Scottish Parliament Elections 2016

It’s now four days since the Scottish Parliamentary elections. It has taken this long for me to come to a proper understanding of all this. I have finally made sense of the convoluted voting system in Scotland – at least for the Holyrood Devolved Parliament elections. No one I have ever spoken to has been able to explain it to me and these 2016 election results have prompted me to make my own exploration into the political and voting machinations in this country.

The system(s) came into being in 1999. I should have done this exercise in 2011 which is when I first voted in the Scottish elections (ahem!! Not knowing enough to make really sensible choices). I come from a preferential system of voting where voters can vote for their own choices of candidates (not just parties) in order of preference. Of course, you can vote for the candidates selection of running partners but you don’t need to. It’s called voting above the line – for the candidate’s own preference of running mates, or you can vote below the line and select your own preferences. Sometimes – as in the bicameral Senate elections it can become unwieldy because of the number of minor parties standing for election. But it is a much better system. Also Australia has compulsory voting and that tends to mean that voters have to become familiar with those candidates standing for election. There is about a 7 to 8% of spoiled votes in any Australian election but that is better than a turnout of only 58.3% of voters in my region in Scotland. That’s 41.7% who didn’t vote at all. When I contemplate the amount of effort, angst, arrests and (some) deaths that have gone into the adoption of universal suffrage, I am appalled at the apathy that non-voters embrace as though not knowing anything or refusing to engage with those who hold power over us all is something to be proud of.

But, forgive my wee rant. Back to the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections. These are some salient points I have learned:

There are 129 seats in Holyrood. 73 are Constituency seats and 56 are Additional Member seats.
The Constituency seats are determined by the First Past the Post system and yields one member per constituency. Each member elected by either system has equal status within Holyrood.

Each person in Scotland is represented by 8 members of the Parliament – one constituency member and 7 additional members.
There are 8 Regions that represent larger areas and contain 9 or so constituencies. 7 members are elected from the Regional List vote. Those additional member elections make up the 56 additional members of the Holyrood Parliament.

Lists are closed lists and the selection of candidates for the list is made by the political party. The voter votes for the political party not individual candidates. Candidates can stand both as a constituency candidate and as a list candidate. However, if the candidate wins his/her constituency seat, then he/she is no longer available to stand as an additional member; the name is removed from the list which then moves up one. These list candidate names are announced just prior to elections.

MID SCOTLAND & FIFE

1 John Swinney
2 Annabelle Ewing
3 Keith Brown
4 Shirley-Anne Somerville
5 David Torrance
6 Alycia Hayes
7 David Doogan
8 Roderick Campbell
9 Karen Marjoram
10 Rosemary Hunter
11 Maciej Wiczynski
12 Neale Hanvey – The first five on this regional list were voted in as constituency candidates and so were removed from the regional list. I think this was a silly use of regional list candidates and didn’t favour any new blood in the SNP.

It is easily seen how Labour diminished itself without even trying. It is also easy to see where the Conservatives picked up constituency votes – to my mind, partly because Labour self-immolated.

I am using Mid Scotland and Fife (region) as I live within the boundary and I have to use Mid Fife and Glenrothes (constituency) as that is where I live.

My regional area is securely SNP and of the 9 constituencies, 8 SNP members were elected and one Liberal Democrat. No other party got a show in the constituency vote.

Constituency results

Scottish Parliament election, 2016: Mid Scotland and Fife

 
Constituency Elected Member Result
Clackmannanshire and Dunblane Keith Brown SNP hold
Cowdenbeath Annabelle Ewing SNP gain from Labour
Dunfermline Shirley-Anne Somerville SNP hold
Kirkcaldy David Torrance SNP hold
Mid Fife and Glenrothes Jenny Gilruth SNP hold
North East Fife Willie Rennie Liberal Democrats gain from SNP
Perthshire North John Swinney SNP hold
Perthshire South and Kinross-shire Roseanna Cunningham SNP hold
Stirling Bruce Crawford SNP hold

Interestingly the SNP Regional List candidates ran thus:
John Swinney;  Annabelle Ewing;            Keith Brown;    Shirley-Anne Somerville;            David Torrance and three more candidates further down the list. All five of the SNP list candidates were elected as Constituency seats which left the last three swinging from pegs on the washing line. Not that it would have made any difference because so many voters wasted their second vote for the SNP. This becomes clear further down this blog post.
I will use the actual list voting figures. Voters in my region voted:

SNP                       120,128;              Conservative      73,293;              Labour                   51,373

Lib Dems              20,401;              Greens                    17,860;              UKIP                         5,345

Scottish Soc.          1,073;               Solidarity                1,049;               Libertarians              650

The additional members are elected taking into account the number of constituency members each party has won. There are 7 AMS (Additional Members) to be elected. A method using a divisor (the number of constituency seats already won +1) is used. The number of votes cast is divided firstly by the number of seats won +1. The SNP vote was initially divided by 8+1(9), 0+1(1) for all the rest except for the Lib Dems that won one constituency seat 1+1(2).

To all intents and purposes, we can ignore UKIP, Scottish Socialists, Solidarity and the Libertarians, none of which had any likelihood of gaining any seat in this Parliament from this region. After each division, the highest number of votes wins a seat. All divisions are made from the original votes cast with the new divisors reflecting any seat gained.
So:

                          Initial Votes         Div.#1     Result          Div.#2      Result         Div.#3        Result

SNP                       120,128               9             13,348            9             13,348            9               13,348

Conservative      73,293                  1             73,293             2             36,647          2                36,647

Labour                  51,373                  1             51,373              1             51,373            2                25,687

Lib Dems            20,401                  2             10,201            2             10,201            2                10,201

Greens                  17,860                 1             17,860             1             17,860            1               17,860

After the first division the Conservatives have the highest number of votes and thus win their first additional member. This means that the next divisor for the conservatives will be 1+1(2). Labour picks up its first additional member after the second division which increases its divisor by 1 to 1+1(2). The Conservatives pick up their second additional member after the third division so their divisor becomes 2+1(3).

                      Initial Votes         Div.#4           Result       Div.#5      Result    Div.#6           Result

SNP                      120,128            9                      13,348         9             13,348         9             13,348

Conservatives      73,293           3                       24,431         3              24,431        4             18,323

Labour                   51,373            2                       25,687         3              17,124        3             17,124

Lib Dems              20,401           2                        10,201        2              10,201        2             10,201

Greens                    17,680          1                         17,860       1             17,680          1             17,680

After the fourth division Labour has another additional member which increases its next divisor to 2+1(3). After the fifth division, the Conservatives pick up their third seat and their divisor increases by 1 to 3+1(4). The sixth division sees the Conservatives add their fourth additional member  taking their next divisor to 4+1(5).

                      Initial    Votes    Div.#7           Result

SNP                       120,128               9             13,348

Conservatives      73,293               5             14,659

Labour                     51,373              3             17,124

Lib Dems                20,401              2             10,201

Greens                    17,680               1             17,680

After the seventh division, the Greens pick up their first additional member. And, of course, there are 7 additional member seats allocated to Mid Scotland & Fife, so that’s the end folks.

The Conservatives gained 4 additional members; Labour gained 2 additional members and the Greens gained one.

Additional member results

Scottish Parliament election, 2016: Mid Scotland and Fife
Party Elected candidates Seats +/− Votes % +/−%
SNP 0 -1 120,128 41.3% -3.9%
Conservative Murdo Fraser
Elizabeth Smith
Alexander Stewart
Dean Lockhart
4 +2 73,293 25.2% +11.0%
Labour Claire Brennan-Baker
Alex Rowley
2 -1 51,373 17.6% -7.4%
Liberal Democrats 0 -1 20,401 7.0% +1.2%
Scottish Green Mark Ruskell 1 +1 17,860 6.1% +1.9%
UKIP 0 0 5,345 1.8% +0.7%
Scottish Socialist 0 0 1,073 0.4% +0.4%
Solidarity 0 0 1,049 0.4% +0.3%
Libertarian 0 0 650 0.2% +0.2%

What interested me was when the SNP started exhorting voters to vote SNP 1&2. I received this exhortation in the post and was bemused. I knew that the second vote (the regional list vote) would diminish the additional member vote for them and couldn’t understand why the SNP had done this across all of Scotland. They should have realised that their support in regions like Mid Scotland & Fife would be enough to get their constituency candidates up and running and that any second vote would be useless and better given to another pro-independence party.

I talked to several SNP people throughout this period leading up to the elections. One person told me that the second SNP vote – the regional vote – was seen as insurance. Well – that went drastically awry, didn’t it!

When I read Craig Murray’s blog on this that had to do with the Scottish Independence issue, I decided to do the whole exercise above to cement the mechanics in my brain. As you can see, Craig Murray was quite correct when he said that the 120,128 SNP list votes were wasted. Not one SNP list member was elected. But it did allow the Conservatives to get 4 additional members elected in an area that is not historically known for Tory support.

Murray cited these particular regions, none of which achieved an SNP List member because of the SNP’s directive to vote SNP 1&2. The list vote did them no favours but voters followed their directive without thinking for themselves. I am reprinting what he wrote in case you don’t click on the link and read his blog.

‘North East Scotland 137,086 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 137,086 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
Central Scotland 129,082 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 129,082 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
Lothian 118,546 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 118,546 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
Mid Scotland and Fife 120,128 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 120,128 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
West Scotland 135,827 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 135,827 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.
Glasgow 111,101 SNP list votes 0 SNP list MSPs elected 111,101 pro-independence list votes totally wasted.

That is over 750,000 SNP pro-independence list votes completely wasted, electing nobody at all on the list.

By contrast in these regions the Tories got 376,000 – almost precisely 50% of the list votes the SNP received there – and got 19 MSPs for them!’
Mind you, I also think that disillusioned Labour supporters felt that their only option was to vote Conservative in the Regional vote. Why, I don’t know. There’s nothing as weird as folk. Take as given what a political party tells you to do, I guess. Thinking would be an advantage. Not seen, these elections.

 

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5 comments on “Scottish Parliament Elections 2016

  1. The overall effect is to make the total (constituency plus list) representation of the parties close to proportional representation. Thus, if the party you favour is going to do very well in the constituencies of your region, it makes sense to vote tactically for a minor party that you like. So in my case consistency vote SNP (decided on the quality of the candidate), second vote Green made good sense

    Sometimes by chance small differences in votes translate into larger differences in seats. Thus the overall Conservative vote was about 22% as opposed to labour’s 20%, the other conservatives ended up with far more seats. I suspect this is because their votes are concentrated in just a few regions, in the south of the country.

    Ken Arrow, Nobel Memorial prize winning economist, proved that it is impossible to devise an electoral system that will not, under some circumstances, give paradoxical results.

    • Veronique says:

      I agree Paul. There are hundreds of different voting systems employed throughout the world. Most of them attempt to apply proportional representation and/or preferential regimes that will always advantage the ruling party but allow some oppositional representation.

      None of any of these hundreds of voting systems will produce results that do not have some left-of-field outlier shockers. That’s a given. And I would hazard a guess that that is why there are hundreds of voting systems as ruling parties clamour to clutch to their breasts the system that benefits them and disadvantages any new party trying to hop onto the block. while appearing to pander to the populace’s also strident clamour for a fairer system.

      Scotland’s electoral systems have arisen from an erstwhile feudal system wherein the landholders had the vote! Ahem. None of them gave a damn about their serfs and crofters. Times have changed, the land has been settled and there are few meaningful favours to be given out to those who toe the line. These systems were adopted at devolution and still need a fair amount of updating.

      I sometimes think – where is Wat Tyler when you need him. 🙂

  2. Rosie says:

    Wow, that’s quite an exercise you’ve done, V.
    Missing two things: you never mentioned the name of De Hondt who invented the system!😉
    And it is worth pointing out that the Both Votes SNP worked in 2011. This time they were reluctant to believe the poles giving them so many constituency seats. The system is designed to make it impossible to know how to vote tactically unless you’re a clairvoyant! Maybe that’s another of Craig Murray’s talents.
    There are some who say the Green vote was wasted in some constituencies too.
    The one person who knew exactly what he was doing was Mr De Hondt although the SNP surprised everyone in 2011 by breaking through.
    And, sadly, those who didn’t vote seem to represent a large British, not just Scottish, constituency. As you say, no appreciation of history.

    • Veronique says:

      Well I didn’t mention Jefferson either who devised the method in 1792. D’Hondt was later in 1878. Both are similar in their intent.
      I can understand the 2011 election but I still have to say the SNP took Scotland as a whole while ignoring the areas that had also voted Yes in 2014 and voted in the UK elections 2015. They must have known that they wouldn’t need regional votes in certain areas – as Murray points out – no clairvoyance necessary.
      I would have preferred an SNP overall majority with a higher proportion of Greens in the areas with strong SNP support. However psephology is an arcane study and no one gets it absolutely right!! 🙂
      It was a good exercise though Rosie. I am glad I made the effort.
      What anyone gleans from his/her own political stance is up to the individual. 🙂

      • Rosie says:

        ‘They must have known’ was not the feeling around the activists I was involved with. The great fear was that the predicted clear sweep might mean that people wouldn’t bother to vote – and that could have been catastrophic…

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