The most pernicious myth persisting on indy social media about the Additional Member System (AMS) used for Holyrood elections is that an SNP list vote is ‘wasted’ and that #BothVotesSNP is a ‘bad idea’ as it is ‘impossible’ for the SNP to win a majority. The only ‘likely’ scenario, we are told in all seriousness, must therefore be an ‘indy supermajority’ build on seats won by fringe list parties still utterly unknown outside the tiny indy social media bubble.
This assertion is used to justify the (otherwise pointless) existence of ‘list only’ indy parties (with, so far, AFI and ISP adding to the RISE and Solidarity of 2016). Naturally, the proponents of such parties conveniently forget that the Greens already perform the role of ‘second indy list party’ very well.
So far, we have looked at the potential negative effects of fringe list parties at any realistic level of support (not the ‘if just half the SNP votes goes to Party X’ delusional hyberbole you typically come across in social media claims) — they will only risk potential SNP seats being lost to unionists.
We have seen how the claim that a list party can ‘target only unionists’ without harming the SNP is utter nonsense, easily disproved by a mere thirty second review of a list result. ‘Tactical voting’ to target unionists is not a matter of being simply ‘hard to achieve’ or ‘unlikely’, it is 100%, guaranteed by the arithmetic, impossible.
That’s right, the nature of the algorithm itself means all parties compete against all other parties: SNP v Green v Indy List Party just as it’s SNP v Con or Con v Lab. Thus the haemorrhaging of SNP votes to one or more fringe parties can only aid unionist competitors by splitting the vote. (Splitting of the Tory vote to George Galloway’s Alliance4Unity, similarly, is good for us, and indeed SNP chances in South Scotland may now depend on his success.)
We have also demolished the popular factoid of vote efficiency — the notion that a list party is more efficient at adding extra indy seats than the SNP (tl;dr — it’s not):
And last time we showed that, far from being a ‘waste of votes’, #BothVotesSNP is crucial to securing SNP seats on the list: an overall majority is entirely possible, and there is nothing inherent in the D’Hondt algorithm that ‘prevents’ the SNP winning more list seats — only its list share limits that.
While 2011 saw the SNP win an overall majority of seats at Holyrood on an (almost perfect) #BothVotesSNP result (45.39% constituency with 44.16% list share — a 1.23% difference), in 2016 the party lost that majority with a constituency vote share of 46.69% and a list percentage share of the vote of only 41.79 — a 4.9% difference.
Modelling based on the 2016 result shows that had #BothVotesSNP been followed — with a list percentage close to the constituency percentage as in 2011 — then the SNP would in fact have likely won six more seats to win ten list seats, and an overall majority at Holyrood.
Data analysis conclusively proves that #BothVotesSNP works. It can — and has — produced a majority SNP government.
Don’t let anyone on social media try to persuade you otherwise: any claim to the contrary about the efficacy of #BothVotesSNP is conclusive proof that have conducted no data modelling whatsoever to support their opinion, and know not of which they speak.
The Story of 2007: the SNP’s ‘Great Escape’
We know that the SNP won a majority government in 2011 on #BothVotesSNP (with just over a 1% difference in the vote share between constituency and list), then lost it in 2016, as SNP supporters followed the ill-informed ‘advice’ of ‘tactical voting’ advocates, creating a 5% gap between the two votes. As the SNP had performed so well in the constituencies, this haemorrhaging of list votes to the Greens, RISE, Solidarity and others ensured that the SNP’s list prospected were curtailed, compared to 2011.
A corollary of this cautionary tale is to examine the fortunes of the previous party of government in Scotland — Labour — and how it lost power.
As we all know, the constitutional future of Scotland pivoted on Thursday, 3 May 2007, as the SNP managed to pull past Labour by the slimmest possible of electoral margins. The SNP won just one more seat than Labour, giving the party 47 seats to Labour’s 46.
The rest, as they say, is history.
2007 enabled the SNP to form a successful minority government (the first in the history of Scottish devolution, after two Lab-Lib Dem coalitions).
2007 allowed the SNP to prove that it was a capable party of government, gaining the trust of the Scottish people, thus facilitating the phenomenal success of 2011, and the indyref of 2014.
All of this was because of 2007.
Let’s now have a look at the Labour and SNP vote split in 2007.
The above table summaries the percentage shares of votes and seats for all the main parties over the history of Holyrood. We see that in 2007, the percentage vote shares achieved by Labour and the SNP were:
We can see that while there was just over a 2% gap between the SNP constituency and regional list percentage vote shares, there was a differential of over 3% for Labour.
This was the way the regional list seats were allocated in 2007:
But what if #BothVotesLabour had occurred in 2007?
Since we never see an exact match between any party’s constituency and regional list percentages, all we’re going to do is model the same gap between Labour’s constituency and list vote shares, as the SNP had in that very same election, 2%.
This is the result, of our ‘alternative’ 2007 election:
Another Labour government.
Another four years in opposition for the SNP.
Now, if there had been a 1.23% gap between Labour’s two percentage shares (just as the SNP achieved in 2011 with its #BothVotesSNP strategy), then the result would have been Labour beating the SNP by two seats:
We can thus see the direct effects of voters failing to vote for their constituency party of choice in the regional list.
Had just 1% more Labour voters stuck with the party for their list vote in 2007 (giving a gap just the same as the SNP’s), then Labour would have beaten the SNP, there would have been no SNP government from 2007–2011, and there would have been no indeyref in 2014. Perhaps it might only have been 2011 when the SNP first managed to get into government.
#MaxTheYes in 2007?
Now, if the message hasn’t got through yet about the importance of the SNP list vote, let’s imagine that SNP voters in 2007 had succumbed to the #MaxTheYes ‘tactical voting’ rhetoric that cost the SNP its majority in 2016, and is similarly being touted for 2021.
What would have been the effect of SNP supporters ‘using their list vote wisely’ and going for the Greens, or the AFI or ISP of the day (Solidarity and SSP)?
Since we are examining results from an actual election, we can calculate this to the nearest vote (looking nationally, as no one would know regionally how the seats would play out).
The shocking truth is that had a mere 8,121 SNP voters abandoned the #BothVotesSNP strategy and gambled on another list party (whether Greens, Solidarity or SSP), then Labour would have won the 2007 election.
And this loss occurs in North East Scotland, no less, one of the regions we are constantly told by list party advocates that an SNP list vote is ‘wasted’. Indeed, it would have been just 1,016 votes of those 8,121 national votes being the ones that made the difference and gave Labour the win.
Despite what list party gamblers might tell you, it’s impossible to know where those SNP list seats may be won or lost. Your vote going to another party instead of the SNP might just contribute to a potential SNP seat going to the unionists instead.
The ill-informed assertions of opinionated indy bloggers and social media bubble ‘thought leaders’ arguing against #BothVotesSNP can only have the effect of shooting the independence cause in the foot, as in 2016. Any sensible person will ignore the utopian, pie in the sky rhetoric of ‘tactical voting’ for unknown fringe parties to create ‘supermajorities’: look instead at what the data actually tell you. Look at the reality of what support these fringe parties actually have in published opinion polls (precisely none). That way you can make a judgment based on sound data analysis and modelling and not on half baked social media ‘opinions’ — and not waste your vote on a fringe party unlikely to get more than the 1% collectively won by RISE and Solidarity in 2016.
Learn the lesson of Labour’s loss to the SNP in 2007.
Learn the lesson of the SNP majority in 2011 achieved with #BothVotesSNP.
Learn the lesson of the SNP’s lost majority in 2016, as voters were seduced by ‘advice’ to ‘vote tactically’ on the list for another party.
Learn why in 2021 #BothVotesSNP is crucial — perhaps making the difference between an SNP majority government or not.
Follow the facts, follow the data: no assertion by any social media pundit should be taken seriously until it is actually tested by modelling scenarios with data (ninety-nine times out of a hundred, these assertions turn out to be patent, opinionated, nonsense). Even a claim that sounds superficially logical and sensible means nothing unless modelling shows it is true, because what may sound plausible or even obvious, isn’t usually supported by the data.
Learn the lessons of the past and don’t let 2021 be a repeat of 2016.
#BothVotesSNP wins majorities— it worked in 2011 and will work in 2021.
Follow ListVoteSense on Twitter.
List of articles by ListVoteSense.