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The 2016 Scottish Parliament election result; what does this mean for Scotland?

By Fraser Wallace

The campaigning is over; the ballots have been counted. The result of the Scottish election 2016 is known. Whilst journalists reporting on the event seek to deliver dramatic, eye-catching, paper-selling headlines the mundane reality is that the Scottish National Party (SNP) remain (by far) the largest party in Holyrood and it is their manifesto which will be implemented, for the greater part.

Please see our previously published resource on Scottish Parliament elections for a brief description of how they are organised (link).

It is true that the SNP did not, this time, attain a majority in the chamber. Some have argued that this is due to a wavering in the party’s support or that the party’s fortunes have waned. Not so; the electoral method used to elect Scotland’s parliaments actively limits the chances of parliamentary majorities being formed and it is of note that the SNP received the greatest number of constituency votes in any Scottish Parliament election, ever.

scot table

Firstly, Labour is no longer the largest opposition party in Holyrood; this accolade now goes to the Conservatives. This may mean a greater contrast with regard to the respective positions taken by the SNP and their principal opponents. Labour struggled to define themselves in this electoral contest due to their close ideological positioning – with regard to social and economic outlook- to the SNP. The Conservative Party, on the other hand have clear water between their centre right positioning and that of the SNP. The SNP may, therefore, move further to the left to consolidate their position and mop up the remnants of Labour support.So the changes in the Scottish Parliament are not overwhelming; but they may yet create notable changes with regard to Parliamentary dialogue and debate.

Secondly, the new numbers mean that the SNP will continually require the support of at least one other party in order to pass legislation; which will mean to an extent compromise and discussion. The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats have much in common with the Scottish National Party in policy terms. However, the SNP will only need to compromise as far as these smaller parties are able to negotiate good terms. The fact that two minor parties are able to offer SNP policy proposals a route to implementation means that the Greens and Liberal Democrats may  have to sell their support cheap in order to receive any reciprocal votes from Scotland’s largest party- the SNP.

For detailed information on manifesto commitments from the respective parties, please see our previously published resource on Scottish elections (link)

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Wednesday, May 11th, 2016