Scotland and Wales 2011
Elections for the devolved Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were held on May 5 in Scotland and Wales, alongside an AV referendum, English and North Irish locals, a Westminster by-election and elections to the Northern Irish Assembly.
AV and Northern Irish count is under way, and results for the English locals are being counted. A post on those results will be up when it’s all done. Results have been declared, however, for Scotland and Wales.
A magnificent and very complete preview of sorts, better than anything I could create, is on the Britain-votes blog. Scotland’s devolved administration had been led by First Minister Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party (SNP) since the 2007 election, Scotland’s devolved Parliament having been ruled by Labour since its creation in 1999. Though the SNP did well in the 2009 European elections, it did poorly in the GE in 2010 and was widely thought to be headed to certain defeat at the hands of Labour, as Scottish Labour picked up the inevitable seeds laid by the unpopularity of the Tory-LibDem coalition in Westminster. Labour had a large lead over the SNP in opinion polls at the outset, but they floundered it away.
Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, was seen as gray and uninspiring. So was his campaign. Labour seemed to have campaigned for Holyrood as if these were local elections, with systematic votes against the Westminster government. However, devolved elections in Scotland and Wales are not local elections anymore, rather they are equivalent to Canadian provincial elections or German land elections. As thus, Salmond was able to play on his popularity (his +33% approval is the highest of any of the 4 leaders) and really build up a strong vote of confidence in his favour. The SNP’s campaign played heavily on Salmond, and the SNP apparently appeared on ballots as ‘SNP – Alex Salmond for First Minister’. And so the SNP rocketed ahead of Labour in the final weeks. The Conservatives have a small but rather solid base in Scotland. But the Liberal Democrats, which had been until the SNP established itself in 2007 one of the main “non-Labour” opposition forces in Scotland and so held considerable weight in Scottish politics, collapsed. They have been hurt a lot in Scotland (and throughout the UK) for their participation as the junior partner in the Cameron-Clegg coalition. Scottish LibDems are quite independent from the mother party, but they’re guilty by association.
The preview post explains Scotland’s MMP electoral system, with 73 constituency FPTP seats and 56 regional seats allocated to ‘equalize’ representation according to votes cast. Therefore, parties doing excessively poorly in the FPTP seats will be compensated by regional seats.
|Con %||+/−||Con seats||+/−||Reg %||+/−||Reg seats||+/−||Total||+/−|
With 69 seats, the SNP has won an absolute majority, made even larger by two pro-independence Greenies and one left-wing ex-SNP nationalist, Margo MacDonald, reelected as an independent in the Lothians region. 45% is by far the SNP’s biggest vote share ever in Scotland, and makes this election a resounding victory for Salmond and the SNP. An overall majority notably allows the SNP to pass legislation organizing an independence referendum, an electoral promise of the SNP. But in a party traditionally divided between ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘gradualists’, Salmond seems to be playing the gradualist path as his victory speech made it sound as if the SNP would rather work step-by-step, gain by gain rather than going to hold a referendum right away.
The SNP’s victory came much at the expense of the LibDems, who lost all its seats in mainland Scotland and all of them to the SNP. Most notably, the party’s traditional heartlands in the Highlands and in Aberdeenshire fell to the SNP on a huge swing towards the SNP. The SNP, notably, represents the areas covered by the Westminster constituencies of former LibDem leaders Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell. The LibDems were confined to the old Liberal strongholds in Orkney and Shetland. In other constituencies, the LibDem vote’s collapse largely benefited the SNP. Labour was unable to make even minor gains in the national vote share, and perhaps most remarkably its traditional Scottish heartland in densely populated industrial central Scotland and Glasgow was infiltrated throughout by the SNP. The SNP now holds the most seats in Glasgow – traditionally a strongly Labour area – and all but one seat in Edinburgh is held by the SNP. Iain Gray managed to hold his seat, which saw a smaller swing towards the SNP, with a 151-vote majority. Labour is now almost entirely shut out north of Glasgow and central Scotland, with the SNP reigning supreme with large majorities in the vast majority of seats in the Highlands and North East. The Conservatives lost votes and seats, the LibDems collapsed to a pitiful 5% on the list vote and the Greens failed to make any significant gains anywhere.
Once again, a plug for Britain-vote’s excellent guide to the Welsh elections offered here.
Wales is the Labour heartland of Britain since the 1920s and Labour has been the largest party in all elections since then save for the 2009 Euros Labour rout. Labour did badly in the 2007 elections because of Blair’s unpopularity, and needed to form a coalition with Plaid in order to govern. Plaid had sought a coalition with the Tories and LibDems, but ended up forming the ‘One Wales’ coalition with Labour. Labour’s First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, in office since 2000, stepped down in 2009 and was replaced by Carwyn Jones. Jones is seen to be a competent and capable leader, able to be an advocate for Wales against the unpopular the Tory-LibDem coalition in Westminster. Unsurprisingly, Labour polled well throughout the campaign while Plaid polled below its mildly successful 2007 showing.
The preview post explains Wales’ MMP electoral system, with 40 constituency FPTP seats and 20 regional seats allocated to ‘equalize’ representation according to votes cast. Therefore, parties doing excessively poorly in the FPTP seats will be compensated by regional seats.
|Con %||+/−||Con seats||+/−||Reg %||+/−||Reg seats||+/−||Total||+/−|
Labour’s vote increased substantially, but gained only four seats overall as a lot of that vote piled up in the Valleys, an intensely Labour area. Labour gained Blaenau Gwent (a very working-class area in the Valleys) from retiring leftie independent Trish Law (who gained the seat in a by-election in a 2005 election, after her late husband, Peter Law, an ambitious Labour AM turned into populist left-wing independent died). It wasn’t much of a contest, as Trish Law retired and the Law-outfit (People’s Voice) is in ruins and ran an outsider who polled 18.8% to Labour’s 64%. Outside of that, it gained Cardiff Central from the LibDems, Cardiff North from the Tories and Llanelli from Plaid. Its majorities in the Valleys are amusingly but unsurprisingly massive. But Labour failed to gain target seats from the Tories in Pembrokeshire, and therefore didn’t win the absolute majority it wanted. It could form a stable minority or continue its deal with Plaid for another term.
The Conservatives managed to do quite well, after a decent showing in 2007 where it had the advantage of opposition, its supporters turned up and allowed it to hold its ground well. It picked up Aberconwy from Plaid, where Plaid was hurt by the retirement of Gareth Jones, who had won in 2007 only thanks to a large personal vote. It also picked up Montgomeryshire from the LibDems, on a large 9.5% swing from LibDems to Tories.
Plaid did poorly, but its strongholds in Y Fro Gymraeg are solid enough to withstand such loses. It did lose Llanelli to Labour, and its vote fell slightly in three of its five constituency seats. In Gwynedd, the local populist party Llais Gwynedd managed to poll 15.5%, largely at Plaid’s expense.
The Liberal Democrats lost two constituency seats and one seat overall, though from my vintage point I’m surprised that their overall vote share didn’t suffer more than it did.
UKIP had hoped to make a breakthrough in Wales, but polled only 4.6% (up 0.7%) on the regional lists and failed to win a seat. The BNP’s vote fell nearly 2% from its strong 4% showing in 2007. The Greens similarly failed to make a breakthrough, stagnating at 3.4% of the regional list vote.
A post on the results in Northern Ireland, England and the UK-wide AV vote will follow once those results are done. At this stage, with 94% declared, no to AV wins 70-30. Counting will be held tonight in the Leicester South by-election.