What you need to know about this week’s election


CommonSpace presents all the information and key points to look out for as the election results emerge this week

EARLY ON FRIDAY MORNING [6 May] 32 council authority counts will declare the results of the fifth Scottish parliamentary elections.

With 129 seats to be decided through Scotland’s two vote election system, there will be a tidal wave of data reflecting the new positions of the country’s political parties.

Here are some of the key contests and numbers to look out for that will construct Scotland’s next parliament, government, and wider political make-up.

An SNP majority government?

Forming a Scottish Government requires at least 65 seats. There are 73 constituency seats available this week, the vast majority of which the SNP are favourites to win.

Will they? Current polling expectations – linked to last May’s General Election – expect the party to enhance its 2011 constituency performance (53 seats) by at least 12 of the 21 seats available.

A clean sweep of Glasgow and Lothians seats, for instance, will be a sign that a majority purely on constituency seats is on the cards.

The pro-independence list vote contest

Predicting the result of all 56 proportionally elected seats is an incredibly challenging task.

Even with dozens of opinion polls, tight margins of error and a unpredictable multitude of factors means that the results will be close.

Pro-independence parties the Scottish Greens, Rise, and Solidarity have all argued in favour of receiving the list votes from all pro-independence voters.

Polling has suggested that the Greens could benefit with up to 11 MSPs – receiving at least one in Scotland’s eight main regions. This would move the party above the Liberal Democrats. However, the party’s electoral numbers have fluctuated a week before the vote.

The SNP may still win list seats – especially in the Highlands and Islands or South of Scotland regions.

Gail Sheridan, Solidarity candidate, has said that if the party doesn’t win an MSP in Glasgow it would signal the end of leader Tommy Sheridan’s run in party politics.

New socialist alliance Rise face an uphill struggle to win a MSP or meet the five per cent threshold to save its deposit.

Here are two videos from figures in the pro-independence camp – James Kelly of Scot Goes Pop and Stephen Paton of Left Scotland , now working with the Scottish Greens – explaining their take on how the Scottish voting system works.

Second best: Labour vs the Conservative Party

According to election analyst John Curtice, predictions over who will form the official opposition are “too close to call”.

With both main unionist parties likely to perform poorly in constituency contests, the deciding factor will be support on the list vote.

Labour have presented a left-wing message to win back lost voters, while the Tories have argued that it will represent No voters with an anti-SNP approach.

If the Tories perform well, they will seek to come close to Labour in seats like Eastwood and Dumfriesshire.

Don’t call it a comeback: Liberal Democrat challenges

Following the party’s Westminster coalition with the Tories, the Scottish LibDems slumped to just five MSPs.

At this election the party is under pressure in its two island constituencies (Orkney and Shetland) after MP Alistair Carmichael was found to be a liar in court.

Party leader Willie Rennie will also be trying to hang onto his Mid Scotland and Fife list seat. The party previously won a list seat in the North East and South.

However, some polls have suggested the party could see a small upturn in its fortunes by winning a handful of extra list seats – which would represent slight progress.

The Scottish Greens are aiming to overtake the LibDems as Scotland’s fourth party in parliament.

Ukip-sceptical Scotland

Over a month ago a few polls suggest Ukip could win its first MSP. However, more recent polling suggests that that the right-wing, anti-immigration party is unlikely to win a seat.

It’s main hope comes in the Highlands and Islands list contest, where party leader David Coburn – who has faced a coup from colleagues – is the lead candidate.

Some key constituencies and candidates

– Glasgow Pollok: SNP minister Humza Yousaf will aim to defeat ex-Labour leader Johann Lamont. A SNP win would symbolise a victory for the party in urban Scotland.

– Edinburgh Eastern: Current Labour leader Kezia Dugdale takes on the SNP’s Ash Denham-Regan. Even if Dugdale falls short, she is expected to be re-elected as the party’s top list candidate.

– Eastwood: Labour’s Ken Macintosh faces pressures from the SNP and Tories in the well-off Glasgow suburb.

– Shetland: The fall-out from the ‘Frenchgate’ scandal will be felt at the ballot box as Tavish Scott tries to hold onto the Liberal stronghold from the SNP.

– Andy Wightman: The high-profile land reform campaigner aims to become the Scottish Green Party’s second MSP on the Lothians list. Polls suggest Wightman could narrowly win or lose the seventh and final available seat in the region by just a few hundred votes.

– Ruth Davidson: The Tory leader will stand in Edinburgh Central. Last year the party had its worst election result in Scotland since 1865. Will they have something to toast this year by beating Labour?

History in the making?

First time: A SNP victory would be the first time a party has won three Scottish Parliamentary elections back-to-back.

Longer than Labour: The SNP seek a mandate to govern until 2021, which would make its administration last for 14 years – one longer than the New Labour Westminster government.

Turnout: 59 per cent of voters took part in the first Scottish Parliament election. In 2011 50 per cent voted. Will there be an increase this time?

Gender equality: In 2011 34.8 per cent of MSPs elected were women. In 2003 39.5 per cent of MSPs were women. 2016 is expected to deliver the most gender balanced parliament so far. (37.2 per cent in 1999 and 33.3 per cent in 2007)

The aftermath

Following the election a new parliament will be sworn in, and a new government appointed. The official dates have yet to be announced – but previously the first session took place shortly after the election, with two months of parliamentary work before the Summer recess from late June/early July.

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Pictures courtesy of Martin Deutsch