The Psephology of Scotland (2) – Scottish Labour

Start with a few facts:
2007 Constituency results for Scottish Labour – 648,374, 32.2%
2011 Constituency results for Scottish Labour – 630,461, 31.7%
So down 18,000 votes and 0.5%.
2007 Regional List results for Scottish Labour – 595,415, 29.2%
2011 Regional List results for Scottish Labour – 523,559, 26.3%
So down 72,000 and 2.9%
2007 Constituency List differential – (53,000)
2011 Constituency List differential – (107,000)
As a comparison for the SNP:
2007 Constituency List differential – (31,000)
2011 Constituency List differential – (26,000)

Whilst the stagnation of the constituency Labour vote (cf 10.1% gain in Wales) was bad enough the doubling of the differential proved a disaster. Indeed the whole Labour approach toward the regional list vote displayed a strategic and tactical ineptitude of astounding foolishness with astonishing consequences.
To explain:
1) In the Scottish Parliament candidates are allowed to stand both for constituencies and for list seats. Due to historic dominance of FPTP results and a fairly general disdain toward list MPs Scottish Labour in general stood for one or the other – with the most able going for constituencies in general. In contrast SNP big hitters in general would stand for both.
2) The SNP’s message was “Vote for an SNP MSP in your constituency and for Alex Salmond for FM with your second vote”. In contrast Scottish Labour said nothing.
1) Scottish Labour lost a total of 7 seats in the election. However due to 1) above the stronger candidates in the FPTP element did not have an escape route on the lists. Thus Scottish Labour went from 44 seats to 37 seats but due to losing 20 constituencies and gaining 13 on the list the Parliamentary party is dominated by inexperienced newcomers.
2) The differential meant that Labour did not gain more seats in the regional lists to compensate for the constituency losses. If they had just maintained the differential at the 2007 level then another 4 seats (roughly !) would have come their way – perhaps depriving the SNP of a majority.
Data from the BBC and Wiki.

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  • Canisp

    Regarding your points

    1) It wasn’t complacency that meant the Labour so-called ‘heavy hitters’ weren’t on the constituency lists as well, apparently the LP has/had a rule that candidates could only stand for one or other (the only reason Sarah Boyack was standing for both in Edinburgh and therefore survived was due to a significant redrawing of her Central constituency, apparently).

    In any case, this so-called decapitation of the Labour MSPs is well overblown, most genuine Labour heavy hitters had already gravitated towards Westminster, perhaps drawn by being the party of government at the time. Since being the main unionist party in favour of devolution and responsible for bringing the Scottish Parliament into existence, they have effectively abandoned the battlefield to the SNP.

    2) The SNP’s keenness to invoke Eckus Maximus’ name (including ballot papers) at every juncture to exploit a large personal vote for him is good politics from their perspective.

  • Dewi,

    Two points, although not entirely or directly relevant to the post:

    1. Good article in this week’s Economist on Salmond’s dilemma:

    2. I was chewing the cud this week with one of the more prominent English nationalists (high up in the CEP and the English Democrats) and he reckons 2014 will be the year Salmond will go fror the referendum- can you guess why (three reasons!)

  • Dewi

    canisp – isn’t the list rule due to complancency?

  • Dewi

    a) read it – ok
    b) dunno much about your mates but Salmond needs to position independence v Calman bullshit….and a high oil price would be cool…

  • Calman is inconsequential-


    1. 700th anniversary of Bannockburn
    2 Glasgow Commonwealth games
    3. The “Westminster” government will have sorted out and took the blame for the necessary public-sector restructuring by then.

  • Dewi

    1. might be significant……not sure about other two…

  • 2) is for the optics, 3) is the key.

    Scotland, like NI, is a public sector-heavy/entitlist economy (eg *free* university fees).

    Salmond knows exactly how much the central exchequer sponsors the present state of affairs and he also knows that a separate Scotland couldn’t sustain the present status quo. If the nasty *London* Conservatives remove the subsidies, he can then approach the electorate with a: “Well, we’ve nothing to lose with separation” and, more importantly, the peoples’ expectations (in terms of what the state can/will provide) would have already been greatly reduced.

    That’s why the Unionists should call his bluff and press for his referendum asap.

  • Dewi

    Hmm – it’s Scotland’s oil……

  • JPJ2

    “That’s why the Unionists should call his bluff and press for his referendum asap.”

    As usual, the unionists are behind the curve. The opportunity to call the SNP’s “bluff” only existed up until the SNP landslide but does not exist after it.

    Cameron, having been outvoted by more than 4 to 1 at the Holyrood election, cannot credibly reverse from a position of denying that the Scots have any interest in an independence referendum to demanding that one be called next week..

    Were his anti-Scottish ignorant backwoodsmen to force it upon him there would likely be one of 2 results:

    * The Scots would be so infuriated they would vote “yes” to independence


    * The SNP would remind the electorate of the mandate they had so recently provided to the SNP, and urge their voters (and others) to abstain and wait for the REAL referendum which the SNP would call as per their mandated manifesto.