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So what would have happened if the SNP had voted Green?

In the previous post, So what about that second vote? I tried to explain how the modified D’Hondt system was used to provide a proportional representation from the Scottish regions to the Scottish Parliament.

That post was written because people on Twitter were talking about how best to use their second vote. None of them provided any evidence for the convictions, and it became clear that they didn’t understand the system. That was fair enough because neither did I, and nor did anyone I asked. So the question about how best to use the second vote seemed, to me at least, to somewhat depend on an understanding of how the system worked.

In this post I want to look at what would have happened if all the people who voted SNP in the North East region in 2007 had voted Green. Would that have changed things? And, if the result was different, what would the difference look like, and mean.

Might be best to quickly look at what the result actually was


North East Scotland 2007

It all starts with the constituency vote. Not the tally of votes per party in the constituencies; that’s not important here. What matters is the number of seats that the parties gained in the constituency vote

image (1)

  • Labour: 1 seat
  • Liberal Democrats: 2 seats
  • SNP: 6 seats

The regional vote in NE Scotland in 2007 looked like this

image (2)

And this resulted in

image (3)

  • Conservatives: 2 seats
  • Labour: 2 seats
  • Liberal Democrats: 1 seat
  • SNP: 2 seats

And putting this with the constituency seats

  • Labour: 1 seat
  • Liberal Democrats: 2 seats
  • SNP: 6 seats

image (4)

  • Conservatives: 2
  • Green: 0
  • Labour: 3
  • Liberal Democrat: 3
  • SNP: 8
  • SSP: 0

And that’s what happened. Sixteen candidates were elected. 50% of these were from an independence supporting party (the SNP) with the other 50% split between the Better Together supporting parties.

Looking at the this from an independence/unionist point of view I wondered what would have happened if every single one of those SNP voters had voted for another independence supporting party? What would have happened if every single one of those SNP voters had, for example, voted Green?


In NE Scotland in 2007, the SNP gained six constituency seats and received 105,265 regional votes whereas the Greens gained no constituency seats and received 8,148 in the regional list vote. So what I’ve done is take all those SNP votes and added them to the Green tally which gives the Greens an imagined tally of 113,413. I’m not going to explain how this all works again (it’s on the previous post), but here’s a summary

Round 1

  • Conservative: 37,666
  • Greens: 113,413
  • Labour: 26,063
  • Liberal Democrat: 13,645
  • SNP: 0
  • SSP: 1,051

Result: the Greens win their first regional seat

Round 2

  • Conservative: 37,666
  • Greens: 56,707
  • Labour: 26,063
  • Liberal Democrat: 13,645
  • SNP: 0
  • SSP: 1,051

Result: the Greens win their second regional seat

Round 3

  • Conservative: 37,666
  • Greens: 37,804
  • Labour: 26,063
  • Liberal Democrat: 13,645
  • SNP: 0
  • SSP: 1,051

Result: the Greens win their third regional seat

Round 4

  • Conservative: 37,666
  • Greens: 28,353
  • Labour: 26,063
  • Liberal Democrat: 13,645
  • SNP: 0
  • SSP: 1,051

Result: the Tories win their first regional seat

Round 5

  • Conservative: 18,833
  • Greens: 28,353
  • Labour: 26,063
  • Liberal Democrat: 13,645
  • SNP: 0
  • SSP: 1,051

Result: the Greens win their fourth regional seat

Round 6

  • Conservative: 18,833
  • Greens: 22,683
  • Labour: 26,063
  • Liberal Democrat: 13,645
  • SNP: 0
  • SSP: 1,051

Result: Labour win their first regional seat

Round 7

  • Conservative: 18,833
  • Greens: 22,683
  • Labour: 13,031
  • Liberal Democrat: 13,645
  • SNP: 0
  • SSP: 1,051

Result: the Greens win their fifth regional seat


So, in this imaginary scenario the regional result would be:-

  • Conservatives: 1 (-1)
  • Green: 5 (+5)
  • Labour: 1 (-2)
  • Liberal Democrat: 0 (-1)
  • SNP: 0 (-6)

which possibly, just by looking at the figures, won’t cut much mustard with SNP people. However, looking at it from a independence/unionist perspective the result would be:-

  • pro-independence party representatives: 11 (+3)
  • unionist party representatives: 5 (-3)
So by not voting SNP in the regional vote in North East Scotland in 2007, SNP voters could have elected more pro-independence representatives than they did by voting SNP.

The next post will consider what would have happened if the SNP regional vote had been equally split between the Greens and the SSP

So what about that second vote?

This all started on Twitter. Some people were talking about how best to use their second vote in the forthcoming Scottish parliamentary elections and since I didn’t actually understand how the voting system worked I just lurked until it dawned on me that they didn’t know how the system worked either. I asked a couple of people offline. They didn’t know either. So this post is my attempt to explain how the Scottish electoral system works. In a subsequent post I’ll attempt to understand what this example tells us about the second vote.


The Scottish Electoral Systems

There are two different electoral systems used to elect representatives to the Scottish Parliament.

It all begins with the constituency votes. There are seventy-three constituencies in the Scottish elections (different from the Westminster boundaries) and each of these constituencies elects a single representative based on a first-past-the-post system (FPTP). The FPTP system is just one of several of what are known as ‘plurality systems’.

The electoral system used for the regional ballot for the Scottish Parliament is called the Additional Member System. This is a variant of the D’Hondt system with the the number of seats won in the local constituency FPTP vote taken into account in the calculation. So although the number of votes for each constituency candidate has no bearing on how regional members are elected, the number of constituency seats that each party gains in a region plays an important part.

Before going any further, this BBC video gives a good explanation of the standard D’Hondt system.

Right, back to Scotland, where it’s done a little bit differently.

There are currently eight regions in Scotland. These are :-

  • Central Scotland
  • Glasgow
  • Highlands and Islands
  • Lothians
  • Mid Scotland and Fife
  • North East Scotland
  • South Scotland
  • West Scotland

Each of these eight regions provides seven regional, or list, MSPs (a total of 56 if you didn’t do the arithmetic) which when added to the 73 constituency MSPs gives us a grand total of 129.


North East Scotland, 2007

So since Pol asked.

In the 2007 North East Scotland region, the constituency results were:-

  • Labour – 1 seat
  • Liberal Democrats – 2 seats
  • SNP – 6 seats

It’s only when we know the constituency results that we can start to calculate the regional results.

The number of votes cast on the regional list in North East Scotland in the 2007 election were:-

  • SNP 105,265
  • Labour 52,125
  • Conservative 37,666
  • Liberal Democrat 40,934
  • Scottish Green 8,148
  • SSP 1,331
  • Solidarity 2,004
  • Scottish Senior Citizens 3,874
  • BNP 2,764
  • Scottish Christian 1,895
  • UKIP 1,045
  • Christian Peoples 941
  • Scottish Voice 569
  • Scottish Enterprise 569

For the sake of simplicity I’m going to disregard any party below 4,000 votes. This makes no difference to the calculation or the overall result. In the spreadsheet I’ve included the Greens, the SSP and Solidarity because I want to do some analysis in a later post.
So for now we’re only dealing with:-

  • SNP 105,265
  • Labour 52,125
  • Liberal Democrat 40,934
  • Conservative 37,666
  • Scottish Green 8,148


Getting Started with D’Hondt

Round 1

Before we can actually say who has won Round 1 we need to apply the standard D’Hondt formulation to the regional votes of the parties that won constituency seats. The standard D’Hondt formula is

q = V / (s+1)

where

  • the quotient q is the number of votes to be accounted for in the first round of AMS;
  • V is the number of regional votes for the respective party;
  • s is for the total number of seats; and
  • (s+1) which is known as the ‘divisor’

So because the SNP did particularly well in gaining 6 constituency seats their regional vote tally is reduced by the divisor (6+1) to 15,038, and the same is then done for the Liberal Democrats (2 seats) and Labour (1 seat) because they were the only other parties that won constituency seats.

Screenshot 2015-09-20 at 07.41.35

image

And, hopefully the chart shows the formula has used the constituency seats to provide a more regional average.
Technically, the formula is applied to the vote share of every other party on the regional list even if they didn’t win a constituency seat. The Greens can be used as an example

q = V / (s+1)
q = 8148 / (0+1)
q = 8,148

And it’s because they didn’t win any constituency seats that they have 0 entered into the formula. This means that unlike the parties that won constituency seats the Greens enter the first round of the regional vote with all their regional votes. And that’s the same for the Tories and every other party on the list that didn’t win a constituency seat.

So here we go.
In the first round the North East Scotland regional tallies were:-

SNP 15,038
Labour 26,062
Conservative 37,666
Liberal Democrat 13,644
Scottish Green 8,148

Result: the Tories have the highest share, and so win the first round, and gain a seat.

Round 2

Before we can work out who has won Round 2 we need to apply the D’Hondt formula to the winner of Round 1 which as we’ve just seen was the Tory vote.

So for the Tory vote going into Round 2, their tally is reduced using the formula to 18,833

q = 37666 / (1+1)
q = 18,833

The tallies of the unsuccessful parties in the previous round are unchanged for this round.

So, here we go again.
In the second round the North East Scotland regional tallies were:-

SNP 15,038
Labour 26,062
Conservative 18,833
Liberal Democrat 13,644
Scottish Green 8,148

Result: Labour now have the highest share and so they win their first regional seat, and increase their overall number of seats to 2.

Round 3

Before we can work out who has won Round 3, we again need to apply the D’Hondt formula to the winner of Round 2 which as we’ve just seen was Labour.

So their tally going into Round 3 is reduced, using the formula, to 17,375
q = 52,125 / (2+1)
q = 17,375

The tallies from the unsuccessful parties in the previous round are again unchanged from the previous round.

So, here we go again
In the third round the North East Scotland regional tallies were:-

SNP 15,038
Labour 17,375
Conservative 18,833
Liberal Democrat 13,644
Scottish Green 8,148

Result: the Tories again have the highest share, and so win their second regional seat, and increase their overall number of seats to 2.

Round 4

Once again, before we can work out who has won Round 4 we need to apply the D’Hondt formula to the winner of Round 3 which was the Conservatives.

So the Tory share going into Round 4 is reduced, using the formula, to 12,555
q = 37,666 / (2+1)
q = 12,555

The tallies of the unsuccessful parties in the previous round are again unchanged for this round.

So, here we go again,
In the fourth round the North East Scotland regional tallies were:-

SNP 15,038
Labour 17,375
Conservative 12,555
Liberal Democrat 13,644
Scottish Green 8,148

Result: Labour again have the highest share, and so win their second regional seat, and increase their overall number of seats to 3.

Round 5

Hopefully you’re starting to see the pattern here.
Once again, before we can see who has won Round 5 we need to apply the D’Hondt formula to the winner of Round 4 which was the Labour.
So going into Round 5, the Labour tally is reduced using the formula to 13,031

q = 52,125 / (3+1)
q = 13,031

The tallies of the unsuccessful parties in the previous round are unchanged for this round.

So, here we go again.
In the fifth round the tallies in the North East Scotland region were:-

SNP 15,038
Labour 13,031
Conservative 12,555
Liberal Democrat 13,644
Scottish Green 8,148

Result: the SNP have the highest share, and so win their first regional seat, and increase their overall number of seats to 7.

Round 6

Once again, the D’Hondt formula is applied to the winner of the previous round which was the SNP. So going into Round 6 the SNP tally is reduced, using the formula, to 13,158
q = 105,265 / (7+1)
q = 13,158

The tallies of the unsuccessful parties in the previous round are again unchanged for this round.

So, here we go again.
In the sixth round the tallies in the North East Scotland region were:-

SNP 13,158
Labour 13,031
Conservative 12,555
Liberal Democrat 13,644
Scottish Green 8,148

Result: the Lib Dems have the highest share, and so win their first regional seat, and increase their overall number of seats to 3.

Round 7

For the last time, the D’Hondt formula is applied to the winner of Round 6 which was the Lib Dem, and their tally is reduced, using the formula, to 10,234

q = 40,934 / (3+1)

q = 10,234

The tallies of the unsuccessful parties in the previous round are, you guessed it, unchanged for this round.

So, here we go again for the last time
In the seventh and final round, the votes in the North East Scotland region were:-
SNP 13,158
Labour 13,031
Conservative 12,555
Liberal Democrat 10,234
Scottish Green 8,148

Result: the SNP again have the highest share and win their second regional seat. They now increase their overall number of seats to 8

North East Scotland region summary

SNP – 2 seats

Labour – 2 seats

Conservative – 2 seats

Liberal Democrat – 1 seat

Scottish Green – 0 seats

And that’s how it works. Once the total number of regional votes are collated, the parties that won constituency seats have their regional vote tally reduced using the D’Hondt formula. As parties start to win regional seats their tally is in turn reduced using the formula. This continues for seven rounds until all the seats are won.

As I said at the start there is no political analysis in this post. I was simply trying to explain how the AMS works in Scottish parliamentary elections. That isn’t to say that having an understanding of the system’s mechanics doesn’t lend itself it to some conclusions, but these will be in another post.

When all three posts are online I’ll put a Google Sheet which might make it easier to see what’s happening. I’ve tried to make it as easy to follow as possible.

This is the first of three posts looking at the second vote and its potential effect.

The second is So what would have happened if the SNP had voted Green?

The third has yet to be put online.

References

Scottish Parliament

Wikipedia
Wikimedia Commons
YouTube
D’Hondt Explainer, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CU3F3ToIIg

Digital – a doubled-edged sword

Assemblies for Democracy

Digital- a double-edged sword powerpoint presentation

Digital: A double-edged sword

The title of my talk today is ‘Digital: A double-edged sword’. I’m grateful to the Working Group for the Assemblies for Democracy Scotland for providing the opportunity to give this talk and to Penny Cole for suggesting the talk’s title, which some of you will no doubt recognise as a Gramscian conception of literacy. Gramsci considered literacy to be a double-edged sword in that it can be used for the purpose of social empowerment and for the reproduction of repression and domination. And that raises the question about how we, as democrats, handle this sword in a digital age, and particularly with regard to the governmental release of data in digital form. The talk is in two parts but it would be simplistic to think that the double-edge of the sword is some sort of binary between good bits of…

View original post 2,898 more words

zero again

Last month, before the General Election, I wrote a post about the language used to describe zero-hour contracts. Much of the focus was concentrated at the time, and still is if these tweets are anything to go by, on what was/is meant by ‘exploitative’

https://twitter.com/TyroneTeri/status/595569461719126016[/embedhttps://twitter.com/edmundgeorge/status/604221453425328128

However my partner’s experience of working for the Labour-SNP coalition of East Renfrewshire Council taught me that the real sleight of hand was in the definition of ‘zero-hour contract’. Just to recap on this; ERC claim not to use zero-hour contracts but instead have a number of bank or casual staff who may, or may not, have work from week-to-week but who are not guaranteed a minimum number of hours. The link to the earlier post is here. What I didn’t know were how many people this involved.To find this out I made a Freedom Of Information request to East Ren Council which asked them to specify, by department and by gender, the total number of individuals the Council employs as ‘bank/casual’ staff. That seemed, to me, to be the lowest common denominator of what constitutes a zero-hour contract.

The figures that they sent to me are:

Screenshot 2015-05-30 at 18.52.44
So that’s just under one thousand employees of the Labour-SNP controlled coalition on East Renfrewshire Council who don’t have a guaranteed number of working hours from week-to-week. I was also informed that ‘there is no mutual obligation in the contract and there is no exclusivity clause’.

There may need to be some further clarification on these numbers. The large ‘Education’ figure probably includes a fair number of supply teachers which in turn will undoubtedly include a number of retired teachers and lecturers who happily do the odd class now and again. I’m annoyed at myself for not having thought of that at the start. So that headline figure of 944 is probably inaccurate, and the real number will be lower, and possibly much lower. Some other points to note:

Community Health and Care Partnership is the department that

  • brings together services for children, families, adults and older people and is committed to improving the health of people living and working in East Renfrewshire and to making a difference to health inequalities.

Corporate and Community Services is the department that covers

  • human resources including training and development
  • ICT
  • revenue services including payroll, council tax administration, benefits, rent collection and support for Welfare Reform
  • communications including printing
  • managing performance
  • elections
  • children’s panel
  • community engagement

Education is the department that covers

  • School Performance & Provision
  • Inclusion, Schools & Quality Improvement
  • Culture, Sport & Continuing Education (including libraries)
  • Staff, Parents and Corporate Services

Environment is the department that

  • covers a wide range of functions, including frontline services, for example cleansing and parks; regulatory and advisory services and strategic responsibilities, such as transport, planning, housing and sustainable development.

As I was writing this post, this image was doing the rounds on social media.

7FE2F4B7-5757-401D-9080-8428AD7B46F9

It’s meant as a testament to the seriousness with which the SNP view zero-hour contracts, and is a visual representation of the SNP’s recent election manifesto commitment (p.10).

We will also support tough action to end exploitative zero hours contracts.

And yet, in power with Labour in East Renfrewshire, the SNP have a considerable number of people going from week without knowing how many hours, if any, they will be working. These are zero-hour contracts. Let us call things by their proper names. It makes everything simpler. But that doesn’t analyse the hypocrisy; it simply states what to many was already apparent.

Despite protestations to the contrary, the SNP are a bourgeois nationalist party, and the interests of the Scottish working class cannot be served by them. Despite their rhetorical tacking to the left of Labour their practices in power remain welded to capitalist solutions within an overall neoliberal framework: to borrow Slavoj Žižek’s well-known dictum from Welcome to the Desert of the Real, today’s market provides us with a range of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol, and in case of the SNP, social justice without class politics.

The time has come for the Scottish left to get organized, disciplined, and malignant.

Meaning less than zero

Last week we received a Labour Party flyer in which Jim Murphy pledges to ban exploitative zero hour contracts. That was somewhat surprising because my partner had previously worked on a zero hour contract for East Renfrewshire Council (a Council led by a Labour-SNP coalition). What puzzled me was why, if zero hour contracts are exploitative, are they used by the local authority in Jim Murphy’s parliamentary constituency and put into practice by councillors of whom Jim Murphy is nominally the leader.  I couldn’t get my head round it.

But rather than immediately bothering Jim, who seems to have enough troubles of his own making, I thought I’d check this out with a local East Ren councillor. Before telling you what he said let me give you a brief idea of what working on the contract was like for my partner

She didn’t know from week to week if she was working and so she didn’t know if she was going to be earning any money. She didn’t know from week to week how many hours she’d be working although she knew she couldn’t exceed 35 hours because that was the contract’s ceiling. She didn’t know from week to week where she’d be working or which hours she’d be working. It was impossible to plan around because when you get that phone call you drop everything and take the shift otherwise they might not call again.

Now if you’re wondering why she signed up to this contract it’s because zero is better than nothing. There’s always the hope that you’ll get some hours and in truth for most weeks she did. One curious feature which we didn’t understand at the time was the way that even if she were covering a vacancy in a specific place she would share this with a number of other ‘casuals’. For some unknown reason she was never in a fixed place covering a vacancy.

Imagine then my discombobulation when the councillor told me that the Council have never used a zero hour contract!!! Instead, I was informed, the Council had a number of ‘bank’ staff that could be called upon when needed. These bank staff weren’t on zero hour contracts, it was explained, because ‘bank’ contracts don’t promise any hours. Whereas a zero hour contract offers a number of hours but which can be reduced to zero, a bank contract, according to the councillor, isn’t a zero hour contract because it offers zero hours in the first place.

I left the hub with an expression on my face which might well have come straight out a Greg Moodie cartoon. This definition of a bank contract sounded an awfy lot to me like a zero hour contract and I suspected a lot of people would be surprised to learn that a contract that offers zero hours isn’t a zero hour contract. My understanding of what that term means also seems to accord with what the BBC Business unit think it means

Q: What are zero-hours contracts?
A: Zero-hours contracts, or casual contracts, allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work
BBC Business news team (April 1st, 2015)
I needed to speak to the branch manager.
Over the weekend I put together an email and sent it off to Jim Murphy. I’m awaiting his reply.

As I put the email together I had one of those eureka moments when I realised that the meaning of the pledge wasn’t in its content but in its grammar. All those long Open University nights reading Halliday were finally going to pay off. What I realised was that ‘exploitative’ wasn’t being used simply as a pejorative to describe all zero hour contracts, but was instead being used as a qualifying adjective to describe some zero hour contracts. Rather than categorise or classify all zero hour contracts as exploitative the grammar was being used to say that some zero hour contracts are more exploitative than others.

I’m not saying Jim Murphy’s lying in his pledge. Given the opportunity he may well be in a position to ban exploitative zero hour contracts. He just won’t be banning zero hour contracts.

And of course, once ‘exploitative ‘ zero hour contracts are banned all that will happen is that employees will be transferred over to ‘bank’ contracts with the guaranteed promise of … yeah you’ve guessed it … zero hours.

 

References

BBC News, Business, ‘What are zero-hours contracts?’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23573442, accessed 13th April 2015

Topic of the week: private schooling | Herald Scotland

I was delighted to wake up this morning to find that my letter was Topic of the week: private schooling in The Sunday Herald.

R. H. Tawney

 

Rather than add more to that, for the moment, I thought I’d put in some of the references to things

References

Holman, B. ‘What can we do to blunt the power of public schools?’ in The Sunday Herald, Letters, (22.02.15), p.33

Husband Powton, A. (26.08.2014) ‘Subsidising Social Apartheid’, Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ashley-husband-powton/subsidising-social-apartheid_b_5702621.html, accessed 16-02-15

Ritchie, J. (25.09.2012) A Private Education, QuickNote, The Jimmy Reid Foundation, http://reidfoundation.org/portfolio/quick-note-a-private-education/, accessed 16.02.15

Smith, E.C. ‘The Power of Posh’ in The Sunday Herald, (15.02.15), p.23-24

Tawney, R.H.  (1964) ‘The Problem of the Public Schools’ (1943) in The Radical Tradition: Twelve Essays on Politics, Education and Literature, Minerva Press, London, pp.52-69

Image

‘R. H. Tawney’, By Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science (R.H. Tawney, c1920s  Uploaded by calliopejen1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AR._H._Tawney.jpg, accessed 01.03.15

By version 1 by Nohat (concept by Paullusmagnus); [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia CommonsSo three of us were sitting  in Teviot Row House, Edinburgh University Students Association  having some drinks after the Wikimedia UK board meeting.  Outside the door of the room was one of those pull up stands with an old Wikipedia globe image, and in walks this young student chap and asks what the Wikipedia sign is all about.  We explain the situation.

“So you guys are Wikipedia?” he asks on the point of incredulity.  Well, no and we have another go at explaining what Wikimedia UK does.  He’s having none of that. “I can’t tell you how much you guys have saved me on textbooks…you guys are awesome”.  He smiles, we thank him: and it’s beautiful.

Image Acknowledgement

File:Wikipedia-logo.png, By version 1 by Nohat (concept by Paullusmagnus), Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AWikipedia-logo.png, accessed 8th December 2013

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