April 2021

Election #Holyrood2021 – how shall I vote??

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 aim for the result that you would like…

Our main election article has a great deal of material about the election – hustings, ‘asks’, links, etc, and more will be added once manifestos are all published.   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 page).

Before the vote – make your decisions, as follows…

1. Find your constituency and your candidates for consituency and for the List
  • Use the WalkWheelCycleVote.scot website to find your constituency, your constituency candidates and your List candidates, by entering your postcode.
  • You can also find your Scottish Parliament constituency (not candidates) at mygov.scot.
2. Find out about party policies and candidates
  • Of course, you are probably concerned about a range of subjects…
  • But if your concerns include policies on cycling and related transport matters, the WWCV page above will show you the answers from candidates to the WWCV ‘asks’, and the main Spokes election page has our manifesto analysis and rankings from best to least good – also in this tweet.
  • The WWCV page also gives you candidate contacts, where known, so you can contact them by email, twitter, etc. Don’t forget your List candidates as well as the constituency ones. For your list vote, you only vote for the party, but note that candidates at or near the top of each party list have the best chance of being elected.
3. If you vote purely on principle and aren’t too worried about ‘wasting’ your vote on a candidate who is unlikely to be elected…
  • 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 2016 election.  Of course, things have changed a lot since 2016, 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 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 Lothians where it is widely expected that the SNP will win every or nearly every constituency seat, the SNP will then have no hope of winning any regional seats because of the way the regional list formula works.  This argument is discussed in detail 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 in a region such as Lothians 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 this 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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