Democracy Holyrood Election 2021 Political Philosophy Scotland Ungagged Team Ungagged Writing Voting and Elections

Both votes SNP won’t get you Independence in the North East

In her weekly National column last week, Mhairi Black gave her view as to why both votes SNP was the way to go. Within the article, she used, in her own words an overly simplistic example if 100,000 voters voted for SNP compared to 70,000 in the list voting after the SNP had won the constituency seat. Her argument was that if the following took place,

SNP: 100,000/ 1 (+1) would give them 50,000.
Unionist Party 40,000 /1 = 40,000

As such the SNP would win the regional seat as opposed to only 70,000 (35,000 after division) 2nd votes for SNP which would result in a Unionist vote. This of course is entirely true however, within the Scottish elections, no list votes are for one seat alone. Of course, it is difficult for a columnist to delve deeper with limited word counts and a party line to stick to. It is in light of this that I will attempt to look a little deeper at the merit of both votes SNP and splitting your ticket between the independence parties of your choice.

Taking my own region of the North East as an example, the voting for the 2016 elections were as follows.

2016 Election results: North East (Total Votes)

Within the D’Hondt system the constituency seats are first past the post and of the 10 seats in the North East, 9 were won by the SNP and 1 by the Conservative Party. The SNP gained 48.5% of the constituency vote, Conservatives 27.9%, Labour 14.5%, Lib Dems 8.8% and Others 0.4%.

Within the North East there are 7 Regional or Additional member seats, the first seat is determined by the total number of votes of each party divided by 1 + the number of seats won in the constituency vote.

Seat 1

SNP 137,086/ 1(+9) = 13,709

Conservative 85,848/ 1(+1) = 42,924 1st Seat Conservatives (Now have 2 seats)

Labour 38,791/1 = 38,791

Lib Dems 18,444/1 = 18,444

Green 15,123/1 = 15,123

Seat 2

SNP 137,086/ 1(+9) = 13,709

Conservative 85,848/ 1(+2) = 28,616

Labour 38,791/1 = 38,791 2nd Seat Labour (Now have 1 Seat)

Lib Dems 18,444/1 = 18,444

Green 15,123/1 = 15,123

Seat 3

SNP 137,086/ 1(+9) = 13,709

Conservative 85,848/ 1(+2) = 28,616 3rd Seat Conservatives (Now have 3 Seats)

Labour 38,791/1(+1) = 19,396

Lib Dems 18,444/1 = 18,444

Green 15,123/1 = 15,123

Seat 4

SNP 137,086/ 1(+9) = 13,709

Conservative 85,848/ 1(+3) = 21,462 4th Seat Conservatives (Now have 4 Seats)

Labour 38,791/1(+1) = 19,396

Lib Dems 18,444/1 = 18,444

Green 15,123/1 = 15,123

Seat 5

SNP 137,086/ 1(+9) = 13,709

Conservative 85,848/ 1(+4) = 17,170

Labour 38,791/1(+1) = 19,396 5th Seat Labour (Now have 2 seats)

Lib Dems 18,444/1 = 18,444

Green 15,123/1 = 15,123

Seat 6

SNP 137,086/ 1(+9) = 13,709

Conservative 85,848/ 1(+4) = 17,170

Labour 38,791/1(+2) = 12,930

Lib Dems 18,444/1 = 18,444 6th Seat Lib Dems (Now have 1 seat)

Green 15,123/1 = 15,123

Seat 7

SNP 137,086/ 1(+9) = 13,709

Conservative 85,848/ 1(+4) = 17,170 7th Seat Conservatives (Now have 5 seats)

Labour 38,791/1(+2) = 12,930

Lib Dems 18,444/1(+1) = 9,222

Green 15,123/1 = 15,123

Full Result of 2016 Elections (Number of seats)

SNP: 9 Seats

Conservatives: 5 seats

Labour: 2 seats

Lib Dems: 1 Seat

Greens: 0 seats

The purpose of the D’Hondt system is to ensure proportional representation, however in this region the Conservatives have done slightly better with more than a third of the seats from less than a third of the vote. As you can see any additional list votes for the SNP are completely wasted due to their high number of constituency victories. Of course, this differs in every region and I intend to follow this up in future with a statistical look at the Highlands or South of Scotland where this is a more feasible tactic.

I am sure that most SNP candidates will err on the side of caution in the unlikely chance that the SNP will not be elected in almost all of the constituencies. However, the purpose of this article is to see the impact of splitting the ticket. For this aim, we will rerun the 2016 results but transfer 30,000 seats to another independence party. Until recently this would have been a relatively simple transfer of votes to the Greens, however with the creation of the Alba Party has created a more confusing picture. Considering this I will present 2 scenarios. Firstly, by adding all 30,000 to the existing vote of the Green Party from 2016 and the second scenario I will include the Alba Party.

In terms of accuracy, the reality is most likely that the majority of the 30,000 transfers would go to another nationalist party and with Alex Salmond standing in the North East, I will give the Alba party 2 of every 3 votes so Transfer of votes are as follows; Green =10,000, Alba + 20,000 (Hopefully that makes sense).

2016 Scottish Election Results (Re-run)

Scenario 1                                                                                  Scenario 2

SNP: 9 Seats (-)                                                                   SNP: 9 Seats (-)

Conservative: 4 Seats (-1)                                                Conservative: 4 Seats (-1)

Labour: 2 Seats (-)                                                             Labour: 2 Seats (-)

Greens: 2 Seats (+2)                                                         Greens: 1 Seats (+1)

Lib Dems 0 (-1)                                                                   Alba: 1 Seat (+1)

Lib Dems 0 (-1)

What is clear from both scenarios is that to maximise the Yes vote in the North East of Scotland, SNP 1&2 does not work. By 30,000 SNP voters transferring their second vote then 2 additional pro-independence Members of Parliament would be elected.

There are some caveats to this however, firstly in 2016 there was over 6000 votes for UKIP that one would imagine would now transfer to unionist parties. If that were the case then the danger of scenario 2 would be that the margin for error to win the second yes list seat would be razor thin. This would not be the case in scenario 1 as the Greens have picked up both seats by seat 5. Therefore, there is an inherent danger to the introduction of the Alba Party which may cost a seat for pro yes parties. To ensure seats are gained in the list vote one party being voted for is far more suitable.

Finally, one must consider the impact of the Scottish Green Party gaining 11 or 12 seats as opposed to splitting with Alba. In terms of being able to work with the SNP Government on areas of mutual agreement and exerting influence on important issues such as climate change, housing, renewable energy and independence, it seems it would be far more beneficial for the Greens to have a larger profile than a party with one policy and a leader who may impact negatively on any future referendum based on public opinion.

One thing is sure, while in other areas of Scotland, Vote SNP 1&2 may be the right move for pro independence voters; it is unlikely that this tactic would repeat anything other than Groundhog Day in the North East.

By Allan Grogan

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