TWO opinion polls are suggesting a drop in support for independence and for the SNP in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections. This isn’t surprising given the recent controversy over the Alex Salmond affair and the evidence at the committee of inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched actions. It’s too soon to tell whether this is a longer-term trend, but it’s worth pointing out that even with possibly reduced support for the SNP, they are still likely to win the vast majority of first-past-the-post constituencies – as well as very few on the regional list; last time they won only four of these.

The reason for this is that Scotland’s electoral system, devised in the late 1990s during Labour’s electoral dominance, is designed to avoid the dominance of a single party. The list system compensates parties that do not do well in the “first-past-the post” election, thus giving representation to minority parties.

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For example, where I live in Edinburgh and the Lothians, last time the SNP won every seat apart from Edinburgh Central (where Ruth Davidson won for the Tories in a five-way split). The SNP won no seats on the regional list despite by far the biggest vote. This year Angus Robertson is campaigning hard for the SNP in Edinburgh Central and Ruth is of course going off to become a baroness. This may ease Angus’s task, but if he doesn’t win the Edinburgh Central seat he is very unlikely to become an MSP. This is because (a) the SNP are still very unlikely to win a list seat in the Lothian region, and (b) even if the SNP do significantly less well in Lothian than expected and gain a list seat, it won’t be Angus Robertson who benefits. Angus is only second on the Lothian regional list, the SNP having decided that the top slot should go to a BAME candidate – in this case Councillor Graham Campbell from Glasgow.

So if electors in Edinburgh and the Lothians want a pro-independence MSP from the list they should logically vote for pro-independence parties other than the SNP. Last time I voted for the Greens because I wanted to get Andy Wightman into the parliament. Andy has resigned from the Greens and gone off to the Highlands, so this time I am voting for Action For Independence, which is a broad coalition of individuals and parties who want independence and are recommending a vote for the SNP in the constituencies but a vote for AFI on the list. They are led by an ex-SNP MSP Dave Thompson and have several other prominent ex-MSPs, MEP, councillors, trade union leaders and community leaders amongst their supporters and candidates.

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In a parliament which is going to be closely contested between traditional parties, a group of pro-independence MSPs independent of the SNP machine could make a big difference, not only to governing Scotland, but also to securing independence. It takes only 5-6% of voters in a region to win a seat, and with two months to go the polls are suggesting it’s entirely possible. We are truly living in interesting times!

Hugh Kerr (MEP 1994-99)

LOCKDOWN and all it entails has halted campaigning for the May election. No delivery of leaflets, no knocking on doors and engaging with people – but there are ways.

It is vital we show people that the will for independence is strong. I have a saltire and EU flag side by side in my window – many people pass and see it and know what it means. This is one way people can show their sympathies and feelings.

On December 31 2020 I stood – in the freezing cold – on a bridge over the main route from Aberdeen to the south. There were two of us and we fastened flags on poles to the bridge railing. The response was fantastic. Few gave signals of a more crude kind, which says a lot about other parties!! On Saturday two of us did the same again and got fantastic support from lorries, vans, motorcyclists and cars – flashing their headlights and sounding their horns. Aberdeen Yes was doing the same so that Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire were raising awareness, and I believe other Yes groups are doing the same.

I would strongly suggest this is something all Yes groups and other sympathetic groups to independence could do to keep highlighting the importance of a sound return of the SNP in May.

Never before have we been so close – as one TV star says, “don’t **** it up.” Every weekend from now until the May election weekend, I and one other intend to take up positions with flags to show the Yes movement is alive and well. It takes two people to set up and be present, and keeps well within the rules of social distancing. Let’s cover our bridges with Saltires. Let us all find ways to show that the appetite has never been higher for independence. It’s time.

Frieda Burns

ANAS Sarwar quoted the values inscribed on the Scottish Parliament mace to Nicola Sturgeon last week. In doing so he tried to expose the well-rehearsed values issues around the Holyrood Committee on Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints. However, it also exposes a much greater issue for Scotland.

As I have stated before, the values on the Scottish Parliament mace remain ripe for critique. There does not seem to have been any deliberative democratic process to establish and affirm the values of Scotland, the parliament and its parliamentarians. Like so much just now, it seems they were just made up.

I have been asking questions on the issue for over a year now in what must be one of the longest-running FOI requests still outstanding. When we build back Scotland better, can we ensure processes are more open, transparent and evidence-informed as opposed to continuing fur coat and nae knickers?

Neil McLennan