SNP dominance in May will highlight our electoral system’s flaw

Nicola Sturgeon

If the SNP take almost all the 59 Scottish seats up for grabs, then this will reiterate the failures of first-past-the-post.

2015’s general election is going to be a roller-coaster ride. Currently, looking at the polls, it is more than likely that the Liberal Democrats will get less votes than UKIP overall, however, the former is likely to get substantially more seats than the latter.

Additionally, if the Green surge is as big as many polls are suggesting, under first past the post such an increase in votes is unlikely to matter due to the disproportionate nature of our voting system, one that favours bigger parties, ensuring that voices of smaller blocs do not get heard.

These two examples highlight the flaws of our voting system, however, it is the rise of the SNP that will serve to demonstrate the failure of first-past-the-post. Say the SNP get 56/59 of the seats in Scotland, as some polls are suggesting, that would mean that the SNP would have 95% of seats north of the border. Even if they managed to get a total of 50 seats, then they would have 85% of the seats.

Yet whilst this suggested increase in seats is reflective of the SNP surge by showing that the party is clearly rising, this is not at all proportional. The SNP will get nowhere near the same share of the vote that they could get for their share of the seats. Polls indicate that the party could get a share of the vote in the high forties or even the low fifties, but not higher.

A more proportional system would give more proportional results, instead of giving the SNP a massive number of seats, which would not reflect the popular vote.

Of course, this is not the SNP’s fault, instead the problem here is the UK’s electoral system. Indeed look at the current state of play in Scotland: Labour have 41/59 seats (70% of the seats available). Yes, Labour achieved the largest share of the vote in Scotland - more than the SNP - but they got nowhere near the 70% mark.

Below the border UKIP will face a similar but very different problem. First past the post weakens them. Under a fairer system if the party gets 10% of the vote in May then they should get about 10% of the seats available, but in 2015 they will likely get nowhere near this amount.

Overall, the UK’s electoral system is unfair and unreflective of the true state of play of politics in the country. If the SNP do get an incredibly 56 seats in May then it willshow they are surging in support, but at least half the people in Scotland will have not voted for them. 2015 will provide many new points for campaigners of electoral reform to fight on. So soon after the AV referendum real reform looks unlikely, but 2015 will lay the building blocks for change, particularly if neither of the main two parties can cobble together even 35% of the vote - which could just happen.


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