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Home > Modern Studies > Living in a democracy > Politics in Scotland

Modern Studies

Politics in Scotland

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This page will help you revise how elections work in Scotland and the UK and how Members of the Scottish Parliament represent their constituents.

Voting system - Scottish parliament

The voting system for the Scottish Parliament is the Additional Member System. This combines a form of Proportional Representation (PR) with First Past the Post (FPTP). The Additional Member System attempts to benefit from the advantages of the two systems while avoiding their problems. 56 MSPs are elected through PR by regional lists, while more, 73 MSPs, are elected by FPTP.

 

How the Additional Member System Works

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Advantages of the Additional Member System

  • Makes the Parliament more proportional − the MSPs elected more accurately reflect the views of the Scottish people
  • Maintains the link between constituent and constituency MSP
  • May, in theory, reduce confrontation in politics − consensus politics

Disadvantages of the Additional Member System

  • Could create confusion among voters as to who they should go to - constituency or regional list MSP
  • Unrepresentative political party activists decide who gets on the lists
  • May not produce a clear winner, leading to coalition or minority government [Minority government: This is formed when the governing political party or coalition of parties does not have a majority of overall seats in the parliament.
voters in polling booths during UK general election

 

First Past The Post (FPTP) is the voting system used for General Elections in the UK to elect MPs to the House of Commons in Westminster. The UK is divided up into 650 constituencies. In each constituency, voters put a cross against one candidate on the ballot paper. The winner (who becomes the Member of Parliament) is the candidate with the most votes.

In the 2010 General Election in the Uk the results were as follows:

  • Conservatives – 307 MPs
  • Labour – 258 MPs
  • Liberal democrats – 57 MPs
  • Others – 28 MPs
  • Total = 650 MPs

Advantages of First Past the Post

  • Easy for voters to understand
  • Result known quickly
  • Voter votes directly for the party/candidate of his or her choice
  • Produces constituency MPs who represent a certain area
  • Usually produces a strong majority government

Disadvantages of First Past the Post

  • System favours the big parties like Labour and Conservative
  • Many votes are wasted - a vote counts for nothing if a person does not vote for the "winner" in their constituency
  • Number of seats in parliament do not accurately reflect the views of the voters
  • Minority governments can be elected
  • A party can come second in many constituencies and gather many votes but win few seats
  • Can allow a government that received under half the votes in the General Election to force unpopular laws through parliament
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Class Clips

Video clip explaining how power is divided between Holyrood and Westminster

Watch the following clips to learn more about political representation:

The role of a councillor in Aberdeen

The work of an MSP

The European Parliament and work of an MEP

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Democracy Live.

Democracy Live

Watch live and on-demand coverage from inside all the UK parliaments and the European Parliament.

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