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!
4 thoughts on “Various thoughts”
“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.”
If only about 20,000 more people voted SNP on the list in West Scotland, we’d have Stewart Maxwell on the list. Greenock & Inverclyde alone “lost” 7,000 SNP votes from 2015 to 2011. In order for the Greens to still get Ross Greer, they would’ve had to more than double their vote to knock the other Tory out. What was more likely in West Scotland, another 20,000 SNP, or another 17,000 Greens?
#bothvotesSNP wasn’t the problem – the low turnout was. I will admit the SNP’s responsibility on that front – it’s the party’s responsibility to gain votes, and success or failure ultimately lies with them. But the media narrative of the election being a “foregone conclusion” combined with the idea that an SNP list vote was “wasted” was just enough to manufacture apathy in enough of the SNP support.
That’s the key issue regarding the “wasted” SNP votes: we know from 2015 that there are *hundreds of thousands* of people who voted SNP that just didn’t vote in this election. The Greens, on the other hand, had to get tens of thousands of new voters.
Whatever the reasons, the only reason the SNP and the Greens didn’t get more seats is simple – they didn’t get enough votes. The SNP failed to harness their existing voters, and the Greens failed to increase their vote substantially enough. The only “wasted” votes here are the votes that were never cast.
Yes, you’re right that I ignored the turnout above. For some strange reason turnout is always low in Scottish Parliament elections, but it actually was up by more than five percentage points (from 50.4% to 55.6%). I agree this is still ridiculously low, and I’d love to find a way to increase it.
I do wonder whether the fights between the SNP and the Greens with regard to the second vote actually made many non-partisan Yes voters stay at home. I’m sure many of them would have preferred us to focus on fighting the Unionists, rather than each other.
I agree that getting 20k more list votes sounds manageable across the region, but I do wonder whether it would have been easier to to win another 110 constituency votes in Dumbarton or 1,611 constituency votes in Eastwood (or both). Should activists from other areas have helped out in these two seats instead of campaigning only at home?
I just ran the figures through my calculator. If the SNP and the Greens’ list support had increased by 10%, the result wouldn’t have changed at all. An increase of 20% would have given the SNP 68 seats and the Greens 7, but 20% is a big difference (especially without increasing support for the Unionists at the same time).
I haven’t got all the constituency results in a spreadsheet yet, so I can’t check how much SNP turnout would have needed to increase by in order to win more seats, but obviously the number of extra votes needed in Dumbarton was tiny.
I hate to bang on at the media (well, no, I don’t, but you know what I mean) but if the Scottish media treated the Scottish Elections with the same importance of the General Elections, maybe we’d have more people coming out?
I think the fighting regarding tactical votes may well have been a factor elsewher, but not West Scotland. I promoted Both Votes SNP as a positive campaign to maximise the SNP vote – unfortunately, we just didn’t get enough. I definitely didn’t want to engage in the “vote SNP/Green lets the Unionists in” rhetoric, which is lose-lose whichever way you look at it. In any case, I don’t think Green votes diluted SNP votes in West Scotland to a consequential degree: the vast majority, I think, were genuine Green votes. Fair play to them.
Of course we would’ve preferred Gail & Stewart won their constituencies, especially Gail given she was lower on the list – a constituency win was her one shot. 20,000 more voters across 10 West Scotland constituencies = 2,000, more than enough to win Dumbarton and just enough for Eastwood. But while I can’t speak for other constituencies, Greenock & Inverclyde didn’t have activists to spare: we had a core of perhaps a dozen dedicated activists, another dozen who deliver and leaflet. Even losing one of them could have cost hundreds of votes – we didn’t want to leave it to chance. Our real problem is why a branch of well over 1,000 members didn’t have dozens upon dozens of people out chapping doors & leafleting (but let’s say no more on that).
I can personally attest that the teams over in Eastwood and Dumbarton worked their socks off, too: they really deserved to win there.