jump to navigation


Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.

Predictably the referendum on the optional preferential system (alternative vote) went down, but so did the Liberal Democrats, who we are told are tied and tarred by their association with the Conservative Government.

The remarkable development was that the Scottish National Party gained 69 seats in a parliament of 129 members. It is suggested that the electoral system – a mixture of first past the post and a party list proportional vote – was designed to prevent the SNP ever gaining a majority. The system attempts to deal with the deficiencies of FPTP.

The BBC gave the long story in 2003:

There will be 129 MSPs who will sit for a fixed four-year period. The members will be elected in two ways. 73 members will represent individual constituencies and will be elected under the traditional first-past-the-post system. These are the same as the 72 Scottish constituencies at Westminster with the exception that Orkney and Shetland is divided into two, each electing its own MSP.

In addition, 56 members selected from “party lists” in the country’s eight electoral regions. These regions each will elect seven MSPs through the Additional Member System, a form of proportional representation. Electors will therefore have two votes on separate ballot papers. One is for a candidate in their constituency and the second is for a party list in their region.
. . .
The constituency MSPs are chosen according to the traditional system used in Westminster elections. A candidate needs simply to poll more votes than any other single rival to be elected.

The system for electing the Additional Members is more complex. Electors will cast their second vote for a “party list”. This is a list submitted by registered parties with their candidates in order of preference. If the party succeeds in winning one of these “top-up” seats, the person named as first on its list will be elected. If it wins two top-up seats, then the first two will be elected, and so on.

There are two complications to the lists. First, a “party list” can be an individual person who is standing at the regional level rather than in a constituency. Secondly, a candidate can stand both in a constituency and on a regional top-up list. If they succeed in a constituency this takes priority and their name will be removed from the regional list so they cannot be elected twice.

Long story short: the system is similar to the MMP system that currently operates in NZ and the voting process for the alternative member seats is similar to the quota system used for the Senate.

At al Jazeera, Alan Fisher writes:

The leader of the nationalists, Alex Salmond, is by common consent the only ‘big beast’ in Scottish politics, by far and away the most impressive, informed, in touch politician. He has in the past put forth the idea of Scotland having a parliament, everyone rejected this but they were wrong. That the SNP would never run Scotland, but they did with a minority administration in the last parliament. And that his party could never secure a majority. And it has.

Now he says those who predict Scotland will never be independent must be worried. The problem he has is convincing the people of Scotland. The last opinion poll puts support for a breakaway at just one-in-three. Any referendum will come towards the end of the parliament’s five year term (it’s been extended for a year to avoid a clash with possible UK-wide votes).

One date being suggested is 2014. That would be the 700th anniversary of the country’s most famous victory over English forces at Bannockburn during the first war of independence. And so on a date so infused with historical significance, so resonant of the past, the Scots may get the chance to decide their future.

The austerity policies pursued by the Cameron Government in London will be constrained by the development and may have the potential to cause friction that will favour Scottish independence from England. Otherwise, I suspect the economics of independence will be determining in the minds of the voters. Independence, should it occur, will take place under the EU umbrella and that benevolence will depend on what happens with respect to Greece in particular.

While not a done deal, Scotland’s political independence from England has an interesting implication for those of us in the Southern Ocean with our symbolic attachment to empire and England. Should Scotland seize the moment, it would mean our flag would continue to depict the Jack for which the Union has moved on, making the adoption of a new flag a talking point.


Will there be a rerun of the Republic Referendum and the political misjudgments that accompanied it. I doubt it. However, I was not aware it was part of Labor policy to hold another referendum. George Williams follows these matters more closely. Still Charles I, say what you like, did precipitate the Republic. Perhaps the third nominal reincarnation can achieve the same political accomplishment.



1. Lee - May 19, 2011

I consider myself English rather than British.

If we had a referendum on Scottish independence I think there’s a reasonable possibility that England would vote ‘yes’ and Scotland ‘no’.

Can you force a reluctant constituent part of an existing country to become independent?

wmmbb - May 26, 2011

Interesting comment, Lee, that you consider yourself primarily English. So in that case, why should not England be a separate nation?

(Apologies for the slowness in responding.)

Lee - May 26, 2011

Yes, England should have its own independence – we’re not being offered the choice though, are we?

2. wmmbb - May 27, 2011

I suppose that must be a option for England to be established as a separate nation, but that would be to reverse the historical process of English dominance of its neighbours. I suppose this development began with an independent Ireland. But can England live with itself? I don’t think it likely but an English referendum on the question of independence would be interesting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: