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Tactical voting 2021: The basics

It is a sad fact of life that extremists never shut up. We had hoped that, after the referendum, Nationalists would take some time to reflect on the failings of their plan and work to make Scotland better.

They have failed Scotland miserably. Six years on, they still have no credible plans for a Scottish currency, no plans to avoid a hard border, and no indication of how Scotland will survive, set adrift in the world, neither in the UK nor in Europe. 

As for making Scotland better: When all you care about is agitating for a referendum, everything else is left by the wayside. Our health, education and jobs are mired in a toxic combination of incompetence, inaction and corruption. (It helps to understand that improving Scotland is a side issue: the real goal is maintaining power.)

The rest of us are quite sick of all this and want it to stop. But the opposition parties have been weak. Scottish Tories might finally be getting some fight: after a week of unforced errors, Douglas Ross actually criticised Nicola Sturgeon, and has even said he is open to a coalition.

That Richard Leonard rejected.

A question for Richard: Did the Tories steal all of Labour’s votes by pretending to be socialists? No, they didn’t, the SNP did. So, instead of pointless fights against the Tories, for now can you realise Labour’s real enemy in Scotland is the SNP? 

Did I hear you say that 40% of Labour members might vote for the SNP? Instead of indulging them, try educating them and leading them in the fight against ugly Nationalism, the enemy of socialism.

All this weakness is disgraceful considering the SNP are actually a MINORITY. As we all know, they win because the anti-Nationalist opposition vote is split three ways. 

The General Election results of 2019 show this clearly. 42% of Scottish voters voted for the SNP, while 58% of voters chose anti-Nationalist parties. Yet, the first-past-the-post system, combined with a fractured opposition, meant that the SNP won 48 seats out of 50 with just 42% of the vote share. 

Talk about not getting the government you vote for!


There has been a lot of talk about tactical voting over the years. But it has all been done at an individual level, and it has only worked in the most marginal cases. To make it work at scale, the anti-Nationalist parties must field a single candidate in select constituencies.

The opposition parties appear to have given up on fighting constituency seats altogether, but these seats have far more credibility than the list seats. It should be a matter of honour and duty to win them.

In the 2021 Scottish Parliament Elections, there are 73 constituency seats, of which 59 are currently held by the SNP. That’s an astonishing 81% of seats from just 46.5% of the vote. Anti-Nationalists are letting themselves be ruled by a minority.

Based on the 2016 results, there are 28 seats where the combined anti-Nationalist vote is less than the SNP vote. In these seats the priority will be to increase the anti-Nationalist vote share, and also to vote tactically.

If we assume that the 15 constituency seats currently held by anti-Nationalist parties will hold, that leaves 30 seats currently held by the SNP, where there are more anti-Nationalists than SNP voters. These seats are our primary tactical voting targets (see the table below for an interactive table of results).

For example, in the first row, Perthshire South & Kinross-shire, the SNP won with 15,315 votes. The second placed party, the Conservatives, had 13,893 votes. In this case, the Conservatives needed only 1,422 (22%) of the 6,397 Labour and LibDems votes to win the seat.

Likewise, in Dunfermline, Labour need to supplement their 9,699 votes with 4,558 votes from 8,953 Conservatives and LibDem votes to win. In this case, around 50.9% would have to switch votes to Labour.

Assuming that the parties only field a single candidate, and voters vote tactically, anti-Nationalist parties would gain as many as 30 seats. More importantly, the SNP would lose 30 seats. This would result in anti-Nationalists taking 45 out of 73 seats, a majority of eight constituency seats.

Labour would gain 14 additional constituency seats, while the Tories would gain 13 seats and the LibDems would gain three seats. Labour and Tories gain almost the same number of seats, so it is fair to say that each party benefits equally. Giving your Labour vote to a Tory candidate in one area, will result in a Labour candidate being elected in another area, and vice versa.

This would destroy the SNP for a real generation, not a pretendy one.

Even if only 75% of anti-Nationalist voters, whose party didn’t come second to the SNP, switched, there would still be a gain of 17 seats to anti-Nationalist parties, giving a total of 32 constituency seats. More than double. That would still knock the wind out of the SNP’s sails.

The sell

We know, theoretically, that tactical voting will win, and restore democracy to the majority. But how can it be sold politically? A recent poll indicated that 93% of NO voters would be willing to vote for a single anti-Nationalist candidate. This needs to be backed up with more robust polling.

The sell is straightforward:

  1. Nationalism is a toxic force that is destroying Scotland
  2. We are all anti-Nationalists against that toxic ideology
  3. For Conservatives: Nationalism aims to break up the UK with divisive, incompetent politics.
    For Labour: Nationalism has stolen our voters with promises of fake socialism
    For LibDems it’s a chance to get back in the game.
  4. It’s a one-time deal to break the back of the SNP. One and done.
  5. Labour and Conservatives gain equally from the deal. If you vote for a Labour/Tory candidate in your area, you will gain a Tory/Labour candidate in another area. More importantly, the SNP will have lost those two seats.


  1. Labour and the Tories working together again
    1. It worked last time: Better Together won.
    2. Nationalism is so toxic that it always needs alliances to beat it
    3. Nationalism is worse than the Tories
  2. Why should voters reward parties that have been, so far, unwilling to consider tactical voting ? Because there is no other way. We need to help the legacy parties restore themselves.
  3. What about once an anti-Nationalist majority wins, should there be a coalition?
    The parties should propose a 100 days of action, where they agree to work together to put forward centrist plans to improve our health, education and economy.

If an electoral pact doesn’t happen, it is likely that many voters will not vote for a major party again. The parties have had their chance, they’ve been told how to win, and if they can’t show the leadership required to win, then many people will conclude that they don’t deserve to be in politics. 

The voters want success, not lame opposition. If the parties don’t step up and show them they’re worthy of our votes, for good or bad, they will go somewhere else.

We have a choice. Another four years of Sturgeon and her endless agitation by a MINORITY, or we give the MAJORITY the tools to break the back of the SNP once and for all.

Mark Devlin is the publisher of The Majority. Data prepared by Paul McLafferty (@bigpud1982). Co-edited by Mary Devlin (@MaryDevlin21).

2021 Tactical Voting

ConstituencySNP 2016Anti-Nat 2016Anti-Nat Majority2nd place2nd got2nd needsAnti-Nat switch
Perthshire South & Kinross-shire15,31520,2904,975Con13,8931,42222.2%
Aberdeen S. and N. Kincardine13,60418,7365,132Con10,8492,75534.9%
Caithness Sutherland & Ross13,93718,2704,333LD10,0243,91347.5%
Angus North & Mearns13,41715,9622,545Con10,9452,47249.3%
Aberdeen Central11,64815,0563,408Lab7,2994,34956.1%
Strathkelvin & Bearsden17,06022,1285,068Con8,9608,10061.5%
Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale16,03119,5503,519Con10,1635,86862.5%
Aberdeenshire East15,91218,8412,929Con10,0755,83766.6%
Argyll & Bute13,56115,9152,354LD7,5835,97871.7%
Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley14,69016,9902,300Lab8,6486,00672.3%
Edinburgh Eastern16,76018,6371,877Lab11,6735,08773.0%
Perthshire North16,52617,499973Con13,1903,33677.4%
Renfrewshire South14,27215,4091,137Lab9,8644,40879.5%
Clackmannanshire & Dunblane14,14715,5991,452Lab7,4266,72182.2%
Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse13,94514,940995Lab8,5085,43784.5%
Edinburgh Northern & Leith17,32218,4361,114Lab10,5766,74685.8%
Angus South15,62216,307685Con11,3184,30486.3%
Uddingston & Bellshill14,42415,119695Lab9,6154,80987.4%
Inverness & Nairn18,50519,8121,307Con7,68410,85789.3%
Midlothian North & Musselburgh16,94817,737789Lab9,9137,03589.9%
Renfrewshire North & West14,71815,477759Con7,3457,37390.7%
Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch17,36218,027665LD8,3199,04393.1%
Clydebank & Milngavie16,15816,680522Lab7,7268,43294.2%
Paisley 14,68214,782100Lab9,4835,19998.1%

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Written by Mark Devlin

I am the founder and publisher of THE MAJORITY. I'm not a Unionist, Red Tory or British Nationalist. I'm an anti-Nationalist.

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Murray Pennel

I think this is an excellent article. Everything you say makes sense, and it’s the only way to rid us of the SNP nightmare we’re living in. That said, your plan of action will not be supported by the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem parties, and therein lies the rub. Ross, Leonard and Rennie need to put aside their differing political views and together orchestrate a way of preventing the SNP winning seats in the next election. Regrettably, I don’t see that happening, and when the dust settles after the election, we’ll still be moaning about Sturgeon and her SNP… Read more »

ALL the political parties have failed Scotland miserably. I see the 2 contenders for Labour leadership are now saying they won’t agree to any alliances. Which makes me wonder – are they too stupid to see that it’s only a temporary thing to get the SNP out? If so, why would I vote for someone that short-sighted? If either of those 2 mess this up, Labour is done in Scotland. The candidates really need to up their game – Ross has, to his credit. Time for Labour to step up too.

An alliance for unity

The uncomfortable power of precedent