The Scottish Vote at Westminster Elections

What you need to know:

– In 8 of the 18 General Elections since WW2, the Scottish vote has had no practical impact on the complexion of the Westminster government.

– In 6 of the 18 General Elections since WW2, the number of seats returned from the rest of the UK (without counting Scotland) has been high enough to secure a majority government. In these elections – which include the 1987 and 1983 elections when Thatcher was elected – a majority government would have been formed without the Scottish vote even being counted.

– Therefore in 14 of the 18 General Elections since the end of the Second World War, the Scottish vote has not had an effect on Westminster.

In the four General Elections where the Scottish vote did have an impact, here is what happened:

– In 1964, the Scottish vote changed a minority Tory government to a Labour majority government. This was in 1964, 50 years ago. The Scottish vote was able to do this because the voting in the rest of the UK was so close. When the voting is not close in the rest of the UK the Scottish vote has no effect.

– In 1974, there were two elections. In the first, the Scottish vote turned a Tory minority government into a Labour minority government. This government lasted 8 months because the two parties were so close. In the second, the Scottish vote allowed the creation of a Labour majority government rather than a Labour minority government. The Scottish vote was able to do this because the voting in the rest of the UK was so close. When the voting is not close in the rest of the UK the Scottish vote has no effect.

– In 2010, the Scottish vote prevented a Tory majority government and forced a Tory minority government instead. The Tories formed a coalition government with the Lib Dems and thus the Scottish vote had no material impact.

The Effect of the Scottish Vote in the 18 General Elections since WWII:

2010 General Election (Tory / Lib Dem Coalition)

Overall seats: 650
Seats needed for a majority: 326
UK
Tory: 307 seats; Labour 258 seats; Lib Dem: 57
Scotland
Labour: 41 seats; Lib Dem: 11 seats; SNP: 6 seats; Tory: 1 seat
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Tory: 306 seats; Labour: 217 seats; Lib Dem: 46 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: Forced coalition government rather than Tory majority. This is because the presence of Scottish seats means that a greater number of seats are needed to secure a majority government (326). The UK vote was 20 seats short of this. Without these Scottish seats the Tories would have been able to form a majority government instead of forming a coalition with the Lib Dems. The Tories only returned a single seat from Scotland and were elected regardless of the Scottish vote. While academically the Scottish vote forced a coalition government rather than a Tory majority it ultimately had no practical impact on the resulting government. Scotland went on to be governed by a party that the Scottish electorate overwhelmingly voted against.

2005 General Election (Labour)

Overall seats: 646
Seats needed for a majority: 324
UK
Labour: 355 seats; Tory: 198 seats; Lib Dem: 62 seats
Scotland
Labour: 41 seats; Lib Dem: 11 seats; SNP: 6 seats; Tory: 1 seat
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Labour: 314 seats; Tory: 197 seats; Lib Dem: 51 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE

2001 General Election (Labour)

Overall seats: 659
Seats needed for a majority: 330
UK
Labour: 413 seats; Tory: 166 seats; Lib Dem: 52 seats
Scotland
Labour: 56 seats; Lib Dem: 10 seats; SNP: 5 seats; Tory: 1 seat
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Labour: 357 seats; Tory: 165 seats; Lib Dem: 42 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE. In fact, this year the number of seats needed for a Labour majority in Westminster (330) would have been met without the Scottish vote even being counted.

1997 General Election (Labour)

Overall seats: 659
Seats needed for a majority: 330
UK
Labour: 418 seats; Tory: 165 seats; Lib Dem: 46 seats
Scotland
Labour: 56 seats; Lib Dem: 10 seats; SNP: 6 seats; Tory: 0 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Labour: 362 seats; Tory: 165 seats; Lib Dem: 36 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE. Again, the number of seats needed to form a Labour majority government was met without the Scottish vote even needing to be counted. Bear in mind that without the Scottish vote, the number of seats needed for a majority would be lower but Labours 362 seats returned from the rest of the UK would remain constant.

1992 General Election (Tory)

Overall seats: 651
Seats needed for a majority: 326
UK
Tory: 336 seats; Labour: 271 seats; Lib Dem: 20 seats
Scotland
Labour: 49 seats; Tory: 11 seats; Lib Dem: 9 seats; SNP: 3 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Tory: 325 seats; Labour: 222 seats; Lib Dem: 11 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE

1987 General Election (Tory – Thatcher / Major)

Overall seats: 650
Seats needed for a majority: 326
UK
Tory: 376 seats; Labour: 229 seats; Lib Dem: 22 seats
Scotland
Labour: 50 seats; Tory: 10 seats; SDP – Liberal Alliance: 9 seats; SNP: 3 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Tory: 366 seats; Labour: 179 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE. The Thatcher Years: the number of seats needed to form a majority government in Westminster (326) was met by the English electorate without Scottish votes being taken into account at all. If they hadn’t bothered to count the Scottish vote at all in this election the Tories would still have got in.

1983 General Election (Tory – Thatcher)

Overall seats: 650
Seats needed for a majority: 326
UK
Tory: 397 seats; Labour: 209 seats; Lib Dem: 23 seats
Scotland
Labour: 41 seats; Tory: 21 seats; SDP – Lib Alliance: 8 seats; SNP: 2 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Tory: 376 seats; Labour : 168 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE. The Thatcher Years: Again, if the Scottish vote had not been counted at all, the Tory seats returned by the rest of the UK (376) were above the threshold needed to form a majority government (326). The Scottish vote had no effect.

1979 General Election (Tory – Thatcher)

Overall seats: 635
Seats needed for a majority: 318
UK
Tory: 339 seats; Labour: 269 seats; Lib: 11 seats
Scotland
Labour: 44 seats; Tory: 22 seats; SNP: 2 seats; Lib: 3 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Tory: 317 seats; Labour: 225

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE. The Tories were one seat shy of being able to form a majority government and Scotland tipped this over the edge. However, the majority of voters in Scotland voted against the Tories and this had no effect. Labour returned double the amount of seats the Tories did in Scotland but the rest of the UK’s seats ensured a Tory government. No effect.

Oct 1974 General Election (Labour)

Overall seats: 635
Seats needed for a majority: 318
UK
Labour: 319 seats; Tory: 277 seats; Lib: 13 seats
Scotland
Labour: 41 seats; Tory: 16 seats; SNP: 11 seats; Liberal: 3 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Labour: 278 seats; Tory: 261 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: Scottish vote changed a Labour minority government to a Labour majority government. This has been used as evidence that the Scottish vote is needed to save England from perpetual Tory rule. Frankly, that is a lot of shite. If Scotland was an independent country, the seats returned from Scotland in General Election would not exist. The threshold needed to form a majority government would be lower accordingly. While Labour may have still fallen shy of that number, this means they would have to form a minority government rather than a majority. It does not mean Tory rule.

Feb 1974 General Election (Labour Minority)

Overall seats: 635
Seats needed for a majority: 318
UK
Labour: 301 seats; Tory: 297 seats
Scotland
Labour: 40 seats; Tory: 21 seats; SNP: 7 seats; Liberal: 3 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Labour: 261 seats; Tory: 276 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: This is one of the few times the Scottish vote had an effect on the outcome in Westminster. The Labour seats returned by the Scottish vote allowed the creation of a Labour minority government as opposed to a Tory minority government. This minority government lasted 8 months.
As we have already seen in the forty years following, particularly the Thatcher years, the wider UK vote would go on to negate the impact of the Scottish vote entirely.

1970 General Election (Tory)

Overall seats: 630
Seats needed for a majority: 316
UK
Tory: 330 seats; Labour: 288 seats
Scotland
Labour: 44 seats; Tory: 23 seats; SNP: 1 seat; Liberal: 3 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Tory: 307 seats; Labour: 244 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE

1966 General Election (Labour)

Overall seats: 630
Seats needed for a majority: 316
UK
Labour: 364 seats; Tory: 253 seats
Scotland
Labour: 46 seats; Tory: 20 seats; Liberal: 5 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Labour: 318 seats; Tory: 233 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE. Again, the Scottish vote didn’t even have to be counted: the majority threshold (316) had already been met by the rest of the UK.

1964 General Election (Labour)

Overall seats: 630
Seats needed for a majority: 316
UK
Labour: 317 seats; Tory: 304 seats; Lib: 9 seats
Scotland
Labour: 43 seats; Tory: 24 seats; Liberal: 4 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Labour: 274 seats; Tory: 280 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: Without the Scottish vote there would be a Tory minority government rather than a Labour majority government. This is the only time that the Scottish vote has overturned a Tory government. This was 50 years ago.

1959 General Election (Tory)

Overall seats: 630
Seats needed for a majority: 316
UK
Tory: 365 seats; Labour: 258 seats
Scotland
Labour: 38 seats; Tory: 31 seats; Liberal: 1 seat
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Tory: 334 seats; 228 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE. Again, the no. of seats needed for a majority was already met before the Scottish vote was counted.

1955 General Election (Tory)

Overall seats: 630
Seats needed for a majority: 316
UK
Tory: 345 seats; Labour 277 seats
Scotland
Tory: 36 seats; Labour: 34 seats; Liberal: 1 seat
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Tory: 309 seats; Labour: 243 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE

1951 General Election (Tory)

Overall seats: 625
Seats needed for a majority: 313
UK
Tory: 321 seats; Labour: 295 seats
Scotland
Tory: 35 seats; Labour: 35 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Tory: 286 seats; Labour 260 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE

1950 General Election (Labour)

Overall seats: 625
Seats needed for a majority: 313
UK
Labour: 315 seats; Tory 289 seats
Scotland
Labour: 37 seats; Tory: 31 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Labour: 278 seats; Tory: 258 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE:NONE

1945 General Election (Labour)

Overall seats: 640
Seats needed for a majority: 321
UK
Labour: 393 seats; Tory: 197 seats; Lib Dem: 12 seats
Scotland:
Labour: 37 seats; Tory: 27 seats
UK results minus Scottish seats:
Labour: 356 seats; Tory: 170 seats

IMPACT OF SCOTTISH VOTE: NONE

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3 responses to “The Scottish Vote at Westminster Elections

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