All posts by thomas


The SNP is now either the winner or the runner-up in all Holyrood constituencies. (Is that not the first time any party has achieved that, by the way?)

I thought it would be useful to list the size of all the majorities here for future reference, ordered by the size of the majority. A negative number means the SNP didn’t win the seat. The party in the last column is the SNP’s main opponent in this seat.

Majority Constituency Opponent
11630 Aberdeen Donside (North East Scotland) CON
11280 Falkirk West (Central Scotland) LAB
11194 Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley (South Scotland) LAB
10979 East Kilbride (Central Scotland) LAB
10898 Dundee City East (North East Scotland) LAB
10857 Inverness and Nairn (Highlands and Islands) CON
9593 Glasgow Southside (Glasgow) LAB
9478 Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Central Scotland) LAB
9390 Glasgow Cathcart (Glasgow) LAB
9335 Linlithgow (Lothian) LAB
9043 Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch (Highlands and Islands) LD
8828 Dundee City West (North East Scotland) LAB
8724 Cunninghame North (West Scotland) CON
8432 Clydebank and Milngavie (West Scotland) LAB
8393 Almond Valley (Lothian) LAB
8312 Falkirk East (Central Scotland) LAB
8276 Mid Fife and Glenrothes (Mid Scotland and Fife) LAB
8230 Greenock and Inverclyde (West Scotland) LAB
8100 Strathkelvin and Bearsden (West Scotland) CON
7395 Kirkcaldy (Mid Scotland and Fife) LAB
7373 Renfrewshire North and West (West Scotland) CON
7323 Glasgow Shettleston (Glasgow) LAB
7035 Midlothian North and Musselburgh (Lothian) LAB
6746 Edinburgh Northern and Leith (Lothian) LAB
6721 Clackmannanshire and Dunblane (Mid Scotland and Fife) LAB
6718 Stirling (Mid Scotland and Fife) CON
6583 Banffshire and Buchan Coast (North East Scotland) CON
6482 Glasgow Pollok (Glasgow) LAB
6223 Motherwell and Wishaw (Central Scotland) LAB
6192 Airdrie and Shotts (Central Scotland) LAB
6153 Glasgow Anniesland (Glasgow) LAB
6006 Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (South Scotland) LAB
5979 Clydesdale (South Scotland) CON
5978 Argyll and Bute (Highlands and Islands) LD
5868 Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale (South Scotland) CON
5837 Aberdeenshire East (North East Scotland) CON
5693 Cunninghame South (West Scotland) LAB
5602 Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn (Glasgow) LAB
5437 Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse (Central Scotland) LAB
5199 Paisley (West Scotland) LAB
5087 Edinburgh Eastern (Lothian) LAB
4809 Uddingston and Bellshill (Central Scotland) LAB
4783 Glasgow Provan (Glasgow) LAB
4558 Dunfermline (Mid Scotland and Fife) LAB
4408 Renfrewshire South (West Scotland) LAB
4349 Aberdeen Central (North East Scotland) LAB
4304 Angus South (North East Scotland) CON
4048 Glasgow Kelvin (Glasgow) GRN
3913 Caithness, Sutherland and Ross (Highlands and Islands) LD
3779 Coatbridge and Chryston (Central Scotland) LAB
3743 Rutherglen (Glasgow) LAB
3496 Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Highlands and Islands) LAB
3336 Perthshire North (Mid Scotland and Fife) CON
3041 Cowdenbeath (Mid Scotland and Fife) LAB
2875 Moray (Highlands and Islands) CON
2755 Aberdeen South and North Kincardine (North East Scotland) CON
2472 Angus North and Mearns (North East Scotland) CON
2456 Edinburgh Pentlands (Lothian) CON
1422 Perthshire South and Kinross-shire (Mid Scotland and Fife) CON
-109 Dumbarton (West Scotland) LAB
-610 Edinburgh Central (Lothian) CON
-750 Ayr (South Scotland) CON
-900 Aberdeenshire West (North East Scotland) CON
-1123 Edinburgh Southern (Lothian) LAB
-1127 East Lothian (South Scotland) LAB
-1230 Dumfriesshire (South Scotland) CON
-1514 Galloway and West Dumfries (South Scotland) CON
-1611 Eastwood (West Scotland) CON
-2960 Edinburgh Western (Lothian) LD
-3465 North East Fife (Mid Scotland and Fife) LD
-4534 Orkney Islands (Highlands and Islands) LD
-4895 Shetland Islands (Highlands and Islands) LD
-7736 Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire (South Scotland) CON

PS: In order to do this I had to create a CSV file containing all the constituency results. You can download it here if you’re interested.

What should the SNP have done to win a majority?

I’ve already argued in another blog post that it really wasn’t the Greens’ fault that the SNP didn’t get a majority — they won exactly as many seats as the SNP would have if they had got all their votes on top of their own, so a vote for them got weren’t wasted (but at the same time there wasn’t any tactical voting benefit to voting Green, either).

I’ve also pointed out that just like in the indyref, Glasgow performed better than expected, and Edinburgh and the North East underperformed.

I therefore thought it would be useful to look at all the regions again to see what the SNP could have done better. (I’m commenting in places also on the Greens’ performance, but the focus here is on the SNP.)

  • Glasgow added two SNP seats (going from 7 to 9 out of 16), so it really wasn’t Glasgow’s fault that the SNP didn’t win a majority in Holyrood. Yes, it would have been nice to win an additional list seat here, but even if the SNP had managed to convince all the Green list voters to vote SNP instead, the seat gained would have cost Patrick Harvie his seat, so it wouldn’t have benefited the Yes movement as a whole. It’s hard to see how the SNP can do better than this in the future here, but the Greens should be able to pick up at least one more seat.
  • Central Scotland did OK. The SNP again won all the constituency seats — 9 out of 16 seats (the same as five years ago). Neither the SNP nor the Greens won any list seats here. Again, it’s hard to see how the SNP can improve a lot on this result in the future, but again, perhaps the Greens are in a better position to win a list seat here.
  • The West Scotland region achieved a decent result (flat on 8 out of 17). (It was decent in numerical terms, but the brilliant Stewart Maxwell failed to gain a seat — he’ll be sorely missed in the new parliament). However, this really wasn’t good enough. Winning a list seat here was always going to be tough, but winning only 8 out of 10 constituencies was careless, and the SNP should perhaps have bussed in supporters from other constituencies to the vulnerable ones (Dumbarton and Eastwood).
  • Mid Scotland and Fife saw the loss of one SNP seat (from 9 to 8 out of 16), which fortunately was picked up by the Greens. (If all the Green voters had voted SNP on the list, this seat would have gone to Labour, not to the SNP.) The SNP should have bussed in supporters to prevent Willie Rennie from winning North East Fife.
  • In the South Scotland region, the SNP went from 8 to 7 seats (out of 17), and differently from other regions, the list vote was very important here: The SNP won only 4 constituencies and got a top-up of 3 list seats. Targeting constituencies here would have been a waste of time, but the SNP should have run a stronger operation to pursue the list vote here.
  • The Highlands and Islands saw the loss of two SNP seats (from 9 to 7 out of 15). One of these was picked up by the Greens, but the SNP only needed about 10,000 more list votes to win it. The huge majority achieved by the Liberal Democrats in Orkney and Shetland means it probably would have been a waste of energy to try and win the constituency seats, and the SNP should instead have pursued a list vote strategy in this region.
  • In the North East region, the SNP had a bad election, going from 11 to 9 seats (out of 17). To be fair, 9/17 is still more than half, but this region is clearly no longer a bastion of SNP support. Perhaps it’s simply not realistic any longer to hope to win a list seat on top of all the constituencies, but how was Aberdeenshire West allowed to fall to the Tories?
  • In Lothian, the SNP lost two seats, going from 8 to 6 out of 16. They almost added a list seat, which would have lessened the damage, but a safer strategy would perhaps have been to defend the constituency seats more strongly. It was great that the SNP managed to win Edinburgh Northern & Leith, but why did the Tories win Edinburgh Central, Labour Edinburgh Southern, and the Lib Dems Edinburgh Western?

To conclude, the SNP should have run two different campaigns. In the Central Belt and in the North East, they should have ignored the list vote and instead thrown their heart and soul into the swing seats, such as Dumbarton, Eastwood, North East Fife and the Edinburgh seats, bussing in supporters from other areas.

In South Scotland and Highlands & Islands, on the other hand, the SNP should have focused wholeheartedly on the list vote and left the constituency campaigns to their own devices.

In an ideal world, the SNP would perhaps even have made a gentleman’s agreement with the Greens that they wouldn’t campaign in South Scotland and Highland & Islands in return for getting a free run elsewhere.

#BothVotesSNP wasn’t really a strategy, because it made it unclear what the supporters needed to focus on (and focusing on everything at once isn’t focusing).

I’d prefer Holyrood to change the voting system before 2016, but if they keep the Additional Member System, I think the SNP would do well to come up with a more focused regional strategy.

A regional view

The colour of each council area shows the difference between the actual indyref result and an old prediction of mine, based on an earlier election. Red means it did less well, and blue means it did better.
The colour of each council area shows the difference between the actual indyref result and an old prediction of mine, based on an earlier election. Red means it did less well, and blue means it did better.
It’s quite interesting to look at yesterday’s election from a regional point of view.

In Glasgow, the SNP added two seats (and the Greens kept their single seat), and in West Scotland, the SNP were flat while the Greens added a seat. On the other hand, Central Scotland was static, and in Mid Scotland and Fife one seat moved from the SNP to the Greens. Everywhere else the Yes parties lost ground: In both Lothian and the Highland & Islands, the SNP lost two seats while the Greens gained one; in South Scotland the SNP lost a seat, and in North East Scotland the SNP lost two seats.

I’ve added the change in seats for the two Yes parties together and have superimposed them on an old map of mine, which illustrates how the indyref results compared with my predictions. We all know now that Glasgow and some neighbouring areas voted Yes in much greater numbers than anybody had predicted two years earlier, while Edinburgh and most areas outwith the Central Belt voted No in greater numbers than expected.

It’s looking like this pattern is repeating itself. Two SNP seats moved from Aberdeenshire to Glasgow yesterday, for instance.

Another way to look at it is that party politics is still adjusting itself to the indyref result.

What will this mean for the next independence referendum? Will it make it even harder to obtain a Yes vote outwith Glasgow? Or will it be easier because we won’t focus on preaching to the converted? We’ll need to think very carefully about these questions over the next couple of years.

Various thoughts

Here are a few assorted thoughts about yesterday’s election. Please refer also to my d’Hondt tables.


In spite of the media trying to talk up UKIP, they were nowhere to be seen. They didn’t get close to winning a list seat in any of the regions. They clearly shouldn’t be included in any TV debates in Scotland in the future.

The Lib Dems have become Tory substitutes

The Lib Dems didn’t do well at all in general (their list support was flat), but they still managed to win three seats with big majorities, and in these seats there was no swing to the Conservatives. It looks like they’ve become substitutes for the Tories in specific places.


If the SNP had won a majority yesterday, it’s quite clear that they would have been entitled to call a new indyref if the UK votes in favour of Brexit next month. However, the Green position is different, so it makes it much harder to act quickly if this happens. It’s not ideal if Scotland has to leave the EU together with the rUK in 2018, only to rejoin in 2022 — it would have been much better to take over the UK’s membership. How can a quick indyref2 now be arranged if events happen? The SNP must sit down with the Greens and discuss this.

What if the SNP had ignored the constituencies?

If the SNP hadn’t put up constituency candidates and instead had relied solely on the list vote, they would have lost one seat to Labour — otherwise the result would have been the same. The difference is due to Mid Scotland and Fife, where the SNP won one seat more than they were due based on the list vote, and this cost Thomas Docherty the list seat that he would otherwise have won.

What if the SNP had ignored the lists?

The SNP got three list seats in South Scotland, and one in the Highlands and Islands. In all other seats the list vote was completely wasted.

What if all Greens had voted SNP?

If the Green party had disbanded before the election and all their voters had cast their list vote for the SNP instead, the SNP would have gained the six seats that the Greens won in reality. Neither more nor less. In other words, the Yes parties would still have won 69 seats in total. Strangely, however, it would have moved one seat from the Tories in South Scotland to Labour in Mid Scotland and Fife.

What if all SNP voters had voted Green on the list?

If the SNP had formed some sort of Yes alliance with the Greens and told all their supporters to vote Green on the list, it would have cost them the four seats mentioned above. However, it would have had huge consequences for the other parties: Greens 37 (+31), Tories 16 (–15), Labour 13 (–11), Lib Dems 4 (–1).

Was it an error to pursue both votes?

If the SNP would have obtained almost the same result by ignoring either the first or the second vote, I can help wondering whether the #bothvotesSNP strategy was an error.

Would it have produced better results to have focused wholehearted on one of the two votes? For instance: “If you’re in favour of independence, please give your constituency vote to the SNP. Feel free to vote Green or RISE on the list, but we need your first vote!” Or: “Please vote SNP on the list. Use your constituency vote to elect the best local candidate, but if you want Nicola to be lead the Scottish Government, you must vote SNP on the list!”

The only problem I can see with this is that the optimal strategy varies from region to region. Ideally, the SNP should have pursued list votes in South Scotland and in the Highlands and Islands, and constituency votes elsewhere.

The voting system must be replaced

I’ve said it before, but I really don’t like the Additional Member System used in Holyrood elections. It’s very clear that many people get confused by the system, and this leads to a lot of unnecessary infighting. Holyrood will be in charge of its own voting system soon, and I believe it must be changed as a matter of priority!

Digesting the results

I’m still trying to digest the results from yesterday’s Holyrood election. In order to try and understand what happened, I’ve created tables showing how the seats were distributed in each region.

The way to read them is as follows: First the constituency seats are ticked off (marked as “(Const)”), and then the list seats are distributed, starting with the one marked with “(1)”, continuing to “(2)”, and so on. The number before the brackets shows the number of list votes divided by the number of the row (that’s the way d’Hondt works). I’ve also shown who would hypothetically have received three additional list seats, marked with numbers in italics in square brackets.

Finally I’ve calculated how many more votes the SNP and the Greens would have needed in order to take the last list seat in each region.

I might blog some of my thoughts later, but I reckoned these figures might be useful to other people, even without any further analysis, so here they are.

Central Scotland

SNP Cons Labour Green LD UKIP
(Const) 43602 (2) 67103 (1) 12722 [10] 5015 6088
(Const) 21801 (5) 33551 (3) 6361
(Const) 14534 (7) 22367 (4)
(Const) 10900 16775 (6)
(Const) 13420 [8]
(Const) 11183
12908 [9]

To win the last list seat, you needed a figure of 14535. This means that the SNP needed 145350 instead of 129082 list votes, and that the Greens needed 14535 instead of 12722 list votes.


SNP Cons Labour Green LD UKIP
(Const) 29533 (3) 59151 (1) 23398 (4) 5850 4889
(Const) 14766 (7) 29575 (2) 11699 [9]
(Const) 9844 19717 (5) 7799
(Const) 14787 (6)
(Const) 11830 [8]
(Const) 9858
11110 [10]

To win the last list seat, you needed a figure of 14767. This means that the SNP needed 147670 instead of 111101 list votes, and that the Greens needed 29534 instead of 23398 list votes.

Highlands and Islands

SNP Cons Labour Green LD UKIP
(Const) 44693 (1) 22894 (2) 14781 (5) (Const) 5344
(Const) 22346 (3) 11447 (7) 7390 (Const)
(Const) 14897 (4) 7631 9074 [10]
(Const) 11173 [8] 6805
(Const) 8938
11657 (6)
10200 [9]

To win the last list seat, you needed a figure of 11448. This means that the SNP needed 91584 instead of 81600 list votes, and that the Greens needed 22896 instead of 14781 list votes.


SNP Cons Labour Green LD UKIP
(Const) (Const) (Const) 34551 (2) (Const) 5802
(Const) 37486 (1) 33995 (3) 17275 (7) 9239
(Const) 24990 (4) 22663 (5) 11517
(Const) 18743 (6) 16997 [8]
(Const) 14994 [10] 13598
(Const) 12495
16935 [9]

To win the last list seat, you needed a figure of 17276. This means that the SNP needed 120932 instead of 118546 list votes.

Mid Scotland and Fife

SNP Cons Labour Green LD UKIP
(Const) 73293 (1) 51373 (2) 17860 (7) (Const) 5345
(Const) 36646 (3) 25686 (4) 8930 10200
(Const) 24431 (5) 17124 [8]
(Const) 18323 (6) 12843
(Const) 14658 [9]
(Const) 12215
13347 [10]

To win the last list seat, you needed a figure of 17861. This means that the SNP needed 160749 instead of 120128 list votes, and that the Greens needed 35722 instead of 17860 list votes.

North East Scotland

SNP Cons Labour Green LD UKIP
(Const) (Const) 38791 (2) 15123 [8] 18444 (6) 6376
(Const) 42924 (1) 19395 (5) 7561 9222
(Const) 28616 (3) 12930
(Const) 21462 (4)
(Const) 17169 (7)
(Const) 14308 [9]
(Const) 12264
13708 [10]

To win the last list seat, you needed a figure of 17170. This means that the SNP needed 171700 instead of 137086 list votes, and that the Greens needed 17170 instead of 15123 list votes.

South Scotland

SNP Cons Labour Green LD UKIP
(Const) (Const) (Const) 14773 [9] 11775 6726
(Const) (Const) 28036 (1) 7386
(Const) (Const) 18690 (5)
(Const) (Const) 14018
24043 (2) 20150 (3)
20036 (4) 16792 (7)
17173 (6) 14393 [10]
15027 [8] 12594

To win the last list seat, you needed a figure of 16793. This means that the SNP needed 134344 instead of 120217 list votes, and that the Greens needed 16793 instead of 14773 list votes.

West Scotland

SNP Cons Labour Green LD UKIP
(Const) (Const) (Const) 17218 (7) 12097 5856
(Const) 35764 (2) 36272 (1) 8609
(Const) 23842 (4) 24181 (3)
(Const) 17882 (6) 18136 (5)
(Const) 14305 [10] 14508 [9]
(Const) 11921 12090
15091 [8]

To win the last list seat, you needed a figure of 17219. This means that the SNP needed 154971 instead of 135827 list votes.

#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.