April 2016

Election – who shall I vote for??

No – we aren’t telling you who to vote for!  But hopefully giving you some guidance how to use the somewhat complicated Holyrood voting system to vote for the result you’d like…

Our main election article covers manifestos, candidates, our ‘asks,’ and other material about cycling and the election.   However, this new article aims to advise how to make the best use of the Holyrood voting system.

At the vote – you will be given two voting papers…

  • A constituency vote – here you vote for a candidate for your local constituency (e.g. Edinburgh Central, or Midlothian)
  • A regional list vote – here you vote for a party not a person.   The results of this vote go through a complicated formula to select 7 MSPs for your Region (e.g. Lothian) using lists of candidates drawn up by each party.  You don’t need to understand how it works (but if you want to, see this Scottish Parliament factsheet).

Before the vote – make your decisions, as follows…

1. Find your constituency
  • Enter your postcode here
2. Find out about party policies and candidates
  • Of course, you are probably concerned about a range of subjects…
3. If you vote purely on principle and aren’t worried about ‘wasting’ your vote…
  • Your constituency vote – vote for your favourite candidate (either because you like them or because you like their party’s policies, or whatever combination of reasons)
  • Your regional list vote – vote for your favourite party
4. If you vote tactically, i.e. you want to have the best chance of actually influencing the outcome…
  • Your constituency vote
    • Decide which 2 or more parties are most likely to have a realistic chance in your constituency.   One clue is to check the votes for your constituency at the 2011 election [excel spreadsheet – NB if you get lost in it, make sure you are at the tab called Const Vote 11].  Of course, things have changed a lot since 2011, so use any other info that is at hand to decide who are likely to be the top 2 (or 3) candidates in your constituency.
    • Having decided which 2 (or 3) candidates have the best chance of being elected in your constituency, decide which of those contenders you prefer.  To help you decide, see 2 above.   Vote for that candidate.
  • Your regional list vote –
    • The general rule here is that you vote for your preferred party since in most parts of Scotland most of the main parties (including the Greens) have a good chance of winning one or more regional list seats.  To help you decide which party you prefer, see 2 above.
    • The only exception – and it is contentious – is that in a region such as Lothian where it is widely expected that the SNP will win every constituency seat (or, possibly, all but one seats) the SNP will then have no hope of winning any regional seats because of the way the regional list formula works.  This argument is put forward strongly in section 3 of a report for the Electoral Reform Society by election expert Prof John Curtice.  If you accept his argument, then a vote for the SNP on the regional list will have no effect, so even if you support the SNP you are better to vote for your next most favourite party.   The main argument against is that if the polls are badly wrong, and the SNP miss out on 2 or 3 constituency seats, then the formula would give them a chance to pick up a regional list seat.


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