#bothvotesSNP in Eastwood

Maxwell for EastwoodTomorrow I’ll go down to Crookfur Primary to cast two votes for the SNP: One constituency vote for Stewart Maxwell, and one list vote for the party. Here’s why I’d recommend that you do the same if you also live in Eastwood:

To take the constituency first, five years ago the results were as follows:

Labour Ken Macintosh 12,662
Conservative Jackson Carlaw 10,650
SNP Stewart Maxwell 7,777

The same three candidates are standing again, but given the usual swings since then, it’s almost inconceivable that Ken Macintosh should win the seat this time — not least because he probably only won because many supporters of other parties voted for him to keep the Tory out.

If the only thing that happens is that Yes-voting Labour votes swing to the SNP, Stewart Maxwell should win easily. However, the Tories have been pushing the message hard that only they can beat the SNP, and if they manage to convince enough former Labour voters, it’s quite possible Jackson Carlaw will win the seat. It’s therefore extremely important that Stewart gets as many votes as possible. This is also true for any remaining Tory-hating Labour voters — the only person who can keep the Tories out is Stewart Maxwell.

Because the Tories have a real chance to beat the SNP in the constituency, it’s much more important to vote SNP on the list than in many other regions. In most regions it’s looking like the SNP will take all the constituency seats, which makes it difficult (albeit not impossible) to gain any additional list seats; however, in the three regions West Scotland, South Scotland and Highland & Islands there’s a real risk the other parties will win some constituency seats, and the SNP might thus need list seats here in order to achieve a majority in the next Scottish Parliament. I have some sympathy for tactical voters in the other regions, but in these three regions it’s really important to give both votes to the SNP to ensure that we get another pro-independence majority.

The Unionists would love to unseat Stewart Maxwell tomorrow. If Jackson Carlaw wins the constituency and if enough SNP voters vote Green or RISE on the list because they think it doesn’t matter, then that could really happen, which would be a real shame. Not only would the Unionist press have a field day if Stewart didn’t get reelected, but the Scottish Parliament would also have lost one of its best MSPs.

Please vote for Stewart Maxwell if you list in Eastwood, and please give your list vote to the SNP if you live in the West Scotland region!

I don’t like the Scottish electoral system

Germany and New Zealand use electoral systems that are very similar to the one used for Holyrood elections in Scotland, but with one crucial difference: They add extra seats (so-called overhang seats) to the parliament until the seat distribution mirrors the second vote (i.e., if one party has won “too many” constituency seats, extra list seats will be added to make the result properly proportional). The consequence of this is that only the second vote really matters from a party-political point of view — the first vote is important from the perspective of electing specific politicians rather than others, but it doesn’t affect the number of seats won by each party. This system is quite easy to understand.

In Scotland, however, things are different. When one party dominates heavily in one or more regions (like the SNP do at the moment in most of Scotland, and like Labour used to do in the Central Belt), the other parties end up with too few MSPs because there simply aren’t enough list seats. This makes it really hard to understand the system, and it leads to a lot of frustration when people attempt to bend the system to their own advantage.

At the moment, winning constituency seats only really matters to the SNP. Of course the other parties would love to win a few because it feels good, but it won’t affect the Holyrood result in a predictable way. For instance, imagine the list result in the West Scotland region points to SNP 9, Cons 4 and Lab 4 (and for simplicity’s sake, 0 for the other parties). If the SNP win 9 (out of 10) constituency seats and the Tories win 1, it’s easy to see what happens: Labour get 4 list seats and the Tories get 3, so that the regional result ends up like it should. What if Labour take one further constituency from the SNP? The SNP then gets one of Labour’s list seats, leaving the over-all result unchanged. But what if the SNP manage to win all 10 constituency seats? Because the number of list seats can’t grow, the list will now either say Labour 4, Cons 3 or Labour 3, Cons 4 — in other words, the SNP taking one constituency seat from the Tories could actually end up losing Labour a seat. This is counter-intuitive and bad for democracy.

The real reason for the SNP’s #bothvotesSNP campaign is safety: If the SNP manage to win all constituencies on Thursday, the number of list votes is unlikely to be significant, but if they only win 60 constituencies (i.e., five seats short of a majority), they will probably get at least a handful of list seats, so long as their voters haven’t given their second vote to somebody else. However, the Greens’ relatively successful #secondvoteGreen campaign are probably causing some natural SNP voters to split their votes, and suddenly a majority isn’t certain, so I can completely understand why some SNP strategists are a bit worried. The silly thing is just that what the SNP need more than anything is that all independence supporters — SNP, Green and RISE — vote SNP with their first vote, but that’s hard to campaign for while convincing their own supporters not to split their votes.

I wish Scotland would introduce additional list seats like in Germany and New Zealand — or replace the system with a completely different one, such as the one used in Denmark. The current one is just making everybody frustrated.