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  • Writer's pictureJim Manclark

Clearing the smoke of obfuscation

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

There are many people talking about how the SNP got a majority in the Scottish parliament in 2011 to allow them to put in place the 2014 referendum and carrying on from there, to say that we need to do the same again now to get a second referendum now.

Terms like, ah, but we need over 50% of the popular vote to get a majority again or ah, but the UK government won’t accept or agree to another referendum if we get a majority of seats with only 49% of the overall vote!

Then there is the line, we need to vote SNP on both ballots because it is the only way to guarantee an independence majority so that we can have another referendum.

This is all smoke and mirrors, put out by both the UK establishment and unfortunately backed up by the SNP and their supporters to make sure that only they get every vote going. No matter how many hundreds of thousands of votes get wasted. I don’t blame the SNP for asking for both votes as they are a political party after all and that’s what political parties do in general. But to allow the continued obfuscation of the both votes element is wrong.

So let’s clear away the smoke and allow ourselves to see the truth of these claims.

In 2011, the SNP got 53.5% of the seats in the Scottish parliament. This consisted of 53 constituency seats and 16 list seats. Thus giving them an overall majority of independence supporting MSPs in the parliament and the ability to push for a referendum. However, what people don’t seem to realise, or completely ignore, is that they got less than 50% of the overall vote. Receiving only 45.4% of the constituency votes and 44% of the regional votes. Giving them roughly 45% of the total vote share. Yet on this basis the UK government allowed the referendum to go ahead legally and created a new piece of legislation called the section 30 to affirm this.

Another point to look very closely at was the number of actual votes received by the SNP. In 2011 they received 902,915 constituency votes and 876,421 regional list votes. These votes are what gave them their majority and allowed an independence referendum to go ahead.

Now, let’s jump forward to 2016.

In 2016, the SNP vote increased substantially yet they fell two short of another overall majority this time and had to rely on the greens to allow them to continue as a minority government, gaining only 63 seats in total. That gave the SNP 48.8% of the parliamentary seats. The green party had won no constituency seats and were the second smallest party with only 6 regional list seats. Their seats combined though meant that between them they now had 69 seats in total and a combined majority.

So how did the SNP vote manage to substantially increase yet their seats in the parliament went down? That was not down to the electorate but in fact was down to their success in the constituency votes. This in turn diluted their regional list votes and meant the loss of 12 regional list seats. Holding on to only four of their sixteen seats on the list. So how was this possible? Surely both votes SNP should have been enough to guarantee a majority, especially with the SNP vote increasing!

Let’s break that down then to get at the truth of the matter.

In 2016, the SNP votes were, 1,059,898 in the constituencies and 953,587 on the regional lists. By comparing these numbers it is plain to see that the SNP gained a lot of additional votes.

2011 = 902,915 constituency votes and 876,421 regional list votes.

2016 = 1,059,898 constituency votes and 953,587 regional list votes.

This is quite a significant increase in votes for the SNP. So, why did the number of seats drop? The answer to that can be found quite easily by studying the way list MSPs are elected. The more constituency MSPs that are elected for a party, the more their list votes gets diluted. (Ie, the total number of votes on the list is divided by the number of constituency seats won, plus 1). if the SNP win 9 constituency seats, their regional votes are reduced by x 10 (9 + 1). So 100,000 votes in a region becomes 10,000.

In 2016 the SNP won an additional six constituency seats. This in turn caused their regional votes total to be further diluted in the regions. This dilution of votes meant the threshold needed to get list seats was much higher this time around and even with an increased vote total, it was nowhere near enough to hold onto their list seats and hence why they ended up with only four out of sixteen. In other words, both votes SNP did not work.

This brings us back to the upcoming 2021 election. Where, we are again being told, to give both votes to the SNP to guarantee a second referendum. This I am afraid is false advertising as can be seen by the numbers from the previous two elections. In 2011 we won the right to have a referendum by electing 69 pro-independence MSPs on only 45% of the overall vote share. Yet now we are being told that we need 50%+ of the vote share to guarantee a second referendum. All current polling shows that the SNP are likely to get around 70 constituency seats. That will wipe out the current list seats they hold, making the regional list vote a complete waste. Do you want to waste 1 million plus votes?

This proves the point that a precedent was set by the 2011 election and that we do not need over 50% of the total vote to have a referendum. All we need is a majority of MSPs in favour of independence. This is what happened in 2011 before any new Indy parties came about and is what parties like Action for independence are pushing for. 45% was not an overall majority then, so why should we need to be over 50% now? Blow the smoke from your eyes and waken up.

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