A LOT of ink has been spilled on the prospects of list parties lately, and a lot of the promises and claims seem to rest on an ability I don’t have – to see the future.

I simply don’t think the people of Scotland will react well to any brazen attempt to game our democracy. I’m not advocating both votes SNP because I’m partisan (even though I am, I’ve tested it all the harder because of that), I’m backing both votes SNP because it is the only genuine way to achieve a strong mandate for independence.

The Holyrood democratic structure was designed deliberately. Not, as some have suggested, to work against the SNP but to reflect the actual vote in the election, to mitigate against dominance by any one party and ensure that coalition and co-operation were built in to how the Parliament would function.

It has broadly worked. It is the same system the German Federal Parliament has used successfully since the war and delivers a selection of seats closer to what the public actually want.

The SNP has been accused of dominance, but in the last session we were a minority administration, even votes had to be won on its merits, not whipped. Trust me, I’m close at hands with a failing democracy down at Westminster and precisely because there is a majority, the Parliament is weaker and thinner for it. This means that each party had to engage with the argument, not snipe from the sidelines with showboating and grandstanding.

Theres’s two ways in which people misrepresent, sometimes inadvertently sometimes not, Scotland’s democracy.

Firstly, the two votes, constituency and region, are not first and second, but different votes for different things, albeit linked.

One of the biggest misapprehensions is to talk about a second vote, implying second preference. It is not – it is a different vote entirely.

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Secondly, to talk about wasted votes is shameful. They’re not wasted at all. There are a lot of wasted votes in the Westminster first past the post system because there’s only one candidate elected, so the others get no representation at all. But this is not the case in Holyrood. In our democracy, all votes are counted, and count towards the allocation of seats, even if under the system no seats may actually be allocated depending on how people have voted.

So the constituency vote and regional votes are linked, but that also presupposes that the parties will in all good faith engage in both contests. Where that is not the case, I’m unconvinced the electorate will reward them. The allocation of regional seats depends on the results achieved by not just the party concerned, but by all the other votes too. So with several different regions nationwide and several different sets of arithmetic, I don’t see how anyone can accurately predict anything.

I think the Scottish electorate is the most sophisticated in the world; well able to work out what it wants, and everyone will vote according to what they want to see happen.

We live in a democracy where anyone who wants to stand can stand, and put forward their case. I don’t expect other parties to do favours for others and pro-election pacts are usually punished by the electorate because they’re in charge, not politicians or political parties.

How the people of Scotland voted last time around is no indicator of how they will this time. Folk aren’t tribal in the way that party activists are. And woe betide any party that gives the impression of taking them for granted, because that will be when the people turn away.

It was that sentiment that made me nervous about excessive Plan B talk – taking the people for granted, discussing a referendum we don’t have a mandate for yet because the people have not yet given us one. This election will be that chance and the only way Westminster is going to take it seriously is if it is a strong SNP bloc, perhaps with the Greens in support.

So the best way to win independence is a stable majority of united and reliable MSPs.

The way to achieve that is to persuade the people to back the SNP on both votes. Other parties will doubtless disagree. Let them put forward their case.

But let them put it forward on actual facts and a realistic assessment of the system we work within. Scotland’s democracy isn’t a game, and independence is too important to gamble with.