The May 5 Holyrood election looms large and increasingly the signs are we’re heading for an SNP victory although again it would be a minority government. All the polls I’ve seen suggest a wee surge for the Greens, which you must admit is a good thing if you have a lick of sense.
A few folk have asked me why the Greens don’t put candidates up in the constituencies as well as the regions. I suspect it’s because the constituency elections (Inverness & Nairn is our constituency) are still decided using the first past the post system. So the chance of a Green victory is minuscule. Mind you, Caroline Lucas managed it in Brighton so it is possible but would take a lot of money and time.
Which leads to me to the list. Do you understand the d’Honte Additional Member System? That’s what it’s called. It’s a wee bit complicated and unfortunately none of the official literature I’ve seen - either Highland Council’s or even the Scottish Parliament’s - makes it clear how it divvies up the regional MSPs or that, crucially, it is connected to how well the parties do in the constituency votes.
I’m a spoddy so and so, so I’ve taken a moment (in the bath if you must know) to run some numbers (along with the hot tap and some Mister Matey) to see what scenario we’re looking for in the Highlands to get a Green re-elected.
The Highlands and Islands region covers Argyll & Bute, Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Inverness and Nairn and Moray. The boundaries are slightly different this time but still the same number of seats. In 2007 the Libdems took 4 seats, as did the SNP. You then start dividing the number of votes for each party on the regional list by the number of constituency seats won plus one. So, the SNP got 63,979 votes on the list in 2007 and this number would have been divided by 5 to make 12,795 to start with. Same for the Libdems and their 37,001 votes. The biggest number means that party gets the first MSP on the list, after which you increase the dividing number by one again. So in the Highlands the biggest number (32,952) was Labour’s so they got the first MSP.
In short it seems Labour rarely win under first past the post in the constituencies but have a healthy second vote on the list that can only be divided by one, hence them nearly always getting three MSPs (Peter Peacock, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart most recently). Likewise the Tories (Mary Scanlon and Jamie McGrigor).
By now my bathwater’s gone cold and my skin has wrinkled like a prune but I can’t resist running a few more numbers to see what might happen if the polls are right.
What I did was: I assumed the turnout next week would be the same as 2007, took away a small number of votes from the Libdems and gave them mostly to the SNP but a handful to the Greens. I kept Labour and the Tories static. I also took into account the pretty widespread belief that the SNP will acquire two constituencies from the Libdems following the bowing out of John Farquhar Munro and Jamie Stone. (JF recently backed Salmond for FM; while Jamie’s blessed cheesemaker brother is backing the Nats’ Rob Gibson for the Far North seat.)
The list result?
Three Labour MSPs (Rhoda Grant, David and Linda Stewart), two Tories (Jamie and Mary), one Libdem (Jamie Paterson) and a Green (Eleanor Scott). And no SNP.
All this number crunching has thrown up a couple of important points. Firstly the Greens in the Highlands and Islands are only a thousand or so votes away from bagging a place (so please make your 2nd vote Green - or would you rather have the Libdems or the Tories helping a minority SNP government?) and secondly it seems there are politicians who basically have jobs for life.
You see - bath time can be fun for parents as well as kids!