Tactical voting 2021: The basics

Tactical Voting
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The SNP are a MINORITY party that wins because the anti-Nationalist opposition vote is split three ways. Of the 73 constituency seats in the Scottish Parliament Elections, 59 are currently held by the SNP. That’s an astonishing 81% of seats from just 46.5% of the vote. 

Talk about not getting the government you vote for!

But how will tactical voting help? First we need to discard the two sets of seats where tactical voting won’t make a difference. The first set is the 28 seats where the combined anti-Nationalist vote is still less than the SNP vote. Even if 100% of the anti-Nationalist vote swung to the second-place candidate, the seat would still remain in the hands of the SNP. In these seats the priority must be to increase the anti-Nationalist vote share.

The second set we don’t need to consider are the 15 constituency seats currently held by anti-Nationalist parties. Assuming they will continue to hold them, 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 above for an interactive table of results.

For example, in the first row, Aberdeen Central, the SNP won with 11,648 votes, despite anti-Nationalist parties winning 15,056 votes. The second placed party, Labour, had 7,299 votes, so it would need 4,339 (56.1%) of the remaining 7,759 Conservative 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.

If voters vote tactically, anti-Nationalist parties could 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 main parties must step up

While every individual anti-Nationalist voter can do our best to vote tactically and spread the word about tactical voting, it would be far more effective if the main parties created a one-time tactical voting alliance where the parties would field only the best candidate to win in each constituency, while educating their voters on the benefits of tactical voting. The Tories have already said that they are interested in an alliance, but it has been, in our opinion, foolishly rejected by Labour’s leadership candidates.

This can be presented to voters as:

  1. A one-time deal to break the back of the SNP. One and done.
  2. A win-win. 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 lose those two seats.

And any objections can be handled as follows:

  1. Are Labour and the Tories working together again?
    1. It worked last time
    2. We are all — Labour, Conservative and LibDems — anti-Nationalists against toxic Nationalism
    3. Nationalism is so toxic that it always needs alliances to beat it
    4. Nationalism, in Scotland, is worse than the Tories. It wasn’t Nationalists who stole Scottish Labour’s votes by pretending to be socialists.
    5. It’s a one time deal
  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 main parties restore themselves.
  3. What about once an anti-Nationalist majority wins, should there be a coalition?
    We believe the main parties should propose 100 days of action, where they agree to work together to put forward centrist plans to improve Scotland’s health, education and economy, but it’s not a requirement of any tactical voting alliance.

Voters want success, not lame opposition. If the parties don’t step up and show us they’re worthy of our votes, for good or bad, we 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).

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Written by Mark Devlin

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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.

I take it if my constituency isn’t listed here, then I am lost in SNP hell for 5 more years? Even though Fabiani is standing down, and we’re likely going to end up with some trendy no mark standing in her place? How depressing. But thanks for this – hopefully others will be able to put it to good use.

Andy Macdonald

Thanks for this. I am absolutely sick of politicians who put party before country, so this really seems like a breath of fresh air, and as far as I can see, the only website giving up-to-date advice on tactical voting to pro-UK voters. I have just received a really helpful flyer from Alliance for Unity which provides explicit advice on who to vote for in my local constituency ballot AND in my regional ballot to maximise the chances of displacing the SNP. I think it is important to have concise and explicit advice on voting for ALL constituencies (and regions),… Read more »


My constituency is Clackmannanshire and Dunblane. I can see the logic of voting Labour who came second last time. However, I have mixed views. The Labour candidate has stood for various elections and has yet to win one of them. However, in his favour, he is a local lad and comes across as honest and hardworking. On the other hand, the Conservative candidate came third last time but was only behind Labour by about 500 votes. In addition, he did take a list seat and, therefore, has had experience of being a MSP. And I wonder if the vaccine factor… Read more »

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