Scotland: 1.5m voters ‘unrepresented’, as election sees people ‘ignored on industrial scale’

Posted on the 13th December 2019

Most voters did not pick their MP, as calls grow for switch to proportional representation at Westminster. 

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 13th December.

A majority (54%) of voters in Scotland didn’t vote for their MP, sparking renewed calls for proportional representation for Westminster elections.

Under Westminster’s First Past the Post system, any votes not cast for the one winner in each seat go to waste – meaning that across Scotland, hundreds of thousands of voters were effectively ignored.

There are 1,481,582 unrepresented voters in Scotland, according to the ERS analysis.

The Society have also revealed just how many votes it took on average to elect each MP per party.

The SNP secured 25,882 per MP, while it took 115,489 votes to elect each Conservative, 65,854 for the Liberal Democrats and a whopping 511,838 votes per Labour MP.

Full Results – Scotland

Party Seats Seats % Votes % Votes Votes per Seat
Scottish National Party 48 81.4 45 1,242,372 25,882
Liberal Democrat 4 6.8 9.5 263,417 65,854
Conservative 6 10.2 25.1 692,939 115,489
Labour 1 1.7 18.6 511,838 511,838
Green Party 0 0 1 28,122 n/a
Brexit Party 0 0 0.5 13,243 n/a
Others 0 0 0.3 7,122 n/a

Table: Note the stark difference in seat share compared to vote share.

The election also saw hugely disproportionate results. The SNP’s vote share increased by 8.1 points, while their seat share increased by 22 points.

The Scottish Conservatives meanwhile saw their vote share drop by 3.5 points – while their number of seats collapsed by 12 points.

Five seats in Scotland were won with less than 40% of the vote – i.e. more than 60% of voters did not back the winner.

They are:

Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath 35.3 Scottish National Party
East Lothian 36.2 Scottish National Party
Dunbartonshire East 37.1 Scottish National Party
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross 37.2 Liberal Democrat
Edinburgh West 39.9 Liberal Democrat

Graphics and full results, for use with accreditation are available here:

Willie Sullivan, Director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland:

“When most voters are totally unrepresented, something is clearly wrong. The majority of people did not vote for their MP in Scotland, and nearly 1.5m people here will no doubt feel silenced as a result. Westminster’s voting system is warped and is not working for people here. First Past the Post politics is now an alien system for Scottish democracy: a legacy of that Museum of Politics at Westminster.

“Candidates got in on fractions of the vote, while it took Labour over 500,000 votes to elect a single MP. The Labour Party would be wise to rethink its opposition to electoral reform – not just for their own sake but for voters of all parties.

“Despite voters being used to using PR in Scotland, our democracy is being skewed by a warped system for sending MPs to Westminster. We can’t go on like this.

“It is to the SNP’s credit that despite being greatly over-represented by First Past the Post, they back a fair, proportional voting system for Westminster.

“We call on all parties to work together now to back truly fair elections.”


New ERS research

UK-wide figures: 

Just 16 percent of the public believe politics is working well in the UK – and only 2 percent feel they have a significant influence over decision-making, according to damning new BMG polling for the ERS. It’s no wonder when millions of votes are thrown on the electoral scrapheap

Nearly 200 seats haven’t changed hands since World War II – with ERS analysis showing that 14 million voters in ‘one party fiefdoms’. One in ten seats haven’t swapped party since 1918.

The Electoral Reform Society have been able to predict the election result in half of Britain’s constituencies, before polling day. 316  seats as ‘one party seats’ (50% of Britain’s total, i.e. excluding Northern Ireland). This is what happens under an outdated one-person-takes-all voting system. Nearly 23m voters in Britain are in these ‘competition free zones’, according to the ERS.

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