Steven, from Perth, asks: What will be the result of the election?


An answer from Professor John Curtice:

In some respects, this is an easy question to answer.

The SNP is way ahead of its nearest opponents in the polls – by around 25 points on the constituency vote and 15 points on the list.

Any outcome other than the SNP being the largest party – and Nicola Sturgeon remaining as First Minister – appears inconceivable.

Moreover, it is almost equally inconceivable that there will be anything other than a majority of MSPs who back independence – and thus another referendum.

True, only around half of voters say that they propose to vote for one of the pro-independence parties – the SNP, the Greens, and Alex Salmond’s Alba Party – a proportion that reflects the fact that support for independence itself stands at around the 50% mark.

However, the SNP’s dominance of the constituency vote – and thus seats – coupled with the ability of the Greens to pick up some regional list seats means that Holyrood’s supposedly proportional electoral system is likely to treat the nationalist parties more favourably than their unionist counterparts.

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If successful, Alex Salmond’s attempt to pick up list seats too will simply serve to inflate this advantage further – though most polls suggest the former First Minister will at best win two or three seats.

But these are not the only outcomes of interest in this election. Indeed, they may not even be the most important.

One potentially key question is whether the SNP will secure an overall majority on their own. It was, after all, the party’s (unexpected) success in achieving that threshold in 2011 that persuaded David Cameron to agree that the SNP had won the ‘moral right’ to hold a referendum, a decision that paved the way to the 2014 ballot.

If the SNP were to win a majority, the 2011 precedent would make it more difficult for Boris Johnson simply to say, ‘No,’ to another referendum.

But it is highly uncertain whether the SNP will secure an overall majority or not. Some polls suggest they might (just) while others indicate that they will (just) fall short.

Much depends on the outcome in nine highly marginal seats that were won by the Conservatives or Labour last time – places such as Ayr, Dumbarton and Edinburgh Central.

If the SNP pick up a half a dozen of these that could be sufficient to take the party to the 65 seats needed for an overall majority irrespective of what happens on the list vote.

Otherwise the party might need to pick up one or two list seats in the two regions where it is less strong - Highlands and the South of Scotland. The party’s lower standing on the list vote – occasioned primarily by record levels of support for the Greens – puts that prospect at risk.

HeraldScotland:

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Meanwhile, there is the not unimportant question of who will come second. The Conservatives claimed that spot for the first time in 2016 and are keen to retain their position as the principal voice of unionism. Labour are hoping this election will show that they are back on the road to recovery.

The polls suggest the two parties are more or less neck and neck on the constituency vote. However, given that neither is likely to win very many constituency seats, their strength in Holyrood will be determined by how well they do on the list vote.

And on this vote most polls suggest that Labour are behind – not least because some of the party’s constituency supporters are apparently minded to switch to the Conservatives on the list.

But then, the polls are not always right!

John Curtice is Professor of Politics, Strathclyde University, and Senior Research Fellow, ScotCen Social Research.