Voting tomorrow

In today’s Herald, Magnus Gardham has a piece with the headline SNP ‘fears Nicola Sturgeon may not secure majority’ in Holyrood elections, insiders claim” (http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14468532.SNP__fears_Nicola_Sturgeon_may_not_secure_majority__in_Holyrood_elections/?action=success#comment_16127289).

This story is very like one in this week’s Lennox, that the election was too close to call. Jackie Baillie is defending a majority of just over 1600 from 2011, during which time the SNP vote has increased nationally by 20% and half her constituency includes one of only three local authority areas to vote Yes. Of course it is said that the greater part of that came in Clydebank, and that SNP support in the Dumbarton and the Vale is at a lower level, and as for Helensburgh ………..

But just to add to Jackie’s woes, given the split in Labour in the UK on Trident, this has made it difficult for her to use the “defending jobs” argument as much as she did last time. That is not to say it has never passed her lips – at hustings she continues to make the point that she will “fight for local jobs”.

I have no access to any polling data for the constituency, but just one impression of my own. The other day, I was driving down the High Street, past the SNP election hub – full of folk doing leaflets etc. We had a couple come down our street from the SNP delivering leaflets (this one was re the Vale, another JB hobby horse). Anything from Labour has come via the Post Office.

A bit further on – Castle Street – is Jackie’s constituency office. It was shuttered and locked, just as the same office was the Saturday before Gemma Doyle got voted out (for those who don’t know, they shared). I see little sign of Labour in the constituency, other than letters to the local paper. I doubt they have given up, but if the level of campaigning is any kind of indication of their vote, it doesn’t look good for JB. Indeed, it seems in Ayrshire Labour have been busing London activists up to supplement local resources. This of course happened this time last year, and look what happened then.

So, why the article in the Lennox? Why this article? Is it to convince Labour Party – and maybe Tory Party – stalwarts to get out and vote, the cause is not yet lost? Or is to cause consternation in SNP ranks? Both of these? Indeed, we might ask “why this article?” Was Jackie Baillie holding Marc McLean’s hand as he wrote?

Or is there a real point?

Many seat prediction sites suggest that the Tories might take 3 or 4 seats (mainly in South Scotland region, holding on to Ayr, Ettrick and West Dumfries, where young Mundell is standing). Suppose the Lib Dems hang on to both the Northern Isles seats. Even if the SNP take all the rest, that leaves them with 67 or 68 constituency seats Bearing mind that this would be 92 or 93% of all the constituency seats, it is hardly a bad result (especially if they secure north of 50% of the vote). But, should, for instance Labour hang on to 3 or 4 constituency seats it would mean no SNP majority.

That of course is the basis of the #bothvotesSNP argument. Yet if the SNP were to end up with 62 or 63 constituency seats (which would still mean them winning 9 more than they had last time) we are still in the territory where they might win no List seats as John Curtice pointed out in his paper (http://electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/The-2016-Scottish-Election-Briefing.pdf). For instance, that number of constituencies (62-363 suggests an average of 8 constituencies per region. Last time in Lothian they won 8 of the 9 constituencies, with a List vote of just under 40% (not a lot less than the polls suggest today) but never won a single seat.

Just for illustration – not a prediction – just some numbers, the polls suggest right now that the SNP will take upwards of 40% of the List vote, Labour 21%, the Tories 19%, Greens about 12% and Lib Dems about 8%. Let’s work those numbers through a representative region.

 

Party

List vote

1st round

2nd round

3rd round

4th round

5th round

6th round

7th round

Seats won

SNP

40

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

0

Labour

21

21

10.5

10.5

10.5

7

7

7

3

Con

19

19

19

9.5

9.5

9.5

6.3333

6.3333

2

Green

12

12

12

12

6

6

6

6

1

LibDem

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

4

1

 

In a Region with 9 seats if the SNP took them all, then working through those numbers using the modified d’Hondt system (divide List vote by elected members +1), would give Labour 3, the Tories 2 and the Lib Dems and Greens 1 each.

To simulate the #bothvotessnp policy I assumed that no one voted Green and their entire vote went SNP (very unlikely, but more likely than Unionist party voters voting SNP). This actually – from an indy supporting point of view came out worst of all – Labour and Tory get three seats each and the Lib Dems one – the SNP still get no regional list seats.

Party

List Vote

1st round

2nd round

3rd round

4th round

5th round

6th round

7th round

Seats won

SNP

52

5.2

5.2

5.2

5.2

5.2

5.2

5.2

0

Labour

21

21

10.5

10.5

7

7

7

5.25

3

Con

19

19

19

9.5

9.5

6.333333

6.333333

6.33333

3

Green

0

               

LibDem

8

8

8

8

8

8

4

4

1

 

The alternative to this would be for at least some of the SNP vote to go to another party that is not Unionist – for instance (again for illustration) the Greens. I assumed 12% of the SNP’s 40% would not switch, so giving the Greens a List vote of 40% (their own 12% + 28% of the SNP vote that switches to them).

Party

List Vote

1st round

2nd round

3rd round

4th round

5th round

6th round

7th round

Seats won

SNP

12

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

0

Labour

21

21

21

10.5

10.5

10.5

10.5

7

2

Con

19

19

19

19

19

9.5

9.5

9.5

1

Green

40

40

20

20

13.33333

13.33333

10

10

4

LibDem

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

0

 

The outcome of this is that the Greens win 4 seats, Labour 2 and the Tories 1 – Lib Dems get none. It might be pointed out here that the SNP have nothing to gain from this – they win no List seats. But then again, they win no List seats on any of the scenarios. Yet – to the extent that this might have been replicated across Scotland – do they not gain from having a party who would be the official opposition that is at least positive about independence?

However, that last scenario – or indeed the second one – is not going to happen tomorrow. We seem likely to be caught in the soggy middle ground where there are not enough votes for indy supporting parties on the List, and not enough for the SNP to win a decent number of list seats. But let me be clear there – that would be an awful lot more List votes than they could hope to win just now – as I pointed out even if the entire Green vote shifted to the SNP List, the SNP would still win no seats. Where are those votes going to come from? Labour, Tory or Lib Dem? The point is that with their vote as it stands, and the manner in which the deHondt system allocates regional list seats, the SNP, even if they increase their vote, are going to struggle on the List. Any transfer of votes to another indy supporting party than the SNP has stalled, something that the SNP themselves have encouraged with #bothvotesSNP.

Just to make the point as bluntly as possible, all other things equal (which to be fair they wouldn’t be), to win even the final regional seat, if they have won all the constituency seats, the SNP would need a List vote of more than 70% on the basis of the first scenario, or, in the second scenario 64%.

My own view is that the SNP really do need to look to win a majority in the constituencies, hope that the Unionist constituencies are concentrated in just a couple of regions (which is possible – HIghlands and Islands (Orkney and Shetland would be two), South Scotland (Ettrick, Ayr, West Dumfries) – so that they might pick up two or three list places there. Otherwise Gardham might well be right, even if only for a change.

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