Arc of Prosperity

Scottish Independence within the EU – with a Scandinavian Slant


What should the SNP have done to win a majority?

blame photoI’ve already argued in another blog post that it really wasn’t the Greens’ fault that the SNP didn’t get a majority — the two parties’ combined number of seats would have remained constant if all the votes for the Greens had been allocated to the SNP instead, so a vote for them wasn’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 splitting the regions between them, so that the SNP would campaign for list votes only in South Scotland and Highland & Islands, giving the Greens 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.

9 thoughts on “What should the SNP have done to win a majority?

  • David McDonald

    If there hadn’t been a Green candidate in Edinburgh (constituency) then it’s likely that it would have gone SNP. Davidson only won by six hundred votes, whilst the Green candidate polled over 4000. Whilst not all Green votes go to the SNP constituency candidate in the absence of a Green candidate, it only required one in five Greens to vote SNP to win the seat. No mystery there.

    I personally don’t think we should be too distracted by this. We have a pro-independence majority. The system
    Is designed not to produce majorities, so we shouldn’t be too upset when it does what it’s meant to.

    • If therenhadng been a green candidate in Edinburgh Central Andy Wightman of the Greens wouldnt have been elected so fr8m the Greens perspective that was a great move. One less snp member giving the greens more leverave on the snp, more msps than the libdems AND a well respected land reform campaigner in their group. Well played.

      You cant blame snp not getting enoigh votes for even MORE unfair over representation on other parties. Thats down to us.

      The disgraceful failure of the community charge reform followed by the embarrassing rubber stamp at conference. Failure to keep the rural vote due some claim to Richard Lochhead’s department. Passing legislation for thhe named person act rather than just imposing it quietly and administratively. And a host of other decisions which a hostile press and bbc gained leverage on. we need to do better.

      • David McDonald

        That doesn’t make any sense at all. The Green candidate in Edinburgh Central didn’t get elected and therefore had no impact on Wightman’s chances of election.

        • David – the joy of lists on a software developer’s political blog 😀

          Lothian constituencies finished 6 SNP, 1 Con, 1 Lab, 1 LD
          and list, in order, Con, Green, Lab, Con, Lab, Con, Green

          If Alison Johnstone (Green) hadn’t stood in Edinburgh Central, Ruth Davidson (Con) wouldn’t have won the seat. Instead Alison Dickie (SNP) would have won it. The Lothian constituencies would then have finished 7 SNP, 1 Lab, 1 LD and list result in order would have been Con, Con, Green, Lab, Con, Lab, Con.

          i.e. Alison Dickie (SNP) would have been elected instead of Andy Wightman (Green). Well played Greens.

          • To be fair . TankBull Girl played it very smart and chose to stand in the same constituency as the green candidate full in the knowledge that the Green/ SNP split would give her a chance…

            I have no problem with the greens standing candidates…the fact that TankBull Girl got in was not the “fault” of the greens…

            the reason that the SNP lost some of the constituencies was the clear swing and consolidation of the vote behind the unionist candidate closest to the SNP in low majority constituencies….

            by some amazing coincidence supprters abandoned the Lib Dems and Labour to crystallise around the Tory candidate in some constituencies but mamanged to abandon the Tories and Labour to crystalise around the Lib Dem candidate in others….the same is true fr the Labour wins….

            this cannot be by accident

            • David McDonald

              All true. I’m calmed down now. A minority with Green support is not a bad result for the country. There was certainly some smart tactical voting by Unionists in a few places.

  • We (SNP) got 44% of the vote and 48% of the seats. The greens got 3.6% of the vote and 4.6% of the seats. A small over representation, but a significant one which takes the Yes parties over 50% of the vote. Suggesting organized cheating of the system with list manipulation is frankly, vile, and hopefully the Electoral Commission would use the full extent of their powers to stop it.
    The way to FIX this is to win the argument and get more votes. The Tories being the main opposition in Holyrood, declaring themselves the sole defenders of the Union, the party of the right and being forced to defend the UK Conservative government, gives is a huge advantage in attracting a significant share of the Scottish Labour votes without having to cheat.

  • Many Fishermen and Farmers and their families felt they couldn’t vote for SNP given the treatment they had received throughout 2015 and 2016. First there was the discard ban for fishing then Fishermen around the country looked on at the disgraceful implementation of the MPA roll out in the West of Scotland, Fishermen weren’t against MPAs and cooperated in a 4yr long consultation only to have their views and the views of SNH ignored and vast sustainable fishing grounds closed to certain sustainable fishing sectors on the whim of single issue lobby group protests. The result has been a loss of trust from Fishermen in the SNP, many of whom had voted for the party for decades. It’s a sad situation and was avoidable, Fishermen tried to work with the Fisheries Minister, they were ignored largely. Now communities are facing tough economic times and ironically the measures the Minister pushed for are likely to cause marine environment damage due to static over fishing, they were warned about this, it was ignored. Fishermen and Farmers have communities, families and friends who may well have voted with their hearts, and sadly against the party they used to support but which stopped supporting them.

  • It should also be remembered that, shared goals on independence aside, the SNP are out for the SNP, and the Greens are out for the Greens. And, crucially, there are several areas which had SNP representatives in Holyrood which now do not, because they don’t have list seats.

    In 2011, every region had at least one SNP MSP. This time, most of them – Glasgow, Central, Mid Scotland and Fife, West, Lothian, and North East – have none. Now, this isn’t a problem for Glasgow and Central, as they won all their constituencies. But because Mid Scotland and Fife, West, Lothian, and North East don’t have list MSPs, that means every constituency they did not win – Dumbarton, Eastwood, Edinburgh South, Edinburgh Central, Edinbugh West, North East Fife, and Aberdeenshire West – do not have any SNP representation at Holyrood at all.

    That is why it’s so tricky to get the balance right with constituency & list: aiming for every constituency means only a high list vote will save any losses, while concentrating on only a few constituencies ensures that those without constituency MSPs have at least some representation.


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