I thought I'd tell you how to use your regional list (second / Additional Member / what's this thing?) vote in the Scottish Parliament election to get the result you want if you're a supporter of independence. If you're not a supporter of independence don't vote, whatever you do don't vote.
Your constituency (first / FPTP / traditional) vote should be for the SNP, of course; that goes without saying (don't ask why I'm saying it if it goes without saying - less of your troublemaking) and should be a tradition that you and all your family and friends should cleave to without question unless and until I change my mind. Your regional vote, though, should be your flight of fancy, your love at first bite, the jam on your piece, your secret, dirty delight - just vote for the party that you like the most - vote for whichever party you want to form the next Scottish Government (or whoever you feel sorry for or the party you actually support even though it's got no chance of taking power or for the party punting policies you believe in) and don't stress over it.
Except, except, except ...
Some people, who are, to all appearances, sensible and otherwise sober folks are considering voting Green with their regional vote. That's excellent if you like that kind of thing - knock yersel oot; fill yer boots; light a candle at both ends and stick an organic sparkler in the middle. Make sure you know what you're doing, though. First things third, understand the system; I give you Cutbot which is run by James Mackenzie (one time media director for the Greens in Parliament) and Aaron Crane whom I dinna ken. Cutbot has created a seat predictor that shows the working figures on the regional lists (I haven't read the methodology, I just trust James to get it right) and lets you fiddle about with them - marvellous fun. Those working figures are what you need to look at to see how to affect the outcome of the election.
Ignore the 8th divisor and allocation - that's something that political anoraks like me find interesting; it's what would happen if there was an extra seat in each region. What you want to know is what it would take to change the last seat in each region to an independence supporting party (that's the first seat you can change and it works backwards up the table). To work that out, multiply the difference between the allocation figure of the winner of the last seat and the next biggest allocation figure by the divisor of the runner-up and you can see how many extra votes are needed. Or you can just fiddle about with the numbers you put into the thing and see what happens.
Here's what I saw when I last looked at it (29th of April, 2016) -
Central Scotland region - SNP wins the last seat so you don't want to change it, you want to reinforce it and no other indy party has a regional seat so indy supporters should vote SNP on the list to make sure it happens - Greens and RISE supporters should vote SNP on the list.
Glasgow region - Patrick Harvie is safely elected on the third round and no other indy supporter comes in on the regional vote. For the SNP to beat Labour to the last seat needs us to get 27,911 extra votes, the Greens need a few hundred - a wee bit cheese would help them across the line.
Highlands and Islands region - the SNP needs 2,359 votes to take that last seat from Labour, the Greens would need 4,083
In Lothian, RISE is closest, needing just over 13,000 extra votes compared to the nearly 17,000 for the Greens and the 69,000 for the SNP. In Mid Scotland and Fife, RISE is closest again. In the North East it's RISE again. In South of Scotland it's the Greens. In the West of Scotland it's RISE.
So you know what to do now, yeah? Except on the last poll all those regions were different and on the next poll they'll be different again. Also, sometimes it's not an indy party that's closest and that makes the gap harder to close because you have to beat two. Also, change the votes on the last seat and you change the seats further up the chain - sometimes all you do is change the order in which the seats are won, not how many seats each party gets. Also - look at how many votes have to change to make a difference in most cases; thousands of people, thousands of votes.
Then there's the thing that it's based on polls and they're not always right; they didn't get 2007 or 2011 right and they got 2015 howlingly wrong - they might be wrong now. Fiddle about with Cutbot's model; change the numbers, see what happens when you move a few percentage points. In particular, shift votes between the unionist parties and you'll see that the effect of indy voting can change without indy voters changing their minds. You'll also discover that if every spare SNP and Green vote on the regional list went to RISE there would be a lot more pro-indy MSPs - if you get everyone who's adding spare votes switches but no-one who's in the active vote category does (because that would lose pro-indy MSPs, of course).
Here's something else - don't assume we're winning the constituencies all of the models I've seen assume that the SNP is winning every constituency between Thurso and Ulaanbaatar. I know we're at bizarre levels of support but winning seats doesn't come cheap and isn't guaranteed; a good incumbent, a crap SNP ground campaign, an unexpected event, a bad candidate, a daft comment at a hustings, something dropping from the media sky; each of them can change an election. There are eleven constituencies where I think that at least one of these conditions applies and I don't know all of the constituencies. So, ye know, if the SNP doesn't win those constituencies and we don't have the votes on the list we lose some MSPs but, hey, that's democracy.
Vote however the hell you want but know what you're doing. This isn't a referendum; it's not a choice of one side or the other; this is an election and you're voting for candidates and parties. You might like thinking about who would be First Minister- would you prefer Nicola Sturgeon or Patrick Harvie; Colin Fox or Kezia Dugdale; Willie Rennie or Ruth Davidson - and that's worth thinking about and so is who they would appoint to look after education, health, the polis, transport, and so on.
Of course, if your constituency candidate or the top candidate on the list is a dribbling donkey then it doesn't really matter who they'd support for First Minister; you're not gonna vote for them and nor am I. Here's a radical idea - have a look at your constituency candidates and choose which one you think is best (I'm currently torn between Ash Denham and Kezia Dugdale) then vote for the sucker (they all think it's going to be fabulous and then they end up on the sub leg committee) - that should teach them. Once you've screwed a constituency candidate, why not ruin the lives of a few more on the list?
You're voting for a slate on the list - one vote, many candidates - so you should have a look at the candidates on each list. Unfortunately, parties don't give you much information about the candidates on their lists so you might want to investigate these people but life is too short and the candidates are far too boring. Instead you have to fall back on the principle that these list candidate wallahs are servants of their party and treat them like that, voting for them on the understanding that they'll do whatever the party whips tell them to do so every MSP elected on the list strengthens the central power of each party.
I'd love to see Colin Fox back in Parliament and I'd like to see people like Cat Boyd elected so the temptation to vote RISE is there but I like Jil Murphy and Irshad Ahmed and I think they'd both be good MSPs. I'll be voting SNP on the list as well as in the constituency - that's my flight of fancy.
Whatever you do and however you vote, though, don't try to game the election; you don't know what everyone else in your electoral region will do and you might end up working against what you want to do. Keep it simple, vote for who you want and don't stress it.