How left wing is Scotland?

I’ve touched on this before, but it’s worth looking again at the political make-up of Scotland. Unlike in much of the rest of the UK, Scotland has a proportional system for parliamentary elections, allowing smaller parties a real chance at gaining representation, and helping to implement left-leaning policies. By standing on the regional list for Holyrood elections, parties can gain seats to compensate for the lack of constituency MSPs.

One of the recurring themes of the independence debate is that once we achieve independence, then left wing parties will take the reigns of Government and achieve the socialist utopia that we all want. But, given the chance, do the Scottish public really vote for a true left-wing party? The argument that there is no chance of winning is not true if one considers the regional lists.

The very first election to the Scottish Parliament, in 1999, saw Tommy Sheridan win a list seat in Glasgow, standing on a radical left-wing platform for the Scottish Socialist party. So from the start, it was possible to demonstrate that voting for a socialist candidate was not a wasted vote. Below is a table showing voting patterns on the regional list for the 4 Scottish parliamentary elections.

Holyrood Results table

I’ve amalgamated the results from the various left-wing parties, such as the Scottish Socialists, the Socialist Labour party, and of course Tommy Sheridan’s breakaway Solidarity. Respect are included for the 2011 election which was the only one they contested. Although I’ve recorded the Green party separately, they too could be considered left-wing, as many of their policies will attract left leaning voters.

In terms of the main stream parties, its obvious that the Conservatives are not left wing, and while the Lib Dems have gone into coalition with them, before 2010, they attracted many on the left with their liberal social views and opposition to the war in Iraq. The SNP have some left-leaning policies, but that with the combination of right wing ones, such as the council tax freeze, shows that they too are not consistently left wing. The exception might be their 1999 manifesto, which had the “penny for Scotland” option of increasing income tax to pay for social policy. However, this was later dropped, as it was considered not to be a vote winner.

There have long been arguments about whether Labour can be considered left-wing, and for the purposes of this blog I will leave them. What can be said, however, is that they have consistently been the biggest loser in terms of votes lost between the constituency and the list. An analysis of that will have to wait for a future blog post

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