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The STV. How has it changed representation in Scotland?. Proportional results. In the 2007 Scottish local council elections, STV delivered broadly proportional results in the elections to Scottish local authorities.

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the stv


How has it changed representation in Scotland?

proportional results
Proportional results

In the 2007 Scottish local council elections, STV delivered broadly proportional results in the elections to Scottish local authorities.

Parties won Council seats much more in proportion to the percentage of the vote they received.

stv why

In 2003, in order to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, Labour had to concede to the Liberal Democrats\' demands for the STV to be introduced to local council elections.

STV was adopted for Scottish local elections as part of the Local Governance (Scotland) Act, passed in June 2004.

Had Labour won an overall majority in the 2003 Scottish Parliament elections, STV would not have been brought in.

Labour is not dead, far from it. But, the party has to work a lot harder to win elections than it did under FPTP. Maybe not a bad thing.

STV. Why?
does pr increase turnout
Does PR increase turnout?

The type of voting system, on its own, would not appear to be the decisive factor in encouraging voters to turn out and vote.

Its perhaps unfair to deliver judgement on STV local council elections until STV elections are finally “de-coupled” from the Scottish Parliament elections in 2012.

UK voters do, though, appear to see the General Election as the most important, despite its much criticised First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system.

an end to one party politics
An end to one party politics?

In July 2008, in Highland Council, a new coalition was formed between some Independents, Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors, after the SNP withdrew from the previous coalition.

Under the old FPTP system of electing councillors, many of Scotland’s councils were, arguably, unfairly dominated by the Labour Party.

Labour could win complete control of a local authority with just a small percentage of the overall vote.

Highland Council 2007.

Labour 7 seats, Lid Dem 21, SNP 17, Ind 35 Councillors

multi party local government
Multi-party local government
  • In 2007, the STV destroyed Labour’s power base in Scottish local authorities.
  • The SNP now has more local councillors than any other party.
  • Coalition government is now the norm in Scotland.
  • South Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire Councils, for example, have a Labour/Conservative coalition, something which would have been unthinkable prior to devolution.
party politics in scottish local government
Party politics in Scottish local government

Most local authorities in Scotland are organised on a party political basis .

Most councillors are elected as party representatives.

Some also have a strong personal support in the local area.

Under STV, voters can choose between candidates of political parties. A candidate who is more popular on a local level perhaps has more chance of being elected than some one who is unknown.

So, STV has ended the days when local councillors had a “shoo-in” safe seat.

more choice for voters
More choice for voters

In the 2003 local elections, held under the FPTP system, 4,195 candidates stood in 1,222 wards. The average elector, therefore, had a choice from among 3.4 candidates. In 61 wards there was no competition at all, the candidate was unopposed, possibly because under FPTP it was so obvious who was going to win.

In 2007 there were 2,599 candidates for 353 multi-member wards. The choice available for the average elector was therefore 7.4 candidates – more than double that of 2003. There were no unopposed returns at all.

scottish conservatives

The 2007 elections, nationally, left the Conservative vote more or less where it was, but there were local variations.

South Lanarkshire and Dumfries & Galloway were the leading success stories for the Conservatives with gains of four seats in each council

Gains in some councils, such as Fife and South Lanarkshire, were mostly because the new system gave fairer representation to Conservative voters, while in others, such as Dundee, South Ayrshire and most spectacularly Stirling, Conservative losses were because they had previously been overrepresented.

However, even under STV, the Conservatives’ support is too low to hold out much hope of making a breakthrough in many areas of urban central Scotland.

However, a minority Conservative vote has always existed here.

In both North Lanarkshire and Inverclyde the Conservatives won seats on councils which had no Conservative representation in 2003.

Scottish Conservatives
scottish labour

Jim McCabe (on the right), Labour leader of North Lanarkshire Council.

In 2007, Labour was the only party to win outright control of any councils, winning Glasgow and North Lanarkshire.

However, the 2007 elections, at local as well as national level, were traumatic for Labour.

The party’s vote was down across nearly all of Scotland.

Labour had enjoyed over-representation in many Scottish councils for decades and the 2007 elections represented an adjustment in terms of its true support.

Scottish Labour
scottish liberal democrats

The Liberal Democrats were supposed to be the big winners with STV. The party fought hard to have STV introduced, although, to be fair, it always claimed this was not for narrow party political advantage.

In 2007, the Liberal Democrats experienced a decline in the number of their councillors, down from 175 to 166.

The party made breakthroughs is some areas where it had previously struggled to make an impact, such as North Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire. It also did well in Highlands and Argyll &Bute, which has Liberal Democrat representation at Westminster and Scottish Parliament level too.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

In 2009, after a by election loss, Labour lost control of Dundee Council for the first time in three decades.

  • The SNP took control of one of Scotland’s four big cities for the first time.
  • The SNP is the biggest party in Scottish local government. It is looking to make further advances in the 2012 council elections.
smaller parties
Smaller parties

The 2007 elections saw the election of the first Green councillors in Scotland. Five candidates were successful in Glasgow and three in Edinburgh.

Jim Bollan of the SSP, was re-elected in the Vale of Leven ward of West Dunbartonshire Council.

In December 2007, Ruth Black showed a remarkable lack of, er, Solidarity, by defecting to Labour!



STV was supposed to create a more diverse set of councillors.

However, before voters can vote for increased numbers of women and Black Minority ethnic candidates (BMEs), parties need to select them.

In 2007, the total proportion of female Scottish councillors was more or less unchanged, falling from 21.8% to 21.6%

Jean McFadden

Labour, Glasgow

Amanda Stewart


East Dunbartonshire

Alison Thewliss

SNP, Glasgow

Marilyne MacLaren

Liberal Democrat


bme representation
BME Representation

In terms of political representation, there are only a handful of BME councillors – 9 out of 1,222 councillors, or just below 1 per cent, elected in 2007. All are men of Asian heritage.

Irfan RabbaniLabour, Glasgow

Shaukat Butt,



Jahangir Hanif, SNP, Glasgow

Khalil Malik,

SNP, Glasgow

next stv elections 2012

Initially supposed to be held in 2011, the date of the local council elections was moved to 2012, due to the fiasco of 2007 when voters used the STV to elect councillors on the same day as they used the AMS for the Scottish Parliament.

With the electoral landscape having changed dramatically, the SNP is targeting the only two remaining outright Labour led councils; Glasgow and North Lanarkshire.


|The SNP is now the largest party in terms of seats in Scottish local government. STV has been good for the SNP

  • FPTP in the past exaggerated Labour support
  • Because of STV there are no longer any “shoo in” council seats
  • There are more candidates standing and more choice for voters
  • Independents are still a force
  • Parties are still coming to terms with coalition politics
  • It is too early to say how voters have responded to STV
  • Parties need to be more diverse in selecting candidates. The voting system on its own won’t do it.