Things are not great for the Labour Party in Scotland. They lost all but one of their 41 Scottish seats and suffered record swings against them. The SNP polled 49.97% of the vote and won all but 3 of the 59 Scottish seats. Labour polled 24.3% and won one seat. One solitary seat. Edinburgh South.I happen to live in it.
Only a few thousand votes stood between the SNP and a complete whitewash, or rather a yellow and black wash. Labour look to be on the verge of utter electoral annihilation in Scotland.
So comprehensive was the SNP win in the 2015 General Election that, had the SNP stood in all the seats in the UK and acheived the same results as they did in Scotland the seat allocation would be:
Its customery at this point when discussing Scottish politics to insert a joke about pandas. Or Trident. Or taxis. Or all three, one for each non-SNP MP. Let's not. Let's instead look ahead to the Labour Party winning 30 seats in the Scottish General Election in May 2016 on exactly the same share of the vote. That's right, on the same share of the vote that netted them 1.79% of Westminister seats Labour will win 23.3% of the Holyrood seats.
The first opinion poll on Holyrood voting intention has constituency vote shares as
The regional list voting intention figures are
and this means the 129 Holyrood seats are won
How on earth is it that Labour aren't facing exactly the same sort of drubbing next year that they just got?
That would be Proportional Representation. In Scotland we use the Additional Member System for elections to Holyrood. We use the Single Transferable Vote for local Council elections but it's AMS we want to concentrate on now. Every voter in Scotland gets two votes. One to use in their constituency. One to use in their region. There are 73 single member constitutencies in Scotland. They use First Past the Post to electe one Member of the Scottish Parliament. An additional 56 MSP's are elected from 8 regional lists based on the proportion of regional votes cast for parties. These are used to top up constituency seats won so that the overall result is roughly proportional to the number of votes cast for parties.
Lothian, where I live, has 9 single member constituencies and 7 regional top up list MSPs for a total of 16 MSP. 8 of the constituency MSP's are from the SNP. There are 3 Labour List MSP's, 2 Tories, 1 Green and 1 (late and lamented Independent). The SNP won 39% of the Regional "second" vote, but because they had already won 8 or 50% of the seats in the region through the constituency vote they go no List seats. Labour, with 25% of the List vote and only 1 constituency MSP got topped up with 3 List seats for a total of 4 seats or 25%
So, despite being a minor party Labour can look forward to winning some seats and continuing to have a voice in Scottish politics - a much needed voice if you are left leaning and in favour of the Union - along side other minor Scottish parties like the Tories or the Greens. Proportional Representation helps smaller parties get enough representation to get a fair chance to have their message heard. If their message resonates with the electorate, like the SNP's seems to, they can go on to become a major party, a party of government. If not, they still get a chance to contribute a different voice to public debate, like the Greens or the Labour Party. When we used to elect our all our representatives using First Past the Post we had a one party state in Scotland,
Labour pretty much everywhere. Using PR, although the SNP are hugely popular we still have an opposition and a democracy.
Guest Blogger: Unlock Democracy Council Member Danny Zinkus