Wednesday 4 May 2016

How a "list" vote for the Scottish Greens carries more weight

During the 2015 General Election campaign Scotland was awash with infographics advising the Scottish electorate to vote SNP in 2015, and SNP/Green/SSP in 2016. Unsurprisingly after their landslide triumph at the General Election this message of pro-independence solidarity has morphed into a "both votes for the SNP" campaign in 2016, with staggering levels of vitriol being spat by a vocal minority of SNP supporters at anyone who suggests that "list" votes might actually be better used in support of other pro-independence parties such as the Scottish Greens.

It is beyond doubt that the SNP are going to win a majority in the Scottish parliament, the only question is how big their majority is going to be. The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is the most popular living person in Scotland, and the SNP administration in Holyrood has been the most trusted government in the whole of Europe. The majority of polls predict that the SNP will win almost every constituency seat in Scotland, leaving the other parties to scrabble around for the regional "list" seats that top up the Scottish parliament to make it a a much more proportionally balanced chamber than the staggeringly unrepresentative House of Commons.

"List" seats

The way the proportional "list" seats are calculated means that if the SNP win the huge majority of constituency seats they are predicted to, they are going to lose an awful lot of their "list" seats. The largely pro-SNP Wings Over Scotland site predicts that as a result of the SNP looking set to win so many constituency seats they will likely lose some 11 of their 16 list seats. The SNP will still have enough MSPs to form a majority government, but significantly more of their MSPs will have constituency seats and fewer will be list MSPs.

The Wings Over Scotland analysis shows that in most of the Scottish regions the SNP will win zero "list" seats despite taking vast numbers of "list" votes. This happens because the number of list votes is divided by the number of seats already won plus one, so in a region like Mid Scotland and Fife where the SNP look likely to win all nine constituency MSPs, their list vote will be divided by 10. This means that a list vote for any other party would carry ten times as much weight as a list vote for the SNP.

The Wings Over Scotland analysis shows that the vast majority of constituency seats will go to the SNP, while the "list" seats look set to be split between Labour, the Tories and the Scottish Greens.

Constituency seats

SNP 69 (+16)
Lib-Dem 2 (=)
Conservative 2 (-1)
Labour 0 (-15)
Green 0

"List" seats

Labour 24 (+2) 

Conservative 17 (+5) 
Green 9 (+7) 
SNP 5 (-11) 
Lib-Dem 1 (-2) 
Independent 0 (-1)

It is of course impossible to predict with any certainty whether such a huge SNP landslide victory in the constituency seats will happen, or whether Labour, the Lib-Dems and the Tories will unexpectedly scrape a few extra constituency seats. However what is certain is that "list" votes for the Green Party are far more likely to return additional pro-independence MSPs than "list" votes for the SNP.

A Pro-Independence parliament

Given that it is inevitable that the SNP are going to lose a lot of their list seats as a result of winning even more handsomely in the constituency seats, it makes sense for pro-Independence voters to lend their "list" vote to the Scottish Greens in order to prevent as many "list" seats as possible from being soaked up by the anti-Independence parties.

It's beyond doubt that the SNP will form the next Scottish government, but the balance of pro-independence and anti-independence MSPs is still at play. An SNP majority plus ten Green MSPs would have a much stronger pro-independence platform than an SNP majority plus two Green MSPs.

Limited opposition

Whatever happens in the Scottish elections, opposition to the SNP is going to be limited and divided.

Scottish Labour are in an absolute mess, and look likely to lose all, or almost all of their constituency MSPs. They really should have learned that cosying up to the Tory party during the independence referendum was a catastrophic mistake, and that the Scottish electorate are completely sick of centre-right Blairism, however somehow they saw fit to elect Kezia Dugdale as their leader, making a Labour resurgence in Scotland look about as likely as Irn Bru suddenly becoming the national drink of England.

The Lib-Dems used to do pretty well in Scotland, but they've screwed themselves even worse than Labour with their double dose of collusion with the Tories. Not only did the Lib-Dems cosy up to the Tories in the Independence debate, they also spent five years propping up David Cameron's malicious Westminster regime. If the Lib-Dems somehow manage to hang onto the five Scottish parliament seats they have it'll be a massive triumph for them.

One of the most shocking aspects of the collapse in support for Labour and the Lib-Dems due to their dalliance with the Tories is that the Tories look set to be one of the two main beneficiaries in the Scottish parliament elections, picking up a few extra list seats as a result of the D'Hondt proportional election method.

The only other party with realistic ambitions of taking more than a single seat in the Scottish election are the Scottish Greens. Anyone who would like to see a pro-independence opposition party pulling the SNP towards the left should seriously consider giving their "list" vote to the Scottish Greens. It's unlikely that they will win enough seats to overtake Labour and the Tories to become the official opposition, but just a few tens of thousands of votes extra could help them win four or five times as many MSPs as they currently have.


I'm not in the habit of telling people how to vote, so I'm certainly not going to insist that voting Green with your "list" vote is a better idea than voting SNP or even giving Labour the benefit of the doubt because things look different under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. However, barring a spectacularly improbable collapse in 1st vote support for the SNP, it is unquestionable that the majority of "list" seats looks set to be carved up between Labour, the Tories and the Scottish Greens, so a "list" vote for one of those parties is certain to carry much more weight than a "list" vote for the SNP because of the way "list" votes are divided according to the D'Hondt method. To argue against that is to argue against maths.

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