5 May 2012

Those Glasgow results in detail (Vol I of VII)

You don't even have to be stupendously wonky to think that much of the interest in elections using the single transferable vote are wrapped up in the guts of the poll. For obvious reasons, we most often attend most closely to the telling question - who won the election? But we can also ask, why did they win? Where did stray surpluses go? Who transferred - or as it may be, failed to transfer their votes - to who? Moreover, the results as widely broadcast general fail to capture the closeness of STV races, as candidates enjoying weaker support plod through round after round, crawling rather than catapulting their way to election. 

Accordingly, I thought it might be interesting to lay out all of the results in Glasgow in a hopefully accessible, graphical form, depicting eliminations and transfers and the movement of surpluses, with a scratch of two of commentary from me on the salient points suggested by the election data. In a spirit of neatness and non-overload, I've decided to snip the city up into seven segments each consisting of three numbered wards, and will be going through them numerically, three by three. An initial note on the colouring I've used. Better to distinguish the SNP from the Liberal Democrats, I've adopted a yellow on black colour scheme for them.

This series of posts presuppose a measure of knowledge about the core concepts around allocation of votes under the STV system we use in Scotland, including ideas of the quota for election, the transfer or surplus votes attained by victorious candidates, and the elimination and transfer of the votes of the lowest scoring candidate.   If you are not already more or less comfortable with these ideas, I suggest you duck out for a moment or two, take a wee look at my pre-election worked example of the system at play, and pop back when primed. Briefly, however, the flatline at the top of the chart represents achieving quota, while candidates crash to zero on the round they are eliminated and their votes transferred.  Increases in other parties votes in this round are attributable to transfers from the eliminated candidate.  To kick us off, let's take a closer look at Linn, Newlands and Greater Pollok wards...

1. Linn Ward
Elects four councillors.
2007 Result: 2 Labour, 1 SNP, 1 Liberal Democrat
2012 Result: 2 Labour, 1 SNP, 1 Liberal Democrat (No change)




You'll immediately notice a tight knot of lines in the top left corner.  Both Labour candidates Cunning and Docherty easily overshot the ward quota for election (1479) in the first round, while the SNP candidate Glenn Elder achieved precisely 1479 votes on first preferences.  In Round 1, Cunning is elected, eliminated and his surpluses redistributed where possible. In round 2, Docherty, and round 3, Elder.  You'll also notice very limited movement elsewhere on the chart when the two Labour members were elected, despite the impressive number of surplus ballots Cunning in particular had to share with the remaining field (379). Just 39 of these transferred to the remaining SNP candidate, while 44 sped their way to the Liberal Democrat, who thereafter, retained a narrowing lead of around 200 votes over the main Nationalist challenger in Linn - at least until round seven. 

Another point to notice.  Because the winning SNP candidate just achieved quota in the first round, he had no surpluses to cascade across to his SNP running mate, whether or not a large proportion of Elder's ballots vote 1-2-SNP. 

Where did the Green vote go? In their elimination, the Liberals snared 56 transfers in Linn, to the SNP's 73 and a Tory 23.  Being the lowest scoring last remaining candidate in the field, the Conservative candidate was eliminated, his transfers giving the Liberal Democrats a decisive advantage.  While 49 Tory next-preferences transferred on to the SNP, a whopping 274 advanced the Liberals well ahead. That was 85% of all transferring Tory ballots. On the last round, and the elimination of the last remaining SNP candidate, Margo Clark surged over the quota, saving Linn as the Liberal Democrat's only ward in Glasgow.

2.  Newlands Ward.
Elects 3 councillors
Result in 2007: 2 Labour, 1 SNP.
2012 Result: 2 Labour, 1 SNP (No change)



If one had been anticipating a close-run election between Labour and the SNP in Newlands, you'd expect most of the blood to be spilled over who took the third seat in the ward.  However, as the chart demonstrates, it was something of a slog for the Nationalists to gain the first seat in Newlands, never mind two.  Nicola Sturgeon's erstwhile Holyrood challenger in Glasgow Southside, Stephen Curran, exceeded the 1681 quota and was elected for Labour on the first round, with a surplus of 69. By slow accretion of transfers in a crowded ward, the first SNP councillor was elected only in round nine - and again, only exceeded quota by a tight margin (18 votes).  Accordingly, she couldn't give her trailing Nationalist running-mate Gul much of a leg up.

You'll also notice that the second Labour and SNP candidates in Newlands started off with an almost identical number of first preferences: 1,005 and 1,004 respectfully.  However, Gillan clearly benefited not only from a modest but helpful surplus transfer from her elected running mate (53 of the 69 surplus votes in Curran's bag to transfer), but also from being the only remaining Labour candidate in the field.  While between them, Gul and Dochety hoovered up a respectable number of second preferences for the SNP from eliminated Greens (106 to Labour's 80) and Tories (SNP 133, Labour 127), Labour's transfers were concentrated on a single candidate. Accordingly, Gul's SNP vote in Newlands crept sluggishly along at a very modest incline, and Labour handily won the third remaining seat. 

3.  Greater Pollok
Elects 4 councillors.
2007: Labour 3, SNP 1.
2012: Labour 2, SNP 2 (Change: SNP +1)



Another cluttered ward this, with no fewer than eleven candidates standing for the ward's four council seats.  One of the limited wards in the city contested this time around by the SNP, the Labour splinter group Glasgow First also stood two candidates in Greater Pollok, while Labour stood only two rather than three in 2012, freeing the ward up for SNP gains.  Taking in the chart, the eye is instantly arrested by how stonkingly well Bill Butler did here.  The defeated MSP attracted 2,462 first preferences, some 1,030 votes above the quota for election in the ward, 1,432.  As we saw with John Mason's result in Baillieston for the SNP in 2007, this massive victory gave Butler an immense number of surpluses to transfer onto his Labour running mate. Hussain, the second Labour candidate, gained 735 of Butler's surplus votes, seeing him easily elected in the second round.  

Indeed, such was Butler's munificence, that his surpluses also saw the first SNP councillor elected in the ward.  David McDonald attracted 51 of Butler's surpluses, just carrying him over quota.  Again, this had the implication that the other SNP candidate in the ward didn't gain many surplus votes on MacDonald's election.  However, unlike Newlands and Linn, this wasn't telling in Greater Pollok.  The Labour field already exhausted after two rounds, and all the other parties some way behind the SNP, this was always going to be a Nationalist seat for the taking.  Things might have been different and interesting had Labour fielded a third candidate, but as it stood, even a late rally for Glasgow First couldn't deprive the second SNP candidate of his substantial lead over the rest. 

Unexpectedly, the elimination of the Tory candidate gave Glasgow First a substantial of a knee up in round ten, the remaining Glasgow First candidate snapping up 195 Tory transfers, to the SNP's scanty 18. As the "last man standing", in the eleventh round, the SNP took the fourth Pollok seat.  A final curiosity.  Firstly, the Christian Party actually outpolled the Liberal Democrats on first preferences in Greater Pollok, 85 votes to the Liberals' 80. 


  1. That microscopic analysis is fine in its way, but if you've got figures like that, how about telling us all what the overall numbers for first-preference votes were in the country as a whole? The information seems nowhere available.

  2. Thanks for doing this series - I love the details, election geek that I am.

  3. Rolfe:

    Comparing last year's list vote with Thursday's local elections, @scottishlabour are UP 5.2% while @theSNP are DOWN 11.3%.

  4. Yes, and comparing the results to the 1974 general election gives another quite different analysis.

    Your point it?

    Yes, I know you're spamming this amazing revelation all over the net. News flash. Nobody cares. You're as bad as the BBC, counting Labour holds as gains if the councillor had resigned the Labour whip weeks before the election because he was deselected. Dishonest. Desperate, even.

    The relevant comparison for the 2012 council elections is the 2007 council elections. For a lot of reasons, that I'm sure you're perfectly well aware of.


    Who won? (Said in the same tone as Miranda Richardson asked "Who's Queen?)

  5. Funny how the Tories always complain about the BBC.

  6. Oh and by the way. Scottish Skier has done that in-depth analysis you wanted on the comparison of May 2012 to May 2011. The picture might surprise you.


  7. Thanks for the data, Rolfe.

    For my part, I simply don't have the time to do all Scotland justice, and decided from before the election to focus on aspects of the Glasgow race not being so carefully mooted in the press. It's a frustration to me, that our universities don't step up and generate this sort of accessible - albeit microscopic - analyses of how our democracy works.

    Gordon J

    I'm glad they provided a diverting outlet for your geekery!