More pandas than Unionist MPs

panda
panda by Camilla Hoel, on Flickr.
The Unionist MPs from Scotland (such as Jim Murphy, Gordon Brows and Alistair Carmichael) dominated Better Together strongly because they were the only people with a strong personal interest in the status quo. The majority of MSPs and councillors didn’t care all that much, and neither did most rUK MPs.

It’s therefore really important that we get rid of as many Scottish Unionist MPs as possible at the next Westminster election in May, because this will weaken as future No campaign a lot. However, how realistic is it?

To find out, I looked at the votes cast for Unionist parties in 2010 and compared it with the Yes vote in the referendum. Unfortunately, at the moment referendum data is not available on a constituency basis, so I had to group some constituencies and council areas together to achieve comparable areas. In the table below, the first three data columns show first the votes cast for pro-independence parties in 2010, then the votes cast for Unionist parties, and finally the votes cast the the largest Unionist party (given that this is a FPTP election); the next two columns provide the referendum results, and the last column lists the difference between the votes cast for the largest No party in 2010 and the Yes vote in 2014:

2010 Election Independence Referendum
Area Yes parties No parties Largest No party Yes No Diff.
Glasgow 41977 177703 128818 194779 169347 65961
Aberdeen / Aberdeenshire 47268 160549 79246 130727 192700 51481
Angus / Dundee 41086 72042 43261 88664 85072 45403
Edinburgh 30797 188849 86426 123927 194638 37501
East Ayrshire / North Ayrshire / South Ayrshire 40687 140919 88902 121236 140705 32334
East Dunbartonshire / North Lanarkshire 37407 166140 114587 146407 159236 31820
Falkirk / West Lothian 40869 106188 72056 103831 123712 31775
Highland 19582 86449 49414 78069 87739 28655
Clackmannanshire / Perth and Kinross 33062 63843 33870 57825 81750 23955
Dumfries and Galloway / Scottish Borders / South Lanarkshire 44943 240783 141702 165510 247392 23808
Fife 26235 145823 95208 114148 139788 18940
Moray 16273 23646 10683 27232 36935 16549
Argyll and Bute 8563 35427 14292 26324 37143 12032
Renfrewshire 15561 66224 47455 55466 62067 8011
Midlothian 8100 29821 18449 26370 33972 7921
West Dunbartonshire 8497 32581 25905 33720 28776 7815
Inverclyde 6577 30502 20993 27243 27329 6250
East Lothian 7883 39868 21919 27467 44283 5548
Stirling 8091 37609 19558 25010 37153 5452
Na h-Eileanan an Iar 8135 6582 4838 9195 10544 4357
Orkney Islands / Shetland Islands 2042 16082 11989 10552 19955 -1437
East Renfrewshire 4535 46274 25987 24287 41690 -1700

As an example of how to read the table, the constituency of Argyll and Bute in 2010 saw 8563 votes cast for Yes parties and 35427 votes for No parties; however, the latter were divided between three parties, and the winning party (the LibDems) only got 14292 votes, which is 12032 votes less than the 26324 votes cast in favour of independence last Thursday.

(I should point out that SNP constituencies haven’t been eliminated — for instance, Na h-Eileanan an Iar currently have an excellent SNP MP.)

It’s clear that almost everywhere, more votes were cast for Yes than for the largest No party. The two exceptions are Orkney and Shetland, where there is a very strong Liberal tradition, and East Renfrewshire, which was a Tory stronghold until recently and so Labour benefits from a lot of tactical voting to keep out the Tories.

In other words, in most of the country it should be possible to unseat the sitting Unionist MP if we can mobilise all Yes voters from the referendum. I do have my doubts about Orkney and Shetland, but I guess it would be quite useful to keep one Unionist MP so that we don’t have to stop telling panda jokes.

Of course, this analysis is rather crude because I didn’t have access to the referendum data on a Westminster constituency basis. If I manage to find this, I’ll publish a new version of this blog post.

9 thoughts on “More pandas than Unionist MPs

  • 22/09/2014 at 14:11
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    Interesting analysis. Will it happen? I have my doubts about mobilising Yes voters, and then there’s the issue of No voters turning out to vote tactically as well. Conclusion: a couple more seats going to the SNP?

    Reply
    • 22/09/2014 at 15:36
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      I think you’re being overly pessimistic. Of course it’s unlikely we manage to unseat every Labour MP, especially the ones that are personally popular, but I think many people will have realised that Labour are now practically undistinguishable from the Tories, and what’s the point then in voting tactically in favour of the former to keep out the latter? The referendum campaign means there’s now a huge amount of anger towards Labour, especially in the Central Belt, and I would say it should be very realistic for the SNP to get more seats than Labour.

      Reply
      • 22/09/2014 at 16:48
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        Well, I’ve watched quite a few general elections where we expected/hoped for the SNP to make a breakthrough but always only got 1 or 2 more MPs. I’ll be delighted to see your scenario pan out. Bear in mind that if there is a ‘yes/no’ component to the GE, then no voters might also exert their influence on the results.

        Reply
        • 22/09/2014 at 17:03
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          I think the reason why the SNP has traditionally struggled in General Elections is because most voters at the end of the day wanted to keep the Tories out more than anything (which is why the Alternative Vote would have made a huge difference in Scotland).

          However, the number of seats where the Tories are either the incumbent or the main challenger is now relatively low, and more and more voters are starting to realise that Labour has become indistinguishable from the Tories.

          At the end of the day, it’s all about voter psychology — if most people in a given constituency think the SNP can win, then the SNP will win.

          Reply
          • 22/09/2014 at 23:03
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            One wrinkle to this “make GE about Yes/No” is that existing SNP MPs are actually in areas with big No votes!

            Reply
            • 22/09/2014 at 23:16
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              Very true, and that’s very fortunate — it would have been much harder if the SNP MPs had been in the big Yes areas!

              Reply

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