Sunday, May 08, 2011

Guest Post: How close were the Scottish Greens to more MSPs?

Jeff from Better Nation kindly consented to write a guest post on how close the Greens were in Scotland to getting more MSPs. I think the facts, as presented here, are useful if a little depressing.

My shared home blog Better Nation is regularly pinned as a 'Green blog', something that I am certainly comfortable with and I know that my fellow Editors there were bummed at the lack of a surge in Patrick Harvie's bloc of MSPs, as I was.

As only a member of the GPEW, it's not really my place to say where, if anywhere, the Scottish Greens went wrong in this campaign, they were after all the only party other than the SNP to increase their share of the vote. So, I decided to take a dispassionate look at each of the regions and see where the Greens might have fared better with a few more votes or, perhaps, constituencies falling elsewhere.

CENTRAL (0 Green MSPs)

The SNP took the 7th regional spot here, winning its third list MSP.

The Greens were 6,395 votes away from taking that 7th regional spot and were behind Labour, the Tories, the SNP and even the Senior Citizens Party. Put another way, the Greens were miles off winning a seat in Central and it was never a likely place for a gain.


I had tipped this to be a potential region where the Greens could have picked up two spots but, alas, it wasn't to be. In what will prove to be something of a theme, it was the SNP who took the 7th spot here, their 3rd regional MSP on top of the 5 FPTP victories. Patrick Harvie took the 3rd ranking spot and the Greens were 3,193 votes away from getting a second, behind both Labour and the SNP but, interestingly, not behind the Lib Dems as the Greens successfully managed to poll more than double the yellows in Glasgow.

Changing the constituency wins between Labour and the SNP doesn't make it more likely for the Greens to get any closer either. Indeed, making Labour win every constituency would mean the SNP would take the first six ranking spots and Patrick would take the seventh.


Yes, you guessed it, the SNP took the 7th regional spot here too but the Green candidate, co-convener Eleanor Scott, was a slender 877 votes behind the SNP and 494 votes behind Labour in the race for that 7th spot.

If the SNP had won one of Orkney or Shetland then the Greens would have moved ahead of the SNP in the pecking order by 108 votes. Changing the Labour and SNP constituency seats does not have an impact
as any FPTP win is automatically replaced with another list seat with no impact on the calculations for that 7th spot.

This was as close as the Greens came to getting that 3rd MSP.


Edinburgh has always been a happy hunting ground for the Greens and it was unclear to what extent that was a personal vote for Robin Harper. However, Alison Johnstone was returned easily enough this time around
despite the threat of Margo Macdonald hoovering up much of the non-mainstream vote. Alison won her seat in Round 4 of the d'hondt allocations.

The Greens were 5,757 votes away from the Conservatives who took the 7th seat in this region but were also 4,835 votes behind the Lib Dems, 3,356 votes behind Labour and 1,575 votes behind the SNP so they
really weren't getting a look in. The Lib Dems or Conservatives winning a seat here and there might have helped but in truth the SNP and Labour vote share were just too high again with the Greens falling short.


The SNP took the 7th regional spot here, winning their only regional MSP with it too. The Greens were 2,008 votes away from taking it. Again, changing the constituency wins would have no impact here as
seats won/lost by the SNP are just replaced on the list.


Similar story to MSF, the SNP took their only regional MSP on the 7th allocation. The Greens were 2,388 votes short and were also behind the Tories and Labour in the queue to take an MSP. Very unfortunate to not see Dr Martin Ford at Holyrood.

SOUTH (0 Green MSPs)

The SNP again took the 7th regional spot here and the Greens were 5,627 votes short (from a total number of votes won of 8,656). The Greens were also behind Labour and the Tories in the fight for that seat so were always outsiders to win a seat in this region.

WEST (0 Green MSPs)

Labour finally take a 7th regional spot, pipping the SNP by only 185 votes. The Greens were 4,804 votes short.

So, all in all, depressing reading and it will be a painful review that the Green party will have to embark on in order to understand how a radical alternative manifesto and a collapsing Lib Dem vote did not deliver gains. It is a shame that there is not even any real opportunity of analysis on switching constituency wins to see to what
extent that may have helped the Greens win, they simply didn't have enough votes to be in the hunt.

The simple problem was that the SNP took far too much of the vote.

Under a true PR system, the Greens with their 4.4% national vote share would have been entitled to 6 MSPs, thrice what they have now. But sadly there is effectively a 6.67% de minimis limit as there are typically 16 MSP slots available in each region.

My only advice to the Greens, albeit hollow as they appear to be doing it already, is to be the main line of defence against local decisions that go against the party's ethos. From Aberdeen parks through Edinburgh trams to Glasgow University cuts, the Greens were there but regional strategies to compliment a national strategy is, for me, the way ahead.

One final thought, because I'm nothing if not ornery - Patrick Harvie said he didn't go into Politics to sit in a group of two, and yet that is what he shall be doing for the next five years. Will those words come back to haunt him? I do hope that Patrick continues to value his place in the Parliament even if he doesn't have the numbers he has been wishing for. Scotland needs a strong, vibrant Green party, even if the nation doesn't always realise it at election time!

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