by Rab Bruce’s Spider

It should have come as no surprise to anyone that Labour Councillors across Scotland are going into coalition with Tories in order to run the Council, normally excluding the SNP who have the majority of seats on most Councils. After all, they did this in at least three Councils after the last local elections, and things have become even more hardline with the accession of Anas Sarwar as Labour leader. He may have claimed in his election campaigning that no deals would be done, but he was so obviously lying I cannot understand why anyone would believe him.

The Single Transferable Vote system is designed to provide proportional representation, which normally means that no single Party will have a majority. Indeed, I believe there are only two Councils this time where one Party does have an actual majority. In a normal country, this would be accepted as quite routine, requiring Parties to enter into coalitions to run the Councils. Unfortunately, Scotland is not a normal country. Here, the constitutional question overrides all other considerations. As a result, many Labour Councillors must feel that they have no option but to make deals with other Unionist Parties. They seem to have no qualms at all about this, even when it means aligning with a Party which has shown itself, through the medium of Westminster, to be leaning strongly towards fascism as a mode of government. Those who founded the Labour Party must be spinning in their graves.

However, not all the blame lies with Labour. I thought the SNP’s "Vote SNP 1 & 2" advice was misguided in the extreme, because many voters do not really understand the voting system. If voters used their STV to mark 1 & 2 on the ballot paper and then stopped, this opened the door for Unionist Councillors to be elected.

My own Ward is a distressing example of how much better the pro-Indy Parties could have done. Of the 8 candidates, only 3 were pro-Indy. I had 2 SNP and 1 Green, and these naturally attracted my first three choices. I then ranked the others in a fairly arbitrary way, but making sure that the solitary Tory candidate was the last choice.

The results in my Ward were very interesting. One SNP Councillor was elected in Round 1, meaning he had received enough first choice preferences at the first round of counting. Great!

The second round elected the second SNP Councillor. So far, so good.

But then it gets weird. In a traditionally Labour-voting area, I was fairly sure one of the two Labour candidates would eventually be elected.

However, much to my surprise and disappointment, the Tory candidate was elected, but not until round 7. I can only conclude from this that far too many SNP voters did not give their third choice to the Green candidate. I suppose it is entirely possible that there was not a sufficient surplus of votes after the first two rounds, but for the Tory to scrape in in round 7 was very disappointing.

Now, the STV system is complex in its detail, so I cannot say for certain whether more pro-Indy votes ranking Green third would have made a difference, but it might have helped. The fact that the SNP advised their supporters to stop after number 2 has, I fear, played into the hands of the unionists. If a Tory only got in in round 7, it surely demonstrates that the unionist vote was split in this particular Ward.

As for the upshot, at time of writing, no formal coalition has been announced, but since the Labour and Tory Parties formed the last Council, I fully expect them to repeat this. In democratic terms, that’s perfectly reasonable. In political terms, it merely proves that they are simply two sides of the same Unionist coin. A vote for one is a vote for the other. The sooner the SNP put aside their grievances with other pro-Indy Parties, the better. And it would not do any harm to educate voters in how to use the STV system either.