The Switch (Scottish Politics)

“Explain the results in the 2017 Scottish Council elections.”


I’ll use this graph and I’ll try to keep it snappy.

1. The Winners.

SNP didn’t do anything spectacular, they built upon their core vote from 2012 and got their candidates mainly in on the 1-2, as per their election literature. Their gains have taken them to controlling positions or largest party positions.

2. The Switch

The graph above is from the Daily Telegraph, we see Labour fall as the Tories rise, a simple switch from a demographic of voters that are apathetic to Labour’s message but unwilling to vote for SNP.

3. Green Surge.

In cities, the green message has played better than in outlying areas, there’s an element of switching from Labour, there’s understanding of the green message in politics and a willingness to listen to their point.

I think there’s questions as to how Green candidates didn’t get elected outside the cities and in the larger authorities around the cities, it may well be that third or fourth preference votes weren’t coordinated or delivered in a meaningful way to give enough impact.

4. The STV system. 

I tried, and more illuminous bloggers and writers than me tried to get people to vote through the whole list of candidates on the Ballot Paper. 

The supposition being that it would not harm the core SNP 1,2 message, but also try and ensure that third and fourth preferences came into play. 

I think we’ve seen a fairly high number of spoiled ballots, in Renfrewshire there’s examples of over 100 in a ward. 

I think that leads to a questioning of whether this system of alternative voting can continue, we’ve seen unlikely results and candidates getting elected on the tenth round of counting.

I think in future, that the council system needs to match Holyrood with dedicated ward first past the post voting followed with an x in a box for your list preference.

Only after a full post election analysis will we get the picture of who just voted 1,2 as they had been told, who voted until they boaked and who only ranked the number of candidates to match the number of councillors to be elected.

The gist of my point is that the public didn’t understand the process and some of the parties didn’t use the process to its full effect and despite the efforts of some to get people voting through the list, it’s only partially worked.

5. No Overall Control. 

The outcome of this STV method is that there’s now a balanced position in most Councils, with in some cases there being a largest party, but that it is matched by the combined numbers of opponents. 

Yes,  there will be back room deals done that might see that largest party locked out in a grand coalition of their opponents. 

I’m not sure that’s the intention of a reformed voting system and it could be anti democratic if these sorts of elections do not give clear winners or have largest parties locked out as oppositions for the next five years.

6. Turnout

I’m conditioned to vote before I go to work, I leave a bit earlier and I have time to vote and I’m free when I get home to do stuff. I didn’t see many others in early like me and I suspect from looking at turnout that there may have been a few more voters after doing the school run, but that the evening peak of people doing on the way home didn’t deliver a great volume.

We can say ‘well it’s only the Council’, but the importance of where your council tax goes will be realised along the line. There could be significance in the City Deal larger areas. 

The turnout seems to have been one that delivered the motivated SNP and Tory voters.

Thursday night was lovely, the weather was great, I saw plenty people in Glasgow city centre using it to eat or drink or shop. I’m sure others went home and enjoyed a barbecue or time in the garden.

The core message of getting out to vote didn’t hit everyone and the news media were barking all day over a Royal story too.

7. Conclusion

A mixture of motivated voters or a low turnout with some confusion over what exactly to do with a 8, 9 or even 10 candidate ballot paper has seen the SNP build on their previous position but perhaps not to the extent that they may have hoped. The Tory revival is a straight switch and to an extent a mopping up of those opposed to independence and who wanted to do as the Tories said in making a clear statement on a second referendum on independence.

I think the general election in June is a different matter and will see a better turnout on a clearer system. 

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