I was browsing through the information goldmine that is the http://www.alba.org.uk/ website which got me thinking some more about the d'Hondt system and its failings. I've already mentioned a few reservations I have with this Additional Members System but some further digging into the numbers revealed a few more concerns.
Let's take Renfrewshire West as a kick off:
This constituency was won by Trish Godman of Labour relatively comfortably. A 7% margin over Annabel Goldie which is about 2,200 votes.
Of course, despite finishing second, Annabel Goldie is still an MSP thanks to her position as number 1 on the list for West of Scotland.
So from the one constituency we have two MSPs.
But it doesn't stop there. In 3rd place in Renfreshire West was Dr Bill Wilson with 8,169 votes, a whisker away from Annabel's 8,289. All of this is by the bye as the SNP's impressive showing in the second vote means that Dr Bill was also voted in as a list MSP. He was number 4 on the West of Scotland list of MSPs.
So, one constituency and 3 MSPs. This is all starting to look a wee bit strange. But it's not the only one, Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale saw 3 MSPs delivered to Holyrood.
And there are other examples of poor performers in the First Past the Post system squeezing their way into parliament via the lists.
Lib Dem Hugh O'Donnell, received only 6.33% of the vote (1,670 votes) in the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth constituency, coming 3rd, and was still elected as an MSP as number 6 on the Central list.
Bill Aitken (Tory), finished 3rd with 14% of the Anniesland vote and got in at number 5 on the Glasgow list.
Alison McInnes (Lib Dem) finished 4th in Banff and Buchan with 2,617 votes, 9.5% of the vote. She is now an MSP thanks to finishing 6th on the North East list.Ian McKee (SNP), finished 3rd with 24% of the Pentlands vote and got in at number 4 on the Edinburgh/Lothians list.
Gavin Brown (Tory), finished 4th with 17% of the vote in the Edinburgh South constituency and was number 5 on the Edinburgh/Lothians list.
Nanette Milne (Tory), finished 3rd in the Gordon constituency with 15% of the vote and was number 3 in the North East area's list.
Mike Russell is an SNP minister and he only came 3rd in his constituency with 19% of the vote.
Derek Brownlee for the Tories is in a similar position. Very much a Tory frontline member but only managed 3rd and an 18% share in Tweedale, Ettrick and Lauderdale.Ross Finnie for the Lib Dems and Stuart MacMillan for the SNP both came 3rd in the First Past the Post contest with 17% and 19% of the vote respectively but still secured MSP status thanks to the list.
I may be labouring the point here, and I'm not for a second attacking anyone personally, there are more than a few names above that make great additions to the debating chamber and Holyrood would be a poorer place without them. (There are other names however that I barely recognise!).
My point is, there seems to be some sort of democratic deficit when a person puts themselves forward to the public for entry to the parliament, they finish 3rd or 4th, sometimes with a single digit percentage regarding the share of the vote, and they are still rewarded with being an MSP.
Of course, this is not to mention the 16 MSPs who didn't even stand in a First Past the Post constituency to be judged by the public. Note that I can exclude Margo and the two Green MSPs from that 16 given the second vote is very much specifically awarded to them personally. I can't imagine many Labour voters had their list MSPs in mind when they crossed that second box nor did Lib Dem voters specifically want Allison McInnes. Their names just happened to be the next names going at the top of the list.
Which leads me to my second point.
For too many of our MSPs, their entry back into parliament in the following four year term is dependent on their position on the party list rather than how many public votes they obtain. Realistically, some parties are pretty much guaranteed at least 1 list MSP in certain areas regardless of the political climate at the time. As public servants, all MSPs should have the Scottish population as their main point of concern and each MSP should be weighed and measured every four years by the public to ensure they are who we really want running our country.
So my suggestion to solve this problem is a rather simple one. To win a position as a list MSP there are two criteria to pass:
The first is the same as before, you must win one of the seven positions that each voting area rewards after the additional members system formula is calculated. This is your political party backing you to be an MSP.
The second is you must have finished as runner up in a constituency. This is the public backing you to be an MSP.
This may make things tricky for the Greens and Margo and other independents which, I accept, is not an ideal scenario but for the main four parties it provides a guaranteed way for all of their MSPs to connect with the general public and the 129 men and women who grace the debating chamber can sleep easy at night knowing there is no democratic deficit at play. That they have all been weighed, measured and have not been found wanting.
PS My apologies for the earlier suggestion that Simon Hutton is an MSP. And further apologies for any other mistakes in the above. Writing posts in the ever-decreasing lunch breaks that a leading Scottish bank provides is becoming increasingly difficult!