Scottish Elections: All you need to know about today’s race for Holyrood

Sturgeon cruises towards an increased majority as Dugdale and Davidson battle for second place


How the Election Works

The Scottish Parliament is made up of 129 MSPs, elected using an ‘additional member’ voting system, like the Welsh Assembly.

Every voter will get the chance to cast a vote for one of the 73 constituency members, elected using the first-past-the-post system. The remaining 56 members are elected via semi-proportional regional lists.

In the 2011 elections, the SNP won a majority with 69 seats, Labour 37 seats, the Conservatives 15 seats, the Lib Dems five and others three.

Setting the Scene

As the fifth election to take place since the first vote in 1999, this is the first election to take place under a Conservative-only UK Government and the first since the independence referendum of 2014.

All three main parties are being led into the election by women. Nicola Sturgeon took the SNP helm when Alex Salmond stepped down after the referendum, while Kezia Dugdale replaced Jim Murphy when he resigned after last year’s general election.

Despite assertions by Labour’s former Shadow Scottish Secretary, George Robertson, in 1995 that devolution would kill Scottish nationalism ‘stone dead’, and despite an electoral system designed to prevent one party gaining an overall majority, the SNP remain extraordinarily dominant.

Following two terms of Labour-Liberal Democrat rule, in 2007 Alex Salmond took the SNP into Government, ruling as a minority administration. He then went on to secure an outright victory in 2011. Tomorrow’s big question is whether the SNP can secure more seats than it did last time these elections were fought.

For Labour the question will be how bad the losses are. Following a devastating General Election in Scotland, it will lose seats at Holyrood. Some polls have predicted that it could potentially lead to the Conservatives overtaking Labour as the second largest party in the parliament.

The Conservatives meanwhile will look for signs of a revival in Scotland, bolstered by the energetic campaign led by its popular leader, Ruth Davidson.

As in Wales, the Lib Dems are in a fight simply to remain relevant, and face the prospect of gaining fewer seats than the Green Party come Friday morning.

Key Issues

Independence: An independent Scotland has never been far from the frontlines of the campaign. The SNP have made clear that they will push for a second vote when the polls indicate support for it. Sturgeon has pledged a Summer offensive to garner support from wavering voters on the subject.

She has also made clear that Scotland being forced out of the EU against its will would, in all likelihood, trigger a second vote. While the Conservatives have been clear and forceful in their opposition to a second vote, Dugdale does not seem so sure, giving an interview to the Fabian Review indicating potential support for independence if the UK votes to leave the EU.   

Taxation: The Scottish Parliament is set to gain greater taxation powers, including over some bits of income tax. Dugdale raised eyebrows during the campaign when she called for a one pence increase in the rates of Scottish income tax to fund public service improvements. The policy has been opposed by both the SNP and the Conservatives.

Health: According to the polling, health is the number one priority for across Scotland with voters especially keen on a guarantee that NHS spending would be increased, so that it at least keeps pace with health spending in England. Data suggests that 66 per cent of people in Scotland are satisfied with their NHS – a larger proportion than anywhere in the country.

Education: Education, especially maintaining free university education, is one of the biggest policy priorities for voters in Scotland. On this front, the Conservatives have attracted considerable opposition to its proposals that graduates should pay back £6,000 when they earn £20,000 or more.  

What to expect

The SNP will sail back into power with around 70 seats. Labour will lose about ten but will cling to its place as second largest party and official opposition. The Conservatives will win more than 20 seats.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

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