Why Westminster is broken regardless of what happens on July 4th

Polling experts predicting the results of the UK general election agree on one thing - it is likely to be the most distorted result in modern history because of the effects of the first past the post voting system. But this is just more evidence that Westminster is broken and Scotland would be better off out from under it and able to begin life as a fully independent country. 

First Past the Post in Scotland means the Unionist parties get into bed together

The outdated first-past-the-post system works when there are essentially only two parties. But it starts to break down if there is one big party and several smaller ones. In Scotland, the system is particularly broken because it means the Labour and Conservative parties have got into bed together on so many occasions to boost the Unionist vote - which undermines their whole political stance. 

The National newspaper had a front page this week, showing Tauqeer Malik, the Labour candidate in Aberdeen South, caught on a doorbell camera admitting that the Labour Party avoided campaigning in the seat in 2019 to help the Conservatives. Malik, who is running against the SNP’s Stephen Flynn, said: “Labour did not bother at all, we were hoping that [the Conservative candidate[ would make it. “That’s why Labour had only 3000 [votes], because we did not do anything.” The outgoing Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross also urged voters to vote Labour to defeat the SNP in an interview last year. 

In contrast, the Scottish Parliament has a form of proportional representation. There are some constituency seats which are first past the post, and some List seats which are reserved for the smaller parties. Last Holyrood election in 2021, the SNP won 85% of the constituency seats. If the whole of Holyrood had been elected on the same FPTP basis, the SNP would have ended up with 110 out of 129 seats - all the other parties would have had to share the remaining 19 seats between them. Would that have seemed democratic? 

The Labour Party conference has backed proportional representation and most trade unions support it - but the Labour leader Keir Starmer said recently he supports FPTP because it gives ‘strong government’. But the evidence is that this is not the case. 

Majoritarian systems like FPTP are associated with lower voter satisfaction and more instability

In a report for the electoral reform campaign group Make Votes Matter, researcher Dylan Difford, examined countries across the world and found that majoritarian systems - which are relatively rare in advanced democracies today - were associated with lower voter satisfaction and less stable government.

The argument is often made that FPTP is associated with stable government. But Difford’s research showed that smaller countries with PR are more stable than the UK, which has seen a period of turbulence in recent years. 

Excluding swathes of voters from the parliamentary system is bad for democracy

Large numbers of voters who vote for Reform in England will probably end up only with a couple of seats. Whatever you think of the policies of this particular party, excluding swathes of voters from representation in Parliament is bad for democracy. 

Writing in the Financial Times, John Bruns-Murdoch wrote that excluding the significant  numbers who plan to vote for Reform could have bad results: 

“You could scarcely come up with a better recipe for fuelling the advance of Faragism: millions of voters with a justifiable sense of having been screwed by the system, while their figureheads rail against power instead of having to face the choices that come with wielding it — a position populists have always preferred.”

But the FT’s Robert Shrimsley recently opined that keeping FPTP may make it easier for the UK to eventually slip further to the right. Dark-money funders and think tanks have increasingly managed to exert influence over the Conservative Party (as James O’Brien demonstrates in his new book ‘How They Broke Britain’. If Labour falls out of favour in four years, an even more right-wing Conservative Party will probably still be the only other party with a chance of winning under FPTP.  

A government with a big majority can ignore Scotland

Scotland is overwhelmed by English voters in the UK. It has only 57 seats compared to England's 543. Northern Ireland has 18 and Wales has 32. The other UK countries have lost ground compared to England because the boundaries are drawn according to population. 

Any government with such a big majority will be able to overrule Scotland’s voice. We saw that with Brexit. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. That was ignored and when the Scottish government proposed a compromise similar to what Northern Ireland has secured, the UK government refused to even discuss it. 

After securing a massive victory in 2019, the UK government ended up in court after pushing through a vote to prorogue or close down Parliament, and the Rwanda Bill which ordered judges to say Rwanda was a safe country, whatever the evidence. It has been threatening to drag Scotland out of the European Court of Human Rights, despite the fact that this underpins the devolution settlement. 

Westminster’s Upper House means Scotland has no democratic representation on a territorial basis

Most democratic countries that have a population-based lower house have an upper house where areas that are further from the centre and may have a lower population density get to have a say. Quebec has 26 members of Canada’s 125-member upper house for example. 

Scotland has a large land mass, not that much smaller than England’s, with a much smaller population. It has a lot of resources and many Scots perceive that these are being mismanaged by the UK.  But the UK Parliament’s Upper House does not include anyone with a legitimate claim to represent Scotland’s interests. 

Instead, the UK has the 800-member House of Lords, swollen with cronies and donors. Two years ago, the Labour Party said they would abolish this undemocratic body - but now they have said they will make it bigger. No supporters of Scottish independence sit in the Lords.

So of the roughly 1,450 seats in the UK Parliament, 57 are held by democratically-elected Scots - less than 5%.

Conclusion

There is one result Scots can be confident of on July 4th - and that is that the country will not be fairly represented in Westminster. Democratically elected Scots hold less than 5% of seats in the UK’s Parliament. Scotland’s voice is all too easily stifled. 

There is no prospect of the UK getting rid either of this outdated voting system or the undemocratic and increasingly corrupt House of Lords. Scotland risks being part of a UK where it is dragged down a dark road with no say over the destination. 

It is important to mention that a change away from a FPTP system at Westminster would not prevent future Westminster Elections being used as a de facto referendum should the de facto referendum result be based on the total number of votes cast. 

Eventually, Scotland will break free of this bloated institution and reclaim its right to set up its own institutions and pursue the priorities of Scotland’s people.