May 5th

Prof John Curtice: SNP list vote might be “wasted” on May 5th

20th April 2016
20 Apr 2016
John Curtice
Scottish election
ERS Scotland
May 5th


Electoral Reform Society publishes landmark report from senior academic

Statement from Electoral Reform Society Scotland

Embargoed until 12.01am, 17th April 2016

For media enquiries, contact Willie Sullivan, ERS Scotland Director, on, or Professor John Curtice on 

Voting SNP in regional vote might be wasted vote.

Current polling shows SNP dominance in constituency vote

Present voting system favours larger parties

Labour and Tories fighting over Unionist votes

Read the report here


The Electoral Reform Society has today published a landmark report on the upcoming Scottish Parliamentary election - which suggests that the SNP may secure an even higher proportion of the vote on the list than previously thought.

“The 2016 Scottish Election Briefing: Possibilities and Problems”, written by Professor John Curtice for ERS Scotland analyses all recent polling and applies findings from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2015 to weigh up the likely scenarios and challenges after May 5th.

Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland said:

“This report presents some major findings ahead of May 5th. The fact that the SNP regional vote may be even stronger than has previously been suggested shows there is a growing predominance of the SNP in Scotland that could potentially stifle other opposition parties [1].

“Politics should contain lots of different voices; something we’ve said in the past when it was Labour dominating Westminster seats in Scotland. It seems the same is now true with the SNP dominant at Westminster under FPTP - and could become even more so the case in Holyrood. 

“The polls show the SNP achieving a majority through the constituency First Past the Post part of the election, and dominating the list vote too. This is a bad sign for smaller parties, and a long way from the rainbow parliament of 2003 which many consider to be the high water mark of multi-party politics in Scotland. In part it comes down to voter behaviour: voters should realise that the list part of the vote is a chance to select what kind of opposition or smaller parties they would like in Parliament.”

Professor John Curtice, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde and Senior Research Fellow at NatCen Social Research, said:

“That would appear to imply that under this scenario many a list vote for the SNP would be ‘wasted’, that is it would fail to contribute towards the election of a MSP.

“Indeed, under our scenario that proves to be case for any regional list vote cast for the SNP anywhere other than in the Highland and Islands region, the only region where the party is projected to win any list seats.

“That this situation could arise in a number of regions, given the SNP’s current standing in the polls, has led to speculation that nationalist supporters might be wise on the second ballot to vote tactically for a different party, such as the Greens or the left-wing RISE grouping, both of which also support independence.

“That way their vote might contribute to the election of another independence supporting MSP rather than apparently be wasted. though this is not. a strategy without risks”

Professor Curtice added:

“Five of the eight polls conducted in February and March also asked people how they had voted in the independence referendum. On average no less than 88% of Yes voters said that they intended to cast their constituency vote for the SNP, while just 17% of No voters did so.”

“Given that so many of their onetime supporters voted Yes in the referendum, this pattern is inevitably bad news for the Labour party. It leaves the party more or less confined to fishing for votes in the waters of unionist voters – and finding itself in competition with the Conservatives in so doing.”


Read the report here:


Willie Sullivan and Professor John Curtice are available for interviews (details at the top).

[1] On Wednesday ERS Scotland will be launching a major analysis of the SNP’s predominance in Scotland: “One Party To Rule Them All: Does Scotland Have A Predominant-Party Problem?”. Contact Willie Sullivan for more details.

The report will be launching in Glasgow – full event details here: