Changing Tides of the Clyde

… Och, all right, one more post about the election.

SNP63

Clearly the best-dressed MSP for the affirmation, along with John Swinney, Humza Yousaf, and Fulton MacGregor (in the back with the plaid.)

After searching on the internet in vain for results tables for the 2016 election*, I decided to make some myself – mostly just to see where Stuart McMillan, and Greenock & Inverclyde in general, fall in the Holyrood spectrum.

So, I found some very interesting statistics. In the 2016 Holyrood League Table, Stuart McMillan claimed:

  • The 28th highest turnout of 73 constituencies (57.5%)
  • The 27th largest majority in terms of percentage (27%)
  • The 18th largest majority in terms of vote number (8,230 of 17,032)
  • The 15th largest percentage of votes (53.7%)
  • The 10th largest number of votes (17,032 of 31,725)
  • The 4th largest percentage of votes for an SNP gain
  • The 3rd largest vote share increase for the SNP (+11.6)
  • The 2nd largest number of votes for an SNP gain
  • The highest vote share & vote share increase for a West Scotland seat
  • The largest majority for an SNP gain
  • Almost double the number of votes of the second largest party (17,032 to 8,802 – 93.5% more)
  • Almost quadruple the number of votes of the third largest party (17,032 to 4,487 – 279.6% more)
  • Almost eight times the number of votes of the fourth largest party (17,032 to 1,404 – 1,113.1% more)

For comparison:

  • Highest turnout: Eastwood (68.3%)
  • Largest majority in terms of percentage: Willy Coffey, Kilmarnock & Irvine Valley (58.77%)
  • Largest majority in terms of vote number: Mark McDonald, Aberdeen Donside (11,630 of 30,981)
  • Largest percentage of votes: Nicola Sturgeon, Glasgow Southside (61.4%)
  • Largest number of votes: Linda Fabiani, East Kilbride (19,371 of 34,629)
  • Largest percentage of votes for an SNP gain: Humza Yousaf, Glasgow Pollok (54.8%)
  • Largest vote share increase for the SNP: Glasgow Maryhill & Springburn (+13.7)
  • Largest number of votes for an SNP gain: Ben MacPherson, Edinburgh North & Leith (17,322)

I’m ecstatic. To increase our vote by 11.6 points even though we started with one of the highest SNP vote shares that didn’t win a constituency in 2011 (42.1%) is great enough – but even more amazing is our turnout.

Turnout Electorate Percentage
1999 28,639 49,156 58.26%
2003 23,781 46,045 51.65%
2007 23,105 44,646 51.8%
2011 28,203 56,989 49.3%
2016 31,725 55,172 57.5%

Greenock & Inverclyde’s turnout in the first Scottish Parliament Election in 1999 was 28,639 – 58.26% of the electorate, calculated at 49,156. 17 years later, the turnout was 31,725 out of a possible 55,172 – almost the same turnout as the historic first election. Yet over that same period, Greenock & Inverclyde’s overall population fell from 84,203 in 2001, to an estimated 79,500 in 2015 – all while Scotland’s population as a whole has grown.

From 1999 to 2007, Greenock & Inverclyde’s turnout and electorate were steadily falling. From 2007 to 2016, however, we see turnout and electorate rising – even as the total population of the area continued to fall. There are two explanations for this. The first is pretty obvious – the boundary changes since 2011, which added Port Glasgow and several farms’ worth of voters to Greenock & Inverclyde:

GandI_Changes

And lo, in spring two thousand and eleven, the Serene Republic of Greenock & Inverclyde heroically liberated the people of The Port from the dastardly despots of West Renfrewshire in a great and glorious insurrection! Our joyous comrades rode south of the Gryfe and freed the oppressed farmer as far south as Duchal Moor, and as far east as the dark waters of Auchendores – soon, we shall march unto mighty Kilmacolm itself, and all the lands of Inverclyde will be united in all areas of government! ONWARD THE REVOLUTION!

However, that doesn’t explain why there were 3,522 more voters in 2016 than in 2011 despite the sudden drop in electorate size by 1,817 – which makes it, effectively, 5,339 more voters to account for the loss in the total electorate. I think the only possible explanation is greater engagement. Inverclyde saw a particularly high turnout for the referendum, which carried over to a higher-than-usual General Election turnout, and again this year for the second highest turnout for the constituency since devolution began. The Tides of the Clyde have changed.

This engagement can only be kept going with confidence, energy, and hard work. We need to keep this going. Already we have people telling us how boring this election apparently was, professional political know-it-alls proclaiming that The Scottish People are “fed up” with politics, that it’s all getting frightfully dull. This is exactly why turnout has been so low for so long – because people were convinced it wasn’t worth bothering about. The referendum changed that, and while an election would not make the lasting change of a referendum – and thus, couldn’t match the sense of lasting, permanent enfranchisement – they are better than they have been in decades.

Inverclyde1654

The corner of what was once Renfrewshire roughly corresponding to Inverclyde, 1654

Other parties have been in positions not unlike ours. They have known what it feels like to be in power on various levels of government. Unlike the SNP, however, they have gone as far as they could. Once you become the UK government, there’s nowhere else to go: there you can enact your policies, build your legacy, change your nation, with all the power and resources of the UK at your command. The SNP will never be the UK government – it never can. The best it can hope for within the UK is the Scottish Parliament, to prove that the people of Scotland are entirely capable of running their own affairs – even if many of those affairs are outwith the people’s reach. The only way the SNP can achieve those powers – true government, unfettered by reserved powers or Barnett formulas or West Lothian Questions – is when it achieves what it’s been fighting 80 years for.

The establishment tried to make independence stupid, silly, ridiculous – it stopped working when Alex Salmond became the First Minister. Then they tried to make it frightening – but you can only be afraid for so long. Now, they’re trying to make independence boring – hoping to lull the engaged masses into the comfortable apathy and disillusion which they were trapped in for decades. I don’t know about you, but taking on the caretakers of the establishment that was behind the mightiest empire in human history doesn’t sound boring to me in the slightest.

That’s two elections under our belt since the referendum. To this day, people in the Other Party accuse us of being driven by “revenge”: that we only wanted SNP MPs to “stick it” to their party, and only voted for the SNP to “punish” them for the referendum. It amazes me they think so small – but given the media still gives them all this love and attention, who could blame them? Ever since 2011, the focus from the media has constantly been on The Fall Of The Other Party. Every election is not about the SNP’s victory – it’s about the Other Party’s defeat. Even this election, where the Other Party were pushed into third place in seat count and the list vote, people reliably lament the fall of this once-proud party, wondering just where it all went on. Everything that’s happened – the SNP’s rise, the Ruth Davidson Party’s clawback from oblivion presented as Magnificent Renaissance, the baffling persistence of the Coalition Party – is framed in terms of what it means for The Other Party.

Sometimes, Other Party, it’s not about you. Sometimes it’s about who the people choose to represent them. Sometimes it’s about the people themselves – the people you took for granted for decades to provide you with enough votes that the winner’s ballots were weighed, not counted. Maybe this is one reason the SNP continue to go from strength to strength: because even in defeat, you still crave – and receive – all the attention from certain sympathetic sectors of the UK media. I’m sick of hearing about you. You’ve long outstayed their welcome. Come 2017, we’re aiming to make it a hat trick – and maybe then, we can finally concentrate on our real enemies.

It’s not about revenge. It’s about detoxification. You can’t build a better nation without flushing the muck from the system. We’re clearing out the Augean Stables – a Herculean task, to be sure. So were the elections of 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016. The SNP won each, by unprecedented margins. We aren’t done yet.

Stronger for Scotland isn’t just a catchphrase – it’s what we are.

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