In recent years, when I am not fulfilling my duties as a member of the Scottish Parliament, I have, by way of a sort of hobby, pursued the objective of getting myself elected to the House of Commons.
This practice has led me to in intricate understanding of the Scottish electorate and one which should be a lesson to us all.
This comes from a conversation which I had many times in the Stonehaven streets after the 2010 general election.
It goes like this.
“I was really disappointed that you didn’t make it this time. I really thought that with all that hard work you were going to get elected.”
In reply, I would share their disappointment and conclude by saying, “Thanks very much for your support anyway.”
This is where the lesson began, because in response to my remark they would often reply, “Oh no, I didn’t vote for you, I just hoped you’d win”.
This is how I learned that in Scotland today there are a great many, otherwise intelligent, people who have absolutely no understanding of the connection between how they cast their vote and the eventual outturn of an election.
It seems that people in Scotland, and even here right here in Stonehaven, go to the polling station and, in the privacy of the polling booth, cast their vote on the basis of history, prejudice, family tradition, religion, nationality, vengeance or spite.
Only after the paper has dropped to the bottom of the ballot box does the issue of representation creep back into their minds.
Outcome is an afterthought.
Then there is another lesson which I have learned to my cost in elections to the Scottish Parliament. This time it relates to the voter who, whatever he or she may actually believe in, votes for something completely different because, apparently, it’s the ‘clever’ thing to do.
To put this in context, this notion comes from the concept of the ‘tactical vote.’ This is where you vote not for the candidate you want to win, but rather the candidate most likely to beat the candidate you don’t want to win. Are you with me so far?
Then I’ll continue. Popular lines I have heard on the doorstep over the years include: “I’m a lifelong Labour supporter but I’ll be voting Lib-Dem to keep ‘you lot’ out.” Where did that get you last time comrade?
Then in 2011 there was, “I’m a life-long Tory voter but I’m voting SNP to keep Labour out.” This later line was particularly strange since, as we should all know, Scottish Parliament elections are conducted using a system of proportional representation which means that every vote will be counted and rewarded somewhere within the system.
In effect you have to vote ‘for’ something, you cannot vote against something. Nevertheless, many a Unionist managed to vote for the SNP as a result of some Machiavellian thought process.
Whether they actually wanted it or not, they got what they voted for, which is the referendum on Scottish independence which takes place on September 18.
So when the polls open next Thursday morning you will have your chance to express your view on the result on the Battle of Bannockburn. You may see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to vent your spite over England’s 1966 world cup win.
Maybe, if you have an Irish heritage, this would be the time to remember Oliver Cromwell’s actions in Ireland in the 17th century.
Others may be motivated by a different choice, choosing to reject the political trends of the last 30 years, believing that an independent Scotland will deliver a shortcut back to the teachings of Karl Marx and Leonid Lenin, where we can end wealth creation once and for all and get down to the serious business of sharing poverty equally across the country.
There can be absolutely no doubt that on September 19 we will get exactly what we have voted for. It is up to each and every voter, however, to know what it is they are voting for. This is not an experiment, it is a once and for all decision. If we choose to break our union then we will never again have any say over any decision made in Westminster, even if it has direct negative effect here in Scotland.
We will have no influence over who governs the United Kingdom, nor will we have any say in their EU referendum.
Scotland will be cast adrift on a sea of unjustified optimism with a heavy cargo of unanswered questions.
Yes campaigners have reacted to the challenge of making their case for separation with outrage that such a case should even have to be made.
Their case cannot be made because it does not exist.