TWO-thirds of the votes cast in Scotland at the General Election, almost 1.8 million, were “wasted” and had no impact on the result, according to voting reform campaigners. UK-wide, the figure was put at 22m votes or 68 per cent.
The Electoral Reform Society in its analysis of the June poll, published today, said the current First-Past-the-Post [FPTP]system meant the SNP “continue to be over-represented in Scotland,” having won 36.9 per cent of the vote but having received 59.3 per cent of the 59 seats.
In contrast, Labour won 27.1 per cent of the votes but picked up just 11.9 per cent of the seats[seven]. The Tories won 28.6 per cent of the votes and received 22 per cent of the seats while the Liberal Democrats got the same share of votes as number of seats, 6.8 per cent[four].
South of the border, the Conservatives won 56 per cent of the seats on 46 per cent share of the vote.
The report, entitled The 2017 General Election: Volatile Voting, Random Results, showed how 37 of the 50 UK seats with the lowest winning vote share were in Scotland.
It suggested Scotland was “shifting back towards multi-party politics” just as England moved the other way as “huge swings” in Scotland saw 21 of the 59 constituencies change hands; more than any other nation or region of the UK.
The ERS branded the 2017 vote the “hold your nose” election after an estimated 6.5m people across the UK made tactical decisions and it calculated that the Conservatives could have won a majority, if just 0.0016 per cent of voters had chosen differently.
“This election saw the second highest electoral volatility – the movement of votes between parties – since 1931. People are switching sides and shopping around at astonishing levels,” said the campaign group, stressing: “The voting system is struggling to keep up with huge changes in partisan alignment.”
It claimed that some victories in Scotland under FPTP were “precarious” and hinged on just a handful of votes, since the nation returned four of the UK’s top 10 smallest majorities; all SNP-held.
The 10 most marginal seats across Britain included: Perth and North Perthshire with a majority of 21; Glasgow South West with one of 60; Glasgow East with one of 75 and the most marginal of all UK seats, North East Fife, where the Nationalists won by just two votes.
Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland, said: “Our report shows that 1,759,305 [66.4 per cent] of votes in Scotland were wasted; having no impact on the outcome of the election.
“The ways that votes are converted into seats matters. As voters wake up to the failures of FPTP they are increasingly taking on the complex task of trying to game the system to make it reflect their wishes.
“Electors should be able to vote for parties they agree with on the broad sweep of policy, instead of feeling the need to vote tactically based on one significant issue such as independence or Brexit because they fear ‘winner takes all’ dominance,” he said.
The ERS report highlighted the large fluctuations in results between the 2015 and 2017 general elections such as how a 43.9 per cent increase in the SNP’s vote share in Glasgow North East two years ago switched to a 9.2 per cent hike for Labour in June.
“Voters in Scotland appear to have turned in large number to tactical voting strategies in order to break single-party rule,” the report stated.
“Nine of the 10 largest overturned majorities were in Scotland, including Banff and Buchan where a majority of over 14,000 for the SNP turned into a majority for the Conservative party of 3,600; an example of voter volatility and how all parties’ fortunes can fluctuate even in a short space of time.”
It added: “Scotland also has four of the top 10 smallest majorities – North East Fife, Perth and North Perthshire, Glasgow South West, Glasgow East – demonstrating just how precarious victory can be under first past the post.”
The ERS is demanding a change to a proportional system such as Scotland’s Single Transferable Vote used in Local elections.
“A proportional system would…create a much broader discussion of politics[and] ensure all votes are of equal value with citizens feeling empowered to take part,” said Mr Sullivan.
“We need a democracy fit to take on the challenges the 21st century is providing and that means going beyond first past the post,” he added.
A referendum in May 2011 under the Lib-Con Coalition on whether or not to introduce the Alternative Vote system for Westminster resulted in a substantial rejection for change.
On a turn-out of 42.2 per cent, a switch to the AV system was rejected by 13m votes[68 per cent of the electorate] to 6.2m votes[32 per cent].
Source : HeraldScotland