Scotland Democracy, devolution and governance

Scottish Parliament Election 2021 – Early Reflections – Voters Speak Out

Photo Credit: BauHausDH via Compfight cc

The votes are counted and results declared for an unusual election following hot on the heels of an extraordinary year.

Local government has been at the heart of the response to the pandemic, working 24/7 for months and months. This year’s elections were a further example of how local government stepped up and delivered a safe election and protected democracy. We must offer our thanks to staff that worked hard to deliver the results. Use of postal votes was at a record high and turnout in Scotland was also at a record high, leading some pundits to suggest that elements of this approach might be preserved. Also in Scotland, 16 year olds, refugees and asylum seekers were given the opportunity to vote, an inclusive approach.

SNP were declared as the winners with 64 seats out of a possible 129.  64 seats represents a workable majority for the SNP as from the remaining 65 seats a non voting presiding officer has to be elected. This is a record fourth term and a strong showing for the ruling government.  In Wales, Labour recorded a record sixth win with 30 seats out of a possible 60, also a working majority. This now confirms what many suggest, Scotland and Wales with their respective Parliament and Assembly represent different nations within the UK, nations with different political mandates. Boris Johnson is suggesting talks with his counterparts; I wonder what they will talk about?

The new Scottish Parliament with 64 SNP MSPs and a record 8 Green MSPs might look from the outside to be similar to the last one. However, some facts for you to consider, SP21 has the highest number of women MSPs elected in its history at 45%, that increase is largely due to SNP 53%, Greens 63%, Labour 45%.  As well as being more female, the MSPs are slightly younger. Also, voters returned women of colour and a permanent wheelchair user. These facts indicate a potential for Holyrood 2021 to be more representative of the people who voted for it and perhaps be more prepared to work together to deliver for Scotland.

It is always fascinating and a little amusing to watch and listen to London centric commentators describe the voting system for Scotland and Wales. However, Krishnan Guru Murthy put it so well, “Judging the results by whether the SNP wins a majority seems rather a unionist prism.” The Scottish Parliament system was designed to make getting a majority extremely difficult and that was a decision taken to encourage cross party, consensus political working to tackle the intractable policy issues faced by Scotland. I know from personal experience that the delivery of a healthy school meals policy and legislation in the first Scottish Parliament was achieved by cross party consensus, not a single party majority. This was also the case for the smoking ban and more recently the groundbreaking period poverty private members bill.

Voters have spoken. The Alba project failed to gain a seat. George Galloway failed to gain a seat. These facts should not be forgotten when the London centric media try to comment on democracy and devolution in Scotland and Wales. Scottish democracy is alive and well, the record turnout from people in Scotland has shown they are interested in who represents them and what their values are.

A number of councillors are now new MSPs and I have seen heartfelt pleas from colleagues to remember where they came from. In an election where local government barely got a mention, we at LGIU are waiting to hear what the new Scottish Government has planned. We will continue to bring you all the latest news. After May 13th, when all MSPs take their pledges to the people of Scotland, we will want to know how the new government they put their trust in will deliver on the promises made and build a recovery for a fairer, just and inclusive Scotland.

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