My jaw has just dropped to the floor upon reading an article in The National in which SNP MP Tommy Sheppard argues that if Kezia Dugdale defects from Labour to the SNP, she should be required to stand down and fight for re-election under her new colours. Now, for the avoidance of doubt, I do not believe for one moment that Kezia Dugdale is going to defect - I think the idea that she must be a secret SNP sympathiser because of her father and her partner is a paranoid fantasy put about by the Ian Smarts of this world. But let's say for the sake of argument that she (or more likely somebody else entirely) were to make the jump. Are we really supposed to accept that the SNP should turn down the golden chance to move closer to overall majority status at Holyrood, and to make the pro-independence majority in parliament more emphatic, just on some point of principle that no other party is signed up to? Are the SNP going to treat politics as a game of cricket when other parties would be completely ruthless if the circumstances were reversed?
At Westminster, there have been instances of Labour MPs defecting to the Tories or Liberal Democrats without a by-election, Tory MPs defecting to Labour or the Liberal Democrats without a by-election, and even one instance of a Labour MP (Dick Douglas in 1990) defecting to the SNP without a by-election. Why would we suddenly get squeamish at a time when the stakes are so much higher? If we assume that Mark McDonald can still be relied upon to informally follow the SNP whip, just one more MSP would take the party to exactly 50% of the seats in Holyrood (excluding the non-voting Presiding Officer), thus making it much harder for the opposition parties to inflict any defeats. By contrast, if Ms Dugdale or any other Labour list MSP were to simply resign, the SNP wouldn't even have a chance to win the seat in a by-election - a slavishly loyal replacement Labour MSP would simply be appointed from lower down the list, and we'd be no further forward.
I'd suggest to Tommy Sheppard that if we're going to win independence, it might be an idea not to turn our noses up at golden opportunities, especially any that may fall gift-wrapped from heaven.