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02 March 2020
Scottish voters ‘effectively ignored’ at last general election

Image credit: PA

Scottish voters ‘effectively ignored’ at last general election

More than half of Scotland’s voters are not being represented by an MP they voted for at the last general election, an Electoral Reform Society (ERS) study has found.

The study, which looked at voting in the 2019 general election, revealed that of the almost 2.8 million votes cast in Scotland on 12 December, 1.9 million “did not contribute to the result” which meant “68.5 per cent of voters were effectively ignored”.

Overall, it found 1.5 million votes went to non-elected candidates, with 408,000 “surplus votes” over and above what candidates required to win a seat.

It said Scotland saw “a starkly disproportionate result” with a disproportionality score of 36, “meaning well over a third of seats now held are effectively ‘unearned’ in proportional terms”. That figure was double England’s rate of disproportionality.

“Voters of both the Conservatives and Labour suffered, with 80 per cent of Conservative voters and 95 per cent of Labour voters going unrepresented, compared to just 15 per cent of SNP voters.”

The report’s authors said: “The results show how Westminster’s system struggles to translate votes into seats in multi-party contests. 

“In Scotland, the SNP’s performance delivered one of the most disproportionate results with a 22-percentage point increase in seats for an eight-point increase in votes. The SNP now hold 81 per cent of the seats on 45 per cent of the votes.

“Tiny winning margins – where a candidate can slip in on a fraction of the vote, and all others are discarded – are the result of trying to force a voting system designed for two-party politics onto a diverse, multi-party contest.

“Over half of voters in Scotland do not have an MP they voted for, while many more votes failed to contribute to the result.”

ERS director of policy and research Jess Garland called for the UK Government to look at proportional representation.

“Voters in Scotland are used to voting with a proportional system for non-Westminster elections but are being cheated out of fair representation in the House of Commons,” she said.

“The huge scale of unrepresented votes, in Scotland and across the UK, represents a democratic crisis that has to be tackled. It’s time to ensure seats match how people want to vote.

“Westminster’s out-dated, bankrupt electoral system is denying people choice and a real voice. The time for one-party-takes-all politics is over. We know proportional representation works – it’s time we backed a system at Westminster that works for all voters.”

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