First Minister, Alex Salmond and the pro-indy campaign, constantly repeat the anti-union mantra that ‘Scotland’ doesn’t get the governments it votes for. This is no more than a ‘dog whistle’ claim.
Scotland’s population, in 2011, was 5,295 million, 8.37% of the total United Kingdom 2012 population of 63.23 million. Can 8.37% of any population expect always to get the government ‘it’ voted for. This ‘it’ also raises the question of quite how securely you can characterise a regional constituency?
It is legitimate and defensible to say that Labour voters across the UK did not get the government they voted for, with the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.
It is not defensible to say that ‘Scotland’ did not get the government it voted for in this specific case, because not even a majority of the Scottish vote would have got the party it voted for into government following that election.
Only 41.9% of the Scottish turnout voted for Labour; with 35.61% voting for the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives who went on to form the current UK coalition government. Only 19.92% of the Scotland turnout voted for the SNP, although they contested every seat.
The total turnout in Scotland was 63.8% of those entitled to vote.
There is no way that it is legitimate to claim that ‘Scotland’ did not get the government it voted for.
The picture in Scottish parliamentary elections
The 1999 Scottish parliamentary election
This was the first such election, with Labour taking 38.72% of the overall constituency vote; and 33.78% of the regional vote. It then formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who took 18.87% of the overall constituency vote; and 9.69% of the regional vote.
The two went into coalition, together representing 52.84% of the turnout constituency vote’ and 43.47% of the turnout regional vote
The overall vote was 59.1% of the electorate – producing a government which could only thinly be described as having majority support in the most favourable of contexts.
The 2003 Scottish parliamentary election
Here Labour took 34.88% of the constituency vote; and 29.3% of the regional vote.
It went into coalition again with the Liberal Democrats, who had taken 15.12% of the constituency vote; and 11.78% of the regional vote.
Together they had a scant 50% of the constituency vote; and 35% of the regional vote. Even within Scotland, and even in coalition, this cannot be described as producing a government for which ‘Scotland’ had voted.
The turnout was 49.4% in both the constituency and regional vote – which puts this into the wider context.
The 2007 Scottish parliamentary election
In this election the SNP took 32.93% of the overall constituency vote; and 31% of the regional vote.
As, by a single seat from Labour, the largest group in the Scottish parliament, the SNP decided to take power as a minority government.
At these percentages of the turnout vote – which was 51.7% in the constituency vote and 52.4% in the regional vote, this cannot be said to have been a government for which ‘Scotland’ had voted.
The 2011 Scottish parliamentary election
In this most recent election to the Scottish Parliament, the SNP took 45.39% of the overall constituncy vote; and 44.01% of the overall regional vote.
While this was not even a majority of the turnout vote, it still gave the SNP an unprecedented overall majority of seats in the Scottish parliament.
The turnout was 50% of the electorate.
Again, this cannot be said to be a government for which ‘Scotland’ has voted.
So how do we get the most fairly representative government?
Coalitions are unsatisfactory, since their specific relationships are not validated by the vote.
The current UK coalition is not a government voted for by the turnout vote at the 2010 UK General election.
The current Scottish government does not have a majority of those who voted at the 2011 Scottish election.
There is a strong case for having proportional government, with the leading party appointing the Prime Minister from within its number, with other parties and groups putting forwards cabinet and ministerial appointments according to their proportionate share of the vote, rather than the number of seats gained.
This might allow the continuation of the damaging party political system we persist in embracing, while enforcing a degree of representative consensus in government.
This might allow more stable long term national strategic development planning than is achievable in the enfeebling and wasteful current system.