JUST when you think you’ve heard it all, Murdo Fraser pops up arguing for full proportional STV to replace the Additional Member System (AMS) used in Holyrood elections. Why?

According to the Scottish Tories’ List MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, writing in the Scotsman, it’s because an “SNP-Green pro-independence majority is a distortion of the way people in Scotland voted”.

Right. Why now? That’s much simpler to answer.

Because Scotland’s biggest pro-Union party is staring defeat in the face – first over the democratic case for indyref2, and then over the referendum result. Feart Unionists are pulling out all the stops – evidenced by the Wills/Broon hook-up at Holyrood Palace – and though many Yessers are questioning Nicola Sturgeon’s determination to hold a second indyref this parliament (understandably given the endless postponement) – supporters of the Union clearly aren’t.

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But back to our tale.

It’s hard to know where to start with Murdo’s sudden conversion to STV, but the sheer hypocrisy of a party thirled to First Past the Post (FPTP) at Westminster ain’t a bad starting point.

Not only does Murdo tolerate the archaic and corrupt system that gave Boris Johnson 56% of the seats on 43% of the vote in 2019, the Tories entire Holyrood election campaign was based on gaming the very system Murdo now decries with endless ads promoting a “peach vote conservative to stop indyref2”.

Let’s remember the local Tory branch office originally opposed PR in Holyrood elections (until it became clear that was the only way they’d get MSPs) and of course Murdo himself is a man elected only because of the present “top up list system” he suddenly despises.

I think that’s all the hypocrisy done. Oh yes, and the Tories opposed having a Scottish Parliament altogether. But hey. Bygones.

Murdo is a Scottish Tory in a social democratic country.

Life’s not easy and Tory proposals for change generally involve double standards and short memories.

Still, even though no other government would seriously reconsider the electoral method that got them elected (aye Boris, Theresa, Gordon and Tony – we’re looking at you) let’s not be churlish.

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The Single Transferable Vote is unquestionably fairer than Westminster’s FPTP. But is it fairer than Scotland’s AMS and if so, should we change?

STV allows each voter to rank candidates in multi-member wards, so that second, third and other preferences also have some value. It’s used in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Ireland – former British colonies that junked Blighty’s corrupt and unfair voting system the minute they were able.

But despite their track record, Murdo’s argument in favour of STV is full of holes.

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Let’s start with the maths. Murdo insists that “if the Scottish Conservatives achieved, say, 25% of the votes across Scotland, then they should be rewarded with 25% of the seats”.

Yip, that seems fair. A lot fairer than their May election result where according to the Electoral Reform Society, the Tories got MORE seats (24%) than their share of the list vote (23.5%). Labour got 17.1% of MSPs from 17.9% of the list vote, but the Greens, LibDems and Alba did indeed miss out.

So, does Murdo want to change the whole system just to help the wee guys? I never knew he cared.

Murdo will likely grumble with this data – pointing out that the list (second vote) doesn’t include Tories in the FPTP (first vote). Ah, but there’s the snag. As the SNP’s dismal list vote demonstrates, nobody gets to have their cake and eat it with AMS. Swings and roundabouts dear boy.

But dinnae fash. You and Labour did awfy well, and were treated fairly by the system we’ve already got. You know – the one Westminster designed.

And Murdo, beware what you wish for. STV voting won’t necessarily let Unionist parties come together in a big Douglas Ross-led coalition.

The chance for voters to back their genuine first preference has seen large parties split into smaller entities in many countries using PR. In the tiny Faroes (population 55,000) there are seven parties. So, an STV-deploying Scotland could see a Labour for Indy party taking votes from Labour and the SNP and a total end to tactical voting – meaning no more Labour voters holding their noses to vote Tory and perhaps fewer Tory MSPs.

STV would also end the nonsense of a Tory leader aiming for glorious, solitary, permanent opposition. Instead, the Tories would have to be arguing for a Unionist alliance.

There are two big problems with that. The first is Douglas Ross as FM – the second (and more likely) is wasting your Tory vote in a new STV kind of way.

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Truly proportional parliaments encourage compromise. That’s the norm. And that’s the problem.

SCOTLAND’S “just say no” Tories will be all on their ownsome unless Labour really wants to wreck its credibility by cosying up to the party that gave us the benefits cap, sanctions, zero-hours contracts, the rape clause and bedroom tax.

In short, STV would probably leave Tories with the same number of seats but no way to use their electoral clout with “fellow” Unionists.

They are the untouchables of Scottish politics – remember their lonely vote of no confidence during the Holyrood inquiry? So, they’d likely remain what they are today – a large, permanently aggrieved, marginalised rump.

If dealing with the Tories is so damaging to other Unionists that Better Together has no chance of resurrection, then Murdo, Douglas and the team will make zero progress in a consensual STV parliament.

Instead, the business of government will fall to folk who can actually talk to one another – Labour/LibDems or SNP/Greens. Probably not what Murdo intended.

Would it be right to embark on such major constitutional change given that the Scottish Tories don’t want a minute spent on anything but Covid recovery for the foreseeable future?

Or is THIS kind of change okay because Murdo believes it might drive a spoke into the wheels of Scotland’s next Yes Parliament? A bit transparent.

And how should Scotland’s new voting system be chosen?

Now he’s a convert to fairness, I’m guessing Murdo wouldn’t want to thrust his idea on citizens without letting them consider the alternatives?

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Because STV certainly does create an effective electoral system. But surprisingly, so might a tweaked version of what we already have.

Even advocates of reform concede that AMS (used in Scotland, Germany and New Zealand) might just offer the best of both worlds with a constituency link – so important to Tories until Murdo’s recent conversion – and a regional dimension.

The National: Andy Wightman

Andy Wightman has suggested List MSPs could bury the party-political hatchet and hold cross-party meetings to create strategies for their whole list regions. Others favour “open lists” so candidates are chosen by voters not parties and Professor John Curtice advocates a new formula to calculate the share-out of list seats that favours the wee parties.

In short, there are a number of things that could make AMS work better. So, should we tweak it or change to STV – and who should decide?

The Citizens Assembly would be ideal – but there’s a final snag. The Tories are boycotting it. And there’s the rub. You can either have a British, winner takes all mindset – or a consensual, proportional system. You cannae have both.

If Murdo Fraser thinks Holyrood politics are a bit distorted at present, with too much tactical voting on both “sides”, the answer is clear. It isn’t instant voting reform, it’s indyref2.

The only certain way to clear democratic blockages is to let the people decide.

But presumably that is a Damascene conversion too far.