I flitted to Scotland in 2002 because I got a job at Collins Dictionaries in Bishopbriggs. Because of the EU, it was almost a simple as getting a job at home — I simply applied for it, went for an interview and signed a contract, without having to apply for a work permit or anything. I had to get a national insurance number, but that was straightforward; the only real difficulty I faced was getting a bank account, which was a real pain.
To this day I’ve never had a work permit or any other piece of paper confirming that I have a right to live here — this is different from all the non-EU migrants who of course have to get such papers as soon as they move here.
I fell in love with one of my colleagues, Phyllis, and we married in 2009 (I was of course wearing a kilt, in the beautiful Buchanan tartan). In the same year, we set up a company together. Our life is here, and yet I’m only allowed to live here because of the EU — our daughters have dual nationality, but I’m still only Danish.
And yes, I could apply for UK citizenship, but until September 2015 it would have meant giving up my status as a Danish citizen because of Danish legislation (and my daughters would also have stopped being Danish at that point). I’m looking into it now, but it’s a complicated process which involves two exams, a lot of forms and a significant amount of money.
Denmark disenfranchises its citizens after two years abroad, so since 2004 I’ve only been able to vote for two parliaments: The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. Neither the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen nor the UK Parliament in London wants to know what I think. And of course I can’t take part in the Brexit referendum tomorrow, because it uses the Westminster franchise.
If the UK votes in favour of leaving the EU tomorrow, one of the consequences will be that I won’t be able to take part in Scottish Parliament elections any more, and if there is another Scottish independence referendum, I won’t be able to vote in that, either. The mere thought is absolutely heartbreaking, given how much time and effort I invested in the last indyref.
Of course nobody knows what Brexit will entail. It could be that the outcome is a Norwegian solution, in which case the only real consequence for me will be losing my right to vote in Holyrood elections, but if it ends up as an acrimonious divorce, nobody knows what the consequences will be — EU citizens might for instance be charged to use the NHS, or we might lose the right to some benefits.
I really fail to see how Brexit will benefit normal people, and it has the potential to harm millions drastically. Voting Leave is not simply a harmless way to give David Cameron a bloody nose, but a potentially serious blow to the European Union — which, in spite of all its failings, has allowed normal people like me to get a work in another country and to start a family there without having to jump through hundreds of bureaucratic hoops.
The Leave and the Remain campaigns are united in dismissing the Norwegian solution. The Brexiters want to control immigration, which is incompatible with it, and the pro-EU side rightly argues that it’s a very much inferior solution compared with full membership, because it would require the UK to follow all the rules and pay a lot of money without having any influence.
However, nobody wanted the Norwegian solution in Norway, either, and yet that’s what they ended up with. That’s because that’s what you get when a majority of the population says No the EU while a majority of MPs say Yes. Without a referendum, Norway would simply have joined the EEC together with the UK, Ireland and Denmark back in 1973, and if not then, then together with Sweden and Finland in 1995. Forced to remain outside the EEC, the politicians opted for the second-best solution instead.
Something similar might happen after a Brexit vote: Pro-EU MPs have a huge majority at Westminster (everybody from the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, almost all Labour MPs, and at least a quarter of the Tories). This means that any attempt to cut the ties to the EU completely will be voted down, and the most likely outcome is some sort of Norwegian (or perhaps Swiss) solution. The Leavers might complain that people didn’t vote for that, but the Remainers will simply say that the voters were promised the UK would retain full access to the Internal Market, and this is the only way to achieve it.
If the Brexit referendum had taken place a decade ago, I’m almost certain the UK would have been offered a Norwegian solution, perhaps even with some nice little opt-outs.
However, in the current climate I fear many of the other EU countries will want to be tough on the UK. This is not primarily due to anger or a need for revenge, but because they’re afraid of the own Eurosceptics. In particular, the French establishment will want to frighten their voters away from voting for the Front National in next year’s presidential elections — and indeed this party is very keen to follow the UK out of the EU.
It’s still possible the UK will be offered a Norwegian solution, but it will probably be on a basis of take-it-or-leave-it, without any opt-outs. It’s even possible the UK will be forced to join parts of the EU that the British government has so far managed to stay out of, such as Schengen.
The Leavers won’t be very happy if this is the eventual outcome, but I reckon a majority of MPs would sign up to it if they realise it’s the only way to retain full access to the Internal Market. It’s almost certain none of the wild dreams of the Leave campaigners will be realised because they don’t have a parliamentary majority.
So if we’re lucky, a Leave vote will lead to very few changes (but a great loss of influence), and if we’re unlucky, it’ll lead to the UK being excluded from the Internal Market. It’s really a lose/lose situation, so please vote Remain!
I have the impression that my friends and family in Denmark are surprised that I haven’t been campaigning harder to remain in the EU, and I must admit that I had expected to be more active.
However, I’ve realised it’s really hard to have a good argument about something when everybody in the (physical or virtual) room agrees with you.
The independence referendum campaign was great because there were so many views and a real willingness to discuss them.
This time, on the other hand, most people in Scotland are in favour of continued EU membership, and the only people I know who are thinking about voting Leave are seeing it more as a tactical ploy to ensure we get a new Scottish independence referendum sooner rather than later. (I think this is a rather stupid and dangerous argument, but there you go.)
I can see there are genuine discussions down in England about what to do — for some people it seems to be almost as inspiring as the independence referendum was north of the border — but up here most people are simply watching the Johnson, Gove and Farage show with dread and fear.
I don’t think this blog has many Eurosceptic readers, so writing about Brexit feels like preaching to the converted.
It’s such a shame we lost the independence referendum, because it means we have to spend our time debating the issues that interest the Tories in England, and indeed it’s looking increasingly likely that the Little Englanders will drag Scotland kicking and screaming out of the EU. It’s so frustrating.
There are indications that the SNP leadership are trying to talk down the prospects of a quick indyref2 after a Brexit vote. For instance, this is what Humza Yousaf said recently according to The Herald:
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s transport minister, has made clear that, personally, he would not like a second referendum on Scotland’s future in such circumstances, noting how it would “make the argument for independence very difficult”.
[He] then added: “I do not want a referendum in those circumstances. It makes the argument for independence very difficult as well. It presents us with some additional difficulties and some additional challenges.”
I agree with Humza that it might be difficult to win a new indyref immediately after a Brexit vote, when voters are aware that a Yes vote will mean that the English-Scottish border will become the external border of the EU. I therefore very much hope that the UK votes to Remain in the EU.
However, if Brexit happens, it’ll only get harder to win a new indyref if we wait a few years, so unless we want to kick Scottish independence into the long grass, we’ll need to act immediately afterwards and hold a new referendum in late 2016 or early 2017, well before the (r)UK leaves the EU in the summer of 2018.
The reason for the urgency is that Scotland’s big chance is to vote to remain in the EU without ever leaving the bloc. If that happens, many companies will choose to relocate here from the rUK. On the other hand, if Scotland leaves the EU together with the rest of the UK, those companies will move to Ireland or another EU member state, and they won’t move to Scotland even if we decide to become independent a few years later. Even if just 5% of the companies currently domiciled in the rUK move to Scotland, it will be a huge boost to the Scottish economy and will lubricate the change from dependence to independence nicely.
It’s also likely many people in the EU will suddenly encourage Scottish membership of the EU so that not all of the UK is lost after Brexit. For instance, in a role-play organised by Open Europe, the “Netherlands predicted an effort to channel investment to Scotland, in an effort to peel it off from the rest of the UK.”
Furthermore, YouGov’s Peter Kellner has pointed out that there normally is a late swing towards the status quo in referendums, which is exactly what we saw in the 2014 independence referendum. However, just after Brexit, there won’t be a status quo — the alternatives will be to remain either in the EU or in the UK, but not both — and this might prevent this late swing from happening again. On the other hand, if we sit on our hands for ten years, a status quo will have re-established itself, which will benefit the pro-UK side.
In other words, a snap indyref2 will appeal to both risk-takers who believe Scotland can poach a lot of English companies as well as to the natural conservatives who are worried about what will happen if we leave the EU. Combined with those who are already convinced about Scottish independence, that might well be a winning combination.
Things won’t get easier over time. So long as England remains outside the EU, a vote for Scottish independence will be much more daunting than it was in 2014 when it was simply a question of turning the English-Scottish border into an internal EU one.
So yes, I’m pessimistic that we can win indyref2 after a Brexit vote, but our only chance of doing so is to have it almost immediately afterwards so that Scotland never leaves the EU and can become the natural new location for companies wanting to remain within both the EU and the old UK. After that, any hope of independence will be kicked at least twenty years into the future.
Of course I’d prefer the UK to remain within the EU, but given recent opinion polls, we have to be prepare to seize the moment after a vote to Leave.
When people in Scotland discuss an alternative to the Additional Member System currently used for Holyrood elections, they often assume the only real alternatives are FPTP (the system used for Westminster elections), STV (used for Scottish council elections) or d’Hondt with party lists (known from elections to the European Parliament.
However, a different system is used in Denmark (and similar ones are used in Norway and Sweden), and it is taken for granted there — and nobody ever suggests changing the system, so it’s definitely not a bad way to conduct elections.
It is basically Sainte-Laguë with top-up seats and personal votes instead of party lists (Sainte-Laguë is a variant of d’Hondt).
It has several attractive properties:
All politicians need personal votes to get elected. There isn’t a party list where the person at the top of it can lean back in the knowledge that they’ll get elected no matter what.
There is even competition amongst candidates from the same party, so that voters can elect the ones they like the best.
It is reasonably fast to count (different from STV, which in practice has to be done computationally). In Denmark, they normally count the party votes on the night so that you know exactly how many seats each party has won, and then they count the personal votes the next day.
Practically every vote counts: Because of the national top-up seats almost every vote counts — the only truly wasted votes are the ones cast for tiny parties that didn’t gain any representation (like UKIP or RISE).
To make the system more tangible, I have here tried to show what the 2016 Holyrood election would have looked like if this system had been used instead of AMS.
NB: I have simplified the system slightly in various ways. For instance, Denmark operates with a fourth layer between the regions and the national results, and the parties have several options to choose from with regard to how party votes should be distributed to the candidates. I don’t believe these differences are critical for the present purpose, but of course civil servants should look into the details if Holyrood ever decides to switch to this system.
The current constituencies would be kept, but they would change status to being nomination constituencies (“opstillingskredse” in Danish), which means that the local parties would be able to put up candidates for election, just like they do now. (Actually, Denmark has more nomination constituencies, so if Scotland adopts this system it might make sense to increase the number from 73. This would have the advantage of making politics more local.)
However, electing members of parliament would happen in larger units, electoral regions (“valgkredse” in Danish) — I’ve used the current Holyrood regions for this purpose, except that I’ve put Orkney & Shetland and Na h-Eileanan an Iar into separate regions. In Denmark, each electoral regional will elect as many members of parliament as the number of nomination constituencies within it, but I’ve kept the number of seats within each region unchanged.
Each electoral region consists of regional seats (Danish “kredsmandater”) and a few national top-up seats (Danish “tillægsmandater”). The regional seats are allocated locally, without any reference to events outside the electoral region, whereas the top-up ones are allocated nationally based on votes cast across the country. For instance, in this simulation the West of Scotland region containts 17 seats: 14 regional ones and 3 top-op ones.
Step 1: The election
Each voter will be given a ballot paper listing all candidates in the entire election region, but with the ones from their own nomination constituency listed before the other candidates.
As an example, here is the ballot paper for Eastwood in the West Scotland region. The local candidates here are Jackson Carlaw, John Duncan, Ken MacIntosh, Stewart Maxwell, [GRN candidate, Eastwood] and [UKIP candidate, Eastwood] (because the Greens and UKIP didn’t put up any candidates in most constituencies in the real election I’ve used this notation where necessary):
Each voter has to tick exactly one box. If they vote for a candidate, it is a vote both for the party that this candidate represents and for the actual candidate. If they vote for a party, it is a vote for the party only.
And yes, ballot papers can be really long in Denmark. I think I’ve once seen one that was more than a metre long. In Sweden, where they have a similar system, they have separate ballot papers for each party, and the voter picks one and puts it inside an envelope. I’m not sure that’s a better solution, though.
(For the purpose of this simulation, I have used the constituency votes for the large parties and the list votes for the small parties. For simplicity I’ve also ignored all parties smaller than UKIP. Furthermore I’ve assumed that everybody will vote for their local candidate. In reality, given the greater choice of candidates, and given the option of voting for just the party, of course the results from an actual election under this system would have been very different.)
538203 voters: 17 seats, of which 14 regional seats. Turnout was 63%.
What this shows is first of all that there are 14 regional seats and three top-up seats.
The table lists all parties that put up candidates in this electoral region. The first line (marked with 1) shows the actual number of votes received for each party, i.e., the SNP got 148,659 votes, Labour 90,468, etc.
The next line shows the number of votes divided by 3, and the last one the number of votes divided by 13. For larger regions, one would produce more rows, dividing the number of votes by 15, 17, 19 and so forth.
Once the table has been produced, one looks for the largest number in it. In this case, it’s the 148,659 votes cast for the SNP. This means that the first regional seats goes to this party, and this is marked in the table by highlighting the number in blue and putting “(1)” after the number.
Now one has to find the second-largest figure, which is 90,468, and the second seat therefore goes to Labour. Similarly, the third seat is allocated to the Conservatives.
When we get to allocating the fourth seat, the SNP’s number of votes divided by 3 (49,553) is larger than any other remaining figure, and the fourth seat thus goes to the SNP.
We proceed in this way until all the 14 regional seats have been allocated.
Step 3: Allocation of the top-up seats to the parties
After allocating regional seats in all electoral constituencies in the country, the next step is to allocate the top-up seats.
To do this, all the votes cast for all parties in the entire country are added up.
Then one excludes small parties. These are the ones that didn’t either win at least one regional seat or get at least 2% of the votes. For this reason, UKIP gets excluded (getting 1.9% is not enough).
To allocate the top-up seats, one calculates the share of the vote and then tops up with top-up seats to make the share of seats the same.
That is, if a party got 10% of the votes, it should get 10% of the seats in parliament, i.e., 65 seats, so if it only got 50 regional seats, it will get a top-up of 15 seats.
(The actual calculations are slightly more complex than this, but this is the principle. The figures below have been done according to the actual rules.)
Here are the country-wide results:
Step 4: Allocating top-up seats to specific regions
Now that the top-up seats have been allocated to the parties, they need to be placed in specific electoral regions.
The calculations are similar to the ones for allocating seats in the electoral constituencies, except that the whole country is being looked at, and we use the divisors 1, 4, 7, etc., instead of 1, 3, 5, etc.
In the following table, the regional seats already allocated above are marked with an X.
To allocate the first top-up seat, the largest number in the entire table is found (computers are much better at this than humans), in this case it’s the 12,106 votes the Lib Dems got in West Scotland; because the Lib Dems are indeed due a top-up seat, the first top-up seat gets allocated to them there.
The second-largest number is the 11,784 votes the Lib Dems got in South Scotland, so the next top-up seat is allocated here.
The procedure is repeated many times. Once a party has got all the top-up seats it is entitled to, it can get no more, even if the largest number left in the table belongs to this party. For instance, the third-largest number in the table is the 8,637 belonging to the Greens in the Lothians, but the Greens aren’t due any top-up seats, so instead the third seats goes to the SNP in the Lothians.
The same applies to regions. For instance, let’s look at the 16th top-up seat. It can’t go to the SNP in South Scotland (6792) because this region isn’t due any more seats; it can’t go to the Tories in Lothian (6783) for the same reason; and neither can the SNP in West Scotland get it (6757). It therefore goes to the SNP in North East Scotland (6746).
The last seat goes to Labour in the Highlands and Islands (4978). All the seats have now been allocated.
Now that we have established exactly how many seats each party gets in each electoral regional, we need to determine which of the candidates standing that have been elected.
To do this, we simply count the number of votes cast for each candidate, and the candidate with the most votes gets the first seat, the one with thesecond-most votes gets the next seat, and so on. (Political parties in Denmark can choose between different systems, but this needn’t concern us here.)
This party got seven seats here (six regional seats and one national top-up seat). The first one goes to Rona MacKay with 17,060 votes, the second one to Stuart McMillan with 17,032 votes, the third one to Kenneth Gibson with 16,587 votes, and so on.
The last three candidates on the list are not elected. However, Ruth Maguire becomes the first reserve in case any of the seven elected members has to step down, with Gail Robertson being the second reserve. In this way, by-elections are not needed.
(Please note that the results are quite misleading because I’ve taken the figures from an AMS election. At the moment only people in Eastwood were able to vote for Stewart Maxwell, and his personal vote got squeezed last week because it was a three-way race, but if people all over the West Scotland region had been able to vote for him, I’m certain he would have been much higher up the list, given his high media profile.)
This completes the election.
Scottish National Party (58 MPs)
George Adam, Clare Adamson, Alasdair Allan, Tom Arthur, Colin Beattie, Keith Brown, Aileen Campbell, Willie Coffey, Angela Constance, Bruce Crawford, Roseanna Cunningham, Ash Denham, Graeme Dey, Bob Doris, James Dornan, Jennifer Dunn, Mairi Evans, Fergus Ewing, Linda Fabiani, Joe Fitzpatrick, Kate Forbes, Jeane Freeman, Kenneth Gibson, Jenny Gilruth, Toni Giugliano, Christine Grahame, Clare Haughey, Donna Heddle, Jamie Hepburn, Fiona Hyslop, DJ Johnston-Smith, Bill Kidd, Richard Lochhead, Richard Lyle, Gordon MacDonald, Angus MacDonald, Derek MacKay, Rona MacKay, Ben Macpherson, Gillian Martin, John Mason, Michael Matheson, Mark McDonald, Ivan McKee, Christina McKelvie, Stuart McMillan, Alex Neil, Gil Paterson, Shona Robison, Gail Ross, Michael Russell, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Stewart Stevenson, Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney, David Torrance, Maureen Watt, Humza Yousaf.
Conservative Party (28 MPs)
Michelle Ballantyne, Miles Briggs, Alexander Burnett, Jackson Carlaw, Finlay Carson, Colin Clark, Ruth Davidson, Murdo Fraser, Jamie Greene, Kirstene Hair, Alison Harris, Alex Johnstone, Callum Laidlaw, John Lamont, Gordon Lindhurst, Dean Lockhart, Edward Mountain, Oliver Mundell, Robbie Munro, Andrew Polson, Douglas Ross, John Scott, Graham Simpson, Liz Smith, Alexander Stewart, Ross Thomson, Kyle Thornton, Adam Tomkins.
Labour (28 MPs)
Jackie Baillie, Claire Baker, Neil Bibby, Bill Butler, Kezia Dugdale, Patricia Ferguson, Neil Findlay, Iain Gray, Cara Hilton, Lesley Hinds, Daniel Johnson, James Kelly, Johann Lamont, Lewis MacDonald, Ken MacIntosh, Jenny Marra, Paul Martin, Siobhan McCready, Margaret McCulloch, Michael McMahon, Carol Mochan, Elaine Murray, Paul O’Kane, John Pentland, Alex Rowley, Elaine Smith, Linda Stewart, David Stewart.
Green Party (8 MPs)
Maggie Chapman, John Finnie, Ross Greer, Patrick Harvie, Alison Johnstone, Kirsten Robb, Mark Ruskell, John Wilson.
Liberal Democrats (7 MPs)
Kris Chapman, Alex Cole-Hamilton, Katy Gordon, Willie Rennie, Mike Rumbles, Tavish Scott, Jamie Stone.
I just had a look at the number of constituency and list votes in each region, and I have to conclude that lots of voters (and in particular Lib Dem supporters) don’t understand how the Additional Member System (AMS) works.
Basically the constituency vote is used to elect a local candidate, but the result is normally subtracted from the list result. This means that there’s really no point in giving your constituency vote to a small party (unless you’re a party activist or are related to the candidate).
If everybody understood the system, you would therefore expect the large parties (in particular the SNP, but in some places also the Conservatives and Labour) to be getting more constituency votes than list votes, and the opposite should hold for the smaller parties.
However, if you look at the figures below, this simply isn’t the case. Pro-independence voters seem to be clued up, because the SNP consistently got more constituency votes than list votes, and the opposite holds for the Greens (but then, they didn’t stand in most seats), but look at the three main Unionist parties: The Lib Dems and Labour consistently got more first votes than second votes, even in regions where they didn’t have any hope of winning a seat directly. The Tories, on the other hand, got more list votes than constituency votes (except for in the South Scotland region), although they probably had a better hope of winning a few seats.
This was very lucky for the SNP and the Greens, but it does surprise me that Labour and the Lib Dems fail to understand a system they put in place themselves.