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I analysed the Scottish Election results, because I'm fun


It has been two days since the Scottish Elections. Now that I've had time to let my anger of the Tory's success settle, recovered from staying up late to watch the results come through (yes, I am that much of a nerd), bury my head in the data available on the BBC website and read other people's thoughts, it's time for me to eloquently string my thoughts together in the form of the written word (sort of, I am writing this on a Saturday morning with CHRVCHES playing in the background to relieve the groggyness - and it might result in a mini-dance party from time-to-time). Originally I was just going to hit up Twitter or Facebook with some screenshots of data but my thoughts are certainly longer than 140 characters (and I hate linked-up Twitter essays) and while I could write an essay on Facebook, I know people don't particularly like them. So I decided it was time for an actual blog post. 

Anyway, time for the actual meaty (I'm still vegan, I promise) part of what might become an essay with diagrams (read: screenshots off the BBC website) and some analysis of what the heck actually happened. I'm mainly going to be running commentary on what allowed the Tories to do so well, the Greens performance, how the Additional Member System of voting actually works (because this still needs to be explained to a lot of people) and why - despite warnings - the #BothVotesSNP campaign backfired. 

So, the Tories did well...


The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party are now the main opposition party in Scotland - the best they've performed in any election in Scotland (both UK and Scottish) within my living memory (they used to hoover up the rural farmer vote extremely well back in the day). They won the constituencies in the South of Scotland, which was expected. What did shock was their wins in Edinburgh Central (where their leader Ruth Davidson was elected - she had previously been relying on the list vote for her seat) and Aberdeenshire West.

As somebody who grew up in Aberdeenshire (albeit the Aberdeenshire East constituency) I found it disheartening, but I'm not even entirely sure I'm surprised. Aberdeenshire has always been a Lib Dem/SNP area, and with the downfall of the Lib Dems it put the Tories who traditionally came third in a much better position to come first. The Aberdeenshire Council also has several Conservative councillors, and when you break it down by wards you can see a slight increase in Tory representatives in the west (East Aberdeenshire has a lot of Aligned Independents, but aligned to what I'm not sure and the two Democratic Independent and Green councillors are in the eastern wards). While it's also an obvious point: Aberdeenshire has a lot of farmers, landowners and wealth. While people on average incomes and those living below average also live in Aberdeenshire it's been known that wealthy people are more likely to always go out and vote than the working-class. (Across Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City the Tories came second in all wards aside from Aberdeen Central - the location of a lot of working-class and deprived areas). 

Edinburgh Central, I have less of an analysis to provide as I have never lived there. Something that has been noted by other bloggers and journalists was the candidacy of Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, and how she 'split' the vote. Looking at the numbers, if you were to assume (an important word) that all those who voted for Alison would have voted for the SNP candidate has she be absent from the ballot, then yes, Ruth wouldn't have been elected. Read: assume. 

On the whole, the Conservative and Unionist party (to give them their full name) has benefited from the shambles that has become both Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats, to stand up as the only credible pro-Union party in Scotland. Labour's 'move to the left' and election of an actual socialist as the head of the UK party has been blamed as the reason for Labour's failure, but really it's just that the Red Tories are now voting for actual Tories. So Tories win. 

And the Scottish Greens did well too.


The Green's now have six MSPs - up from two in the previous parliament. Obviously I am upset that some of my favourite candidates (such as Zara Kitson, Sarah Beattie-Smith and Maggie Chapman) didn't get through, but I'm overjoyed at the thought of having a stronger Green voice in Holyrood. I'm am however disheartened - despite the gender balanced lists - that five of these six MSPs are men. I'd like to think it's not true - and I really hope that it's not true - but I'm scared that - even in 2016 (#alltheparenthesis) - that voters are still more likely to vote for a male candidate and that's why the Greens did well in regions where a man was the first candidate on the list (and you know, less likely to take maternity leave #fatherscantakepaternityleaveandnotallwomenwantkids). 

There is one region that I do want to draw attention to and that is South Scotland. I'm going to pre-face this by saying that I truly believe that Sarah Beattie-Smith was an excellent candidate and would have made an unbelievably talented MSP. But I always knew this would be a tough one to pull off. The south of Scotland is home to a few Tory heartlands that voted Blue even at times when the Tories performed badly across the country, and was the one region where the SNP were going to have to rely on the list vote (and did gain three MSPs thanks to the regional vote - the highest they achieved in all of Scotland because there's regions in Scotland where they can't actually win on the list because they do so well in the constituency vote - if you're lost I'll explain this in the next section). 

As for the standing of Patrick Harvie in Kelvin and Alison Johnson in Edinburgh Central, well, I'm also not surprised they weren't elected. I remember the internal debate taking place in early 2015 and I abstained. I actually abstained in a lot of votes that day, because I had just joined and lacked the political fluency and understanding I now have. These days, I'd vote no and will vote no until the day comes when the Scottish Greens are large enough and a constituency appears where we could actually win. Until then I feel as if the money and energy that went into Kelvin and Edinburgh Central could have been better diverted elsewhere. 

But #BothVotesSNP backfired a wee bit

In the Additional Member System of voting you get two votes: a constituency vote and a regional vote. The constituency vote is a smaller area and is decided on a First Past The Post basis (the same voting system used at Westminster). It puts forward one person, such as Ruth Davidson for Edinburgh Central (imagine you had a problem with you're local hospital and had to go to Ruth Davidson?). The list vote is where the parties compile a list of candidates in an order of preference, and if they get enough votes the first person on the list will become an MSP and if they get a lot of votes the second person will become an MSP, and so on. 

What I didn't know until about two years ago (and from the 'success' of the #BothVotesSNP campaign I think a lot of people still don't know) is that there is a bit of maths in place to avoid really popular parties getting outright majorities because their members ran out and voted for them on both ballots. I don't have a full understanding of what this maths is and how it works (because, maths) but I know that if a party wins several of the constituencies in a region, maths will stand up and be like "Sorry pal, nae regional votes for you". 

For a visual representation of this, let's look at the regional list results from Central Scotland: 




Check how many votes the SNP received through the regional ballot. It's almost 50% and 60,000 votes ahead of Labour (if my mental arithmetic is correct, I'm writing in this in bed and can't be bothered getting up to find a calculator or even use the one on my laptop). But but but, where are their seats? They're not allowed any that's what! They won all nine constituencies in the region so to balance things out maths has given the seats to other parties who didn't win any constituencies.

And because I mentioned South Scotland above, here's a screenshot of their results:



Here the SNP returned three MSPs through the list vote, while Conservative got two and Labour got two. SNP won three constituencies, Conservatives won three constituencies and Labour won one so maths was a bit more flexible in who was allowed regional seats.

The Scottish voting system is designed to not allow a majority government. The SNP pulled it off last time, but not this time because it's so damn hard. And that's a good thing. Oppositions are essential for democracy. Oppositions hold governments accountable. Oppositions means ruling parties can't just do whatever they want. Power goes to people's heads and only Hufflepuffs can rule while keeping a democratic head on their shoulders (yes, I just snuck a Harry Potter reference into a political analysis 'cause that's how I roll).

So that #BothVotesSNP thing? Aye, pile of pish and it was irresponsible of the SNP to be promoting it themselves and I'm not even sure why they did (if you're not Scottish and you're wondering what pish means, it means pee because we like to insult things by referring to it as urine). It was never going to gain them much, aside from in the South of Scotland and in the Highlands and Islands because Orkney and Shetland still like a bit of those Lib Dems. Apparently it was designed to increase the amount of pro-independence MSPs at Holyrood but if you really wanted to promote that it would have been constituency vote SNP and regional vote for another party that supports independence such as the Greens or RISE (not that one with the convicted perjurer, however).

This is the second Scottish Election I've taken part in and I didn't realise what maths was up to the first time: I seem to remember I crazily gave the Liberal Democrats both my votes in 2011 thinking it would turn Holyrood orange and Nick Clegg would come here and be king (which, thankfully, did not happen because of maths and the more sensible voting habits of other people). But I know now and if I do feel like a bit of cheeky tactical voting I realise that the regional list vote should go to a party who aren't predicted to win all the constituencies.

And now you know too. So next time no #BothVotesSNP (and a bit less Tory voting would be grand too). 


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