the Scottish Parliament was designed to be different from its counterpart in London. A modern, fit-for-purpose parliament better suited for a representational and engaging political system. The electoral system was also intended to reflect this desire – proportional representation has been popular in Scotland for decades now and the Scottish Conventional Constitution in 1989 called for a modern democracy and helped form the basis for Holyrood.

Yet, it is only in local council elections in Scotland that we have a complete method of PR, where the single transferable vote system is used to elect councillors.

There are a variety of methods of PR used across the world but perhaps most notable is the party lists system used in Norway and Sweden, amongst many. Under a party list system each geographical area would be broken into regions – similar to how our second vote currently works – with multiple elected members for each region.

There are three main ways countries use the party lists system: closed list, open list and semi-open list. When we still had the privilege of voting for representatives to the EU we used a closed list system – parties put forward their list of candidates and voters simply chose their preferred party at the polling booth. Under open and semi-open list models there is variation between whether ballots include a list of candidates or parties or sometimes voters have the choice of a candidate or the party.

Whichever method is used the party list system is clear that the number of votes for a party results in the number of elected members for that party in parliament.

All methods of PR will favour coalition governments over majority rule. That is inherent in their design and intention. This is not something the SNP should shy away from.

Proportional methods of voting increase voter participation both at the ballot box and in everyday life. This was the strength of the Scottish referendum in 2014 and is not something we can afford to lose. Thresholds can be put in place which would prevent small fringe parties which gain less than, for example, 5% of the vote from winning any seats. However, closed lists have been shown to increase diversity and encourage a wider representation of minorities and gender balance. Their big selling point though is the simplicity of the system: you have one vote and you choose the party (or the candidate) who best represents your values and policies.

Let me be clear: the SNP deserves to remain in government and is frankly the only party in Scotland competent and ready to govern. But regardless of whether that is as a minority or majority government our mandate for a second independence referendum is clear and has already been won many times over. Every time the SNP wins a clear majority of votes at the polling station the legitimacy and need for another chance to decide on Scotland’s future is only increased. I believe it is also clear that to be re-birthed as a nation without international backing or recognition would be to tie both our ankles with shackles and weights.

The task of the SNP is to win your vote afresh at each election but the job of independence campaigners is to win the hearts and minds of voters on an ever-increasing basis.

Nicola Sturgeon’s exemplar shift during the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that often actions do speak louder than words. A citizens’ assembly, with decision-making powers, will be held on the electoral method of Scottish Parliament elections at the earliest possibility.

A simpler, more representational electoral method would continue to show how Scotland is not only distinct from Westminster but also that the SNP is listening to voters and does not take their vote for granted.

Fiona Sarwar is the SNP’s deputy group leader at Strathmore Council