Getting the governments we vote for?

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.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • This is all logical except for one crucial point.

    Scotland is a country and while our population is 8.37% of the UK, that 8.37% is 100% of this country’s population. That is precisely why we often don’t get the government we vote for.

    Equally, when we do get the government we vote for, the people of England don’t get the one they voted for. That’s why a Yes vote is a vote that benefits everyone in the UK in terms of electoral fairness.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 18

    Michael Breslin July 12, 2014 6:46 pm Reply
    • What has a Yes vote for Independence got to do with Government election? Just read the stats for the 2011 Scottish election. Scotland did not get the Government it voted for.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 7

      richard July 12, 2014 7:03 pm Reply
    • The point is that, as a country, as an electorate, we never vote for one government; so the statement that ‘Scotland’ never gets the governments it votes for is no more than a recruiting sergeant.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 7

      newsroom July 12, 2014 9:52 pm Reply
      • Scotland in general elections would only ever get the party the majority vote for by nothing more than chance. Much larger, often Conservative voting England decides no matter how many percentages and permutations you display Newsie.
        If you view Scotland as a nation, a country you must surely recognise the normality of what we expect and will continue to seek, democracy.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

        JnrTick July 13, 2014 12:32 am Reply
      • In common with ALL other parties.

        Are you advocating compulsory voting?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        Ian Sanderson July 13, 2014 10:54 am Reply
  • I think it is unreasonable to demand an absolute majority of votes in a system with more than two parties. Otherwise you might as well so no constituency got the MP it voted for at the last election as none were returned with the votes of more than 50% of the electorate. Scotland did vote SNP in 2011. Not a majority of the population, not even a majority of the people voting, but a clear plurality. Unless you’d prefer a strict two party system closer to the US one, that’s all you’re going to get.

    The problem Scotland faces is that, when it votes overwhelmingly for parties of the centre-left, it has policies of the centre-right imposed on it from Westminster. That will continue to happen so long as England is so much larger and more right wing than Scotland. The differing position of the Overton window in England and Scotland is one reason to vote yes.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 13

    Arethosemyfeet July 12, 2014 6:58 pm Reply
    • It would help if more than 50% turned out, surely that can’t be too difficult with such small numbers.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

      richard July 12, 2014 7:07 pm Reply
    • Scotland was part of a United Kingdom that had an unbroken series of Labour administrations from 1997 to 2010.
      And ‘England’ – and the English electorate – cannot be described as a single political colour any more than ‘Scotland’ can – or any more than the United Kingdom can.
      Being the largest group rarely means majority support; and whatever party is concerned, for as long as there are more who do not want you than do want you, you cannot claim supremacy of national support.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 7

      newsroom July 12, 2014 9:59 pm Reply
  • The SNP did not establish the Westminster or Scottish parliamentary electoral systems. They played the game according to the Establishment’s for the last years and have now won in Scotland.

    Based on the Westminster parliamentary system It’s the number of constituencies which a political party win which is important. On that basis Scots have not had the government it voted for in every election after which the Tories formed the government since 1959. That’s longer than the life expectancy of most men in Shettleston.

    The fact that the SNP has been the vehicle through which Scots can agree a constitution and electoral system they choose shows the selflessness of the SNP who have never manipulated an electoral system to their advantage and will agree a system of STV which will further democratise the electoral system

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 16

    Graeme McCormick July 12, 2014 7:17 pm Reply
    • I think I’m about to vomit!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 8

      richard July 12, 2014 7:26 pm Reply
  • ‘Arethosemyfeet’ – you do like your ‘theories’ & ‘models’, please advise how you believe the theory of the ‘Overton window’ applies to the independence debate and why this would indicate a Yes vote preference?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

    John M July 12, 2014 7:33 pm Reply
    • Broadly speaking, the Overton window refers to the battleground of public policy, where the choices are made in an election. In a Westminster election, the major choices have tended to be Labour or Conservative, and both have shifted to the right over the last 30 years, with the consequence that the Overton window has shifted, so policies that would have been mainstream in the 50s and 60s are now not even on the table. In Scotland, as seen by the different approaches to the NHS, higher education, clean energy, land reform etc. the Overton window is noticably to the left of where it is for UK wide elections. Of course in Wales it is further to the left again. Unfortunately Wales currently doesn’t have the infrastructure to support independence, as our friends in Plaid Cymru acknowledge, because the infrastructure was set up to extract resources for England, not to support Wales.

      Independence would allow Scotland to have the policies that are in accord with the political centre of national life. It’s not ideal, and not everyone will get policies the policies they want, but on average the policies will be closer to what the electorate want. Of course, if you’re a socialist then the fact that the policies will be more left wing is an extra bonus. If you’re a tory then it’s yet another reason to fight tooth and nail to restore rule from Westminster. There’s a reason UKIP want rid of the Scottish Parliament.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

      Arethosemyfeet July 13, 2014 10:15 am Reply
      • Thank you for the explanation ‘Arethosemyfeet’, appreciated. It’s a good example of why I struggle with certain types of ‘theorist’ and the ‘labels’ they like to give to so called discoveries, but that’s not for now.

        What Overton didn’t appear to take account of is that every democratic society should be in a constant ‘Overton window’ as it grows and evolves? Yes politics is different today compared to the 50-60’s and let’s hope it is different again in the next 40 years. That’s a good thing.

        Also if you were to project the ‘Overton window’ forward for an independent Scotland then the same will simply repeat therefore we are back in the same position we are in now as part of the Union.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

        John M July 14, 2014 12:44 am Reply
      • Wales was robbed of its principal natural resource by a Stuart from Bute.
        Knee-jerk, blame-the-English-for-all-your woes, unthinking, ignorant reaction as ever.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

        Thistle July 14, 2014 9:47 pm Reply
  • Figures, figures figures
    watch this
    Denis Curran on Food Banks “People are getting penalised for being poor”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

    John Sinclair July 12, 2014 8:52 pm Reply
  • Yet another “news story” over the past few days where Newsie had been kind enough to give us her lengthy witterings on what ever seems to have come into her head.

    Surely it is time that these rantings and ravings appear under another name other than Newsroom though?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 12

    Soroba July 12, 2014 10:10 pm Reply
    • Fair point, just like ‘soroba’ should post under another name, his/her real one maybe? Just a thought :p

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

      Jamie Black July 13, 2014 6:05 pm Reply
  • Of course there are huge variations in voting in England. That’s stating the obvious but equally obvious is the fact that England, like Scotland, is a country.

    Each country is entitled to choose its own government which is why a Yes vote will benefit democracy north and south of the border.

    I suspect that, in time, there will have to be regional governments in England to reflect the big variations politically and economically within England.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

    Michael Breslin July 13, 2014 8:29 am Reply
    • The ‘elephant in the room’ is London, perceived in large parts of England (let alone Scotland) as going its own way, to the detriment of the economy of the rest of Britain.
      The enthusiasm for fostering the growth of the financial services sector (and not just in London), together with complacency over both regulating this and the withering of manufacturing, has led to governments that have favoured the prosperity of London and the southeast – and the policy of dispersing government departments (and others, eg the BBC) to other parts of the country is more like a grand gesture rather than really effective measures to maintain ‘one nation’ equality of opportunity.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

      Robert Wakeham July 13, 2014 8:47 am Reply
      • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

        keith stanger July 13, 2014 9:57 am Reply
      • Correct. I don’t think many Scots appreciate how poorly the London/Westminster view of things is perceived in England north of Watford. As Councillor Breslin indicates there is a need for more devolution/regional government but full blown independence on the model proposed by the SNP? Too many unknowns, costs not calculated, too many guesses. We hear a lot about the vanity projects of politicians and this one is a real cracker. They may not even be in Government on independence day leaving some other poor sods to sort out the mess. That’s it! The shambles at Argyll & Bute Council was a dry run.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 6

        keith stanger July 13, 2014 10:01 am Reply
        • And, should there be a Yes vote, I can even see the SNP government not contesting a general election in order to avoid sorting out their own mess.
          Instead it will be standing on the sidelines blaming whichever party / politicians are trying to deal with a bigger debt than the rest of the UK (relatively speaking), an NHS that’s in a mess, local authority councils driven into the ground and a health and poverty gap that will take generations to resolve.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

          Lowry July 13, 2014 10:53 am Reply
          • Lowry, Salmond has put the budget on hold, regardless of the September result you will hear some screams, they have spent the lot and more, now we the tax payer will pick up the tab.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

            richard July 13, 2014 1:54 pm
          • Richard, any chance of some evidence, some figures perhaps? Thanks.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

            JnrTick July 13, 2014 9:55 pm
    • Don’t you think you should get on and do your job as a councillor rather than passing comment on national politics, you and your colleagues have made a big enough mess of Argyll & Bute, it will be interesting to see how you explain the next lot of cuts!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

      richard July 13, 2014 1:50 pm Reply
      • That was the idea behind removing themselves from power Richard. The finger can be pointed at others. I don’t think they had banked on Dick Walsh delaying all the cuts until 2016 and we won’t really see them bite before the next local elections. Who’d bet against Dick Walsh and his fellow architects of the cuts not standing again? Who in their right mind would put themselves up in 2016 to try and sort the impending disaster out? For all those who say we’re currently in a mess – you ain’t seen nothing yet.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

        keith stanger July 13, 2014 2:45 pm Reply
      • Richard’s piece is the cry of al the “Independents” who want to get into power on the platform of “I’m a good guy, will do the best for the the voters of A&Bmp;B, lets not get the politicians involved”
        The result is an administration of those who have no platform or plan ( or certainly not one offered to the electorayte as a choice ) and the production of decisions not based on such a plan, failing which they do what the hired staff decide for them, or more often in recent history, nothing or “Wait”
        Any-one who thinks that byou can keep party politics out of local government, when 85% of its budget comes from government (of whatevewr persuasion) needs to campaign for a local taxation system and no government grant – and see whether thge voters will support that “good guy/fine gal” at the ballot box.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

        Gerry Fisher July 13, 2014 3:16 pm Reply
        • Taxes need to rise, I know that is a ‘red rag to a bull’ statement but it is fact, the point I am making is get on and do the job, how long is this untenable situation going to be allowed to continue. I am fully aware of the gun held to the councils heads but if A & B goes much further into debt it will not be opening its doors. If everyone ignores the issue it will just spiral out of control at OUR expense

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

          Rchard July 13, 2014 3:38 pm Reply
          • If taxes need to go up it should be income tax, which is at least reasonably progressive, rather than council tax, which is regressive. The Scottish Government need to bite the bullet and put the 3p on income tax they’re allowed to do and increase block grants to councils.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

            Arethosemyfeet July 13, 2014 6:20 pm
      • What was wrong with the good old Scottish Office. Why do you want more tiers of Government ? Why do you want further expense, more arguments, more bloody mindedness. What sort of inferiority complex are you suffering from Mr Breslin. Is it that your ego feels it ought to be up there ruling the peasants – deciding what is right and wrong for them ? As I’ve said before – the grass will not be greener the other side of Salmond’s fence – it will be a wilting brown.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

        Malcolm Kirk July 13, 2014 3:33 pm Reply
        • Malcolm, the simple answer is that the councillors are all in it for themselves, ME, ME,ME.
          So Cllr Breslin I’ll ask you this, ‘What have you achieved in the last 12 months’ on behalf of of the people who elected you?
          I look forward to your reply.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

          richard July 13, 2014 6:32 pm Reply
      • Michael Breslin is to the best of my knowledge the convener of YES Cowal. This article is directly related to Scotland’s independence referendum, why shouldn’t he give an opinion?
        Have you any idea of the background work put in not only by Michael Breslin but all the other elected councillors? They as we do have every right to get involved as doing so by commenting on here or attending the odd meeting does not compromise the work they or we do during normal working hours.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

        JnrTick July 13, 2014 9:53 pm Reply
        • Are you his official spokesman? If so perhaps you can answer the question.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

          richard July 13, 2014 11:10 pm Reply
          • So are you agreeing or disagreeing with my comment Richard? If you disagree lets hear why. It’s how these forums are supposed to work, agreeing or disagreeing as opposed to having a go at the commenter him or herself.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

            JnrTick July 14, 2014 9:48 pm
  • Scotland did not get the government it voted for at the last general election because the Labour Party, in particular it’s Scottish Mafia, would not entertain a rainbow coalition.

    Being “owned” by foreign interests, they preferred their controlled bedfellows, the Tories and Lib Dems, to take the reins. How can anyone forget the irrelevant tag that these three applied to our other Scottish and UK parties when it came to the televised leaders debates? They and the controlled media partitioned all the other parties out of the picture. It has long since stopped being democratic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

    Murdoch MacKenzie July 14, 2014 4:13 am Reply
    • The problem with the idea of rainbow coalitions is that firstly they lack legitimacy, and secondly they are inherently unstable. In this case people would expect the Tories, who had the largest number of MPs to form the basis of a government, while Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, SDLP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens would all have had to agree to form a coalition. If even one party desented over a particular policy then it could potentially trigger a vote of no confidence.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

      Kieron Green July 14, 2014 9:23 am Reply
      • You’re right, all these irrelevant little parties have no right to power. They would probably refuse the instructions from above, like the erosion of peoples human rights, freedom and privacy.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

        Murdoch MacKenzie July 14, 2014 8:33 pm Reply
  • Based on today’s news that both campaigns are launching celebrity independence videos im pretty convinced I don’t want any of our current government options. They are trying to sell us independence or the union as if it is a brand of margarine. What on earth have the likes of Izzard, Brian Cox, Ricky Ros, John Barrowman or Elaine C Smith got to say that should chime with the voters at home. Ideas of grandeur and self importance the lot of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Integrity? July 16, 2014 6:38 pm Reply

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