STV in Scottish Local Elections

Since 2007 elections for Scottish councils have been conducted under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) – considered the 'gold standard' of proportional representation. Professor Sir John Curtice to conducted analysis of the 2017 local elections. His report answered some questions

Did voters use their transferable votes?

In Scotland around seven in ten Conservative, Labour and SNP supporters chose to use their transferable vote to express preferences for other parties or independent candidates once they had voted for all the candidates of their party of choice. With Liberal Democrat voters it was even higher, with just one in five choosing to back the party and the party alone.  

Would STV make a difference?

And the increased use of preferences is important. In 2017 we saw just 38.5% of candidates elected on first preferences alone – down five points from 2012, showing the growing influence of those second, third or even fourth preferences on the outcome of Scottish local elections. Professor Curtice’s analysis found that 101 seats (or 8% of all seats) in 2017 were eventually won by candidates who were not in a winning position after the first round. 

These data show how, under STV, voters are able to shape the outcome of an election to make it far more reflective of their views and preferences than under FPTP. Indeed, the report emphasises how Scottish council elections held under STV have seen outcomes far more proportional than those seen in Scotland at the last three Westminster elections, held under First Past the Post. 

Read Professor Sir John Curtice’s new report The Power of Preferences: STV in Scottish Local Elections.