Scotland decides, er, what?

Okay, I admit: the Scottish results have got me stumped.

It was the list results that did it. My expectation was, and the polls appeared to back me up, that the Greens were on course to get about the same share of the vote that they had before. Instead, they were wiped out. The Tories were down on list seats as well. So, of course, were the Lib Dems. What stopped the Lib Dems from making no losses was a whopping 4% dip in the West of Scotland, which apparently cost us an MSP.

Why was this? It was already being mooted that the new ballot paper design would harm the smaller parties as people might think they had to vote for “Alex Salmond” AND “SNP” rather than split their ticket. This may well have been a large factor, and the Greens (and other) may need to reconsider their strategy of only fielding list candidates. But in an election with 100,000 spoilt papers, one can’t help but suspect that they were robbed.

The final scores on the doors at least means that the Lib Dems have been spared one particularly nasty decision: the combined SNP/Lib Dem vote is 3 short of a majority. Even if the Greens threw their lot in, that would mean a majority of 1, which isn’t exactly a delicious prospect. Adding Margo Macdonald to the mix might help, but her price would no doubt be pretty high. I could be proven wrong, but I can’t see Nicol Stephen wanting to join such a precarious executive. That doesn’t however mean the SNP wouldn’t be able to negotiate a multi-option referendum, which if they want an independence vote is pretty much their only option now.

I can’t see them getting a majority in favour of Local Income Tax either, unless they come up with some kind of compromise. Imaginative municipal finance reformers might want to consider a package that includes the localisation of a proportion of the existing income tax combined with a land value tax to keep the Greens happy. But maybe that is me disappearing into a Georgist Wonderland.

I suspect the promise to scrap the Graduate Endowment has rather more chance of getting through, which is a shame because I happen to think the Scots don’t know when they are onto a good thing here.

In short, compared to what was widely predicted, it is Labour that seem to come out as the unlikely winners of the Scottish election. Going from 50 seats to 46 is nothing in the grand scheme of things. They can now spend 4 years in opposition making life as difficult for Salmond as possible. Either way, every single decision made by the Scottish Executive will be subject to a degree of scrutiny that we are simply not used to in the UK. That can only be a good thing.


  1. “What stopped the Lib Dems from making no losses was a whopping 4% dip in the West of Scotland, which apparently cost us an MSP.”

    We won a list seat in West Scotland. The loss – if you can identify it in this way – would seem to be Argyll & Bute which wasn’t compensated for by a list seat like Gordon and Roxburgh were.

  2. Or…. Salmond realises he can’t get his way, decides he prefers Westminster after all so resigns his Gordon seat. We win the by-election and its 46 all 🙂

  3. My point about the West of Scotland is that, had we merely retained our share of the vote there, the annihilation of the SSP combined with the SNP gaining Cunninghame North would have guaranteed us an extra seat. Even in the North East, our vote share didn’t go down by the same amount.

    The bottom line is, had our vote share held up in BOTH those regions, we would have made a net gain of 1 and leapfrogged the Tories. That should have been a small ask.

  4. Ah I see your point – since I switched to a Mac I’ve lost my very handy D’hondt calculator which is ideal for running those “what if scenarios”. A bit harder to do them in your head. West of Scotland seemed very poor – our vote was markedly down in Greenock for example even though Ross Finnie was our candidate.

  5. Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem goes right over my head, but I certainly agree that the multi-option referendum proposal needs some careful thought. For one thing, who is going to pay for the referendum campaign? Unless we have a couple of useful millionaires in our back pockets, we have to recognise that the seperatists are going to use the likes of Souter to outspend us. With Labour and the Tories sitting on the sidelines, it would be a straight SNP/Lib Dem fight. It would be risky – but also potentially high gain.

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