Scottish Parliament election, 2011
All 129 seats to the Scottish Parliament
65 seats needed for a majority
The left side shows constituency winners of the election by their party colours. The right side shows regional winners of the election for the additional members by their party colours. * Indicates boundary change - so this is a nominal figure
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The election delivered the first majority government since the opening of Holyrood, a remarkable feat as the mixed member proportional representation system used to elect MSPs was, according to Jack McConnell, originally implemented to prevent any party achieving an overall parliamentary majority. The SNP won 69 seats, the most the party has ever held at either a Holyrood or Westminster election, allowing leader Alex Salmond to remain First Minister of Scotland. The SNP gained 32 constituencies, twenty two from the Scottish Labour Party, nine from the Scottish Liberal Democrats and one from the Scottish Conservatives. Such was the scale of their gains that, of the 73 constituencies in Scotland, only 20 came to be represented by MSPs of other political parties. The Scottish Labour Party lost seven seats and suffered their worst election defeat in Scotland since 1931, with huge losses in their traditional Central Belt constituencies and for the first time having to rely on the regional lists to elect members within these areas. They did, however, remain the largest opposition party. Party leader Iain Gray announced his resignation following his party's disappointing result. The Scottish Liberal Democrats were soundly defeated; their popular vote share was cut in half and their seat total reduced from 17 to 5. Tavish Scott announced his resignation as party leader shortly after the election. For Scottish Conservatives, the election proved disappointing as their popular vote dropped slightly and their number of seats fell by 2, with party leader Annabel Goldie also announcing her resignation.
During the campaign, the four main party leaders engaged in a series of televised debates, as they had in every previous general election. These key debates were held on 29 March (STV), 1 May (BBC), and 3 May (STV). The results of the election were broadcast live on BBC Scotland and STV, on the night of the election.
It was the fourth general election since the devolved parliament was established in 1999 and was held on the same day as elections to the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly, as well as English local elections and the UK-wide referendum on the alternative vote.
- 1 Date
- 2 Boundary Review
- 3 Election system, seats, and regions
- 4 Retiring MSPs
- 5 Campaign
- 6 Policy platforms
- 7 Parties contesting the election
- 8 Opinion polls
- 9 Result
- 10 Top target seats of the main parties
- 11 Incumbents defeated
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Because of the problems of voter confusion and a high number of spoilt ballots in 2007 due to holding Scottish parliamentary and local elections simultaneously and under different voting systems, the next Scottish local elections were held in 2012 instead of 2011. This policy decision was contradicted, however, by the staging of the Alternative Vote referendum on 5 May 2011 as well. Labour MP Ian Davidson expressed opposition to the referendum being staged on the same date as other elections. Scottish Secretary Michael Moore stated that having the referendum on another date would cost an additional £17 million.
British, Irish, Commonwealth and European Union citizens living in Scotland who were aged 18 or over on election day were entitled to vote. The deadline to register to vote in the election was midnight on Friday 15 April 2011, though anyone who qualified as an anonymous elector had until midnight on Tuesday 26 April 2011 to register.
It was held on the same day as elections for Northern Ireland's 26 local councils, the Northern Irish Assembly and Welsh Assembly elections, a number of local elections in England and the United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum.
The table below shows the notional figures for seats won by each party at the last election. The Conservatives have been the biggest gainers as a result of the boundary changes, winning an extra 3 seats and Labour has lost the most seats, losing 2 overall.
|Party||Constituency Seats||Regional Seats||Total Seats||Seat Change|
Election system, seats, and regions
The total number of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) elected to the Parliament is 129.
The First Periodical Review of the Scottish Parliament's constituencies and regions by the Boundary Commission for Scotland was announced on 3 July 2007. The Commission published its provisional proposals for the regional boundaries in 2009.
The Scottish Parliament uses an Additional Members System, designed to produce approximate proportional representation for each region. There are 8 regions each sub-divided into smaller constituencies. There are a total of 73 constituencies. Each constituency elects one (MSP) by the plurality (first past the post) system of election. Each region elects seven additional member MSPs using an additional member system. A modified D'Hondt method, using the constituency results, is used to calculate which additional member MSPs the regions elect.
The Scottish Parliament constituencies have not been coterminous with Scottish Westminster constituencies since the 2005 general election, when the 72 former Westminster constituencies were replaced with a new set of 59, generally larger, constituencies (see Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Act 2004).
For details of the Revised proposals for constituencies at the Next Scottish Parliament election - Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions from 2011
The Boundary Commission have also recommended changes to the electoral regions used to elect "list" members of the Scottish Parliament. The recommendations can be summarised below;
- Glasgow. Made of the proposed Glasgow seats of Anniesland, Cathcart, Kelvin, Maryhill and Springburn, Pollok, Provan, Shettleston, and Southside, and Rutherglen.
- Highlands and Islands. Consisting of the newly formed constituencies of Argyll and Bute, Caithness Sutherland and Ross, Inverness and Nairn, Moray, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, and Skye Lochaber and Badenoch.
- West Scotland. Made from the newly drawn seats of Clydebank and Milngavie, Cunninghame North, Cunninghame South, Dumbarton, Eastwood, Greenock and Inverclyde, Paisley, Renfrewshire North and West, Renfrewshire South, and Strathkelvin and Bearsden.
- Central Scotland. Formed by the combination of the recommended Airdrie and Shotts, Coatbridge and Chryston, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, East Kilbride, Falkirk East, Falkirk West, Hamilton Larkhall and Stonehouse, Motherwell and Wishaw, and Uddingston and Bellshill.
- Lothian. Made from the redrawn constituencies of Almond Valley, Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh Eastern, Edinburgh Northern and Leith, Edinburgh Pentlands, Edinburgh Southern, Edinburgh Western, Linlithgow, and Midlothian North and Musselburgh.
- Mid Scotland and Fife. Made from the combination of Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, Cowdenbeath, Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, Mid Fife and Glenrothes, North East Fife, Perthshire North, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, and Stirling.
- North East Scotland. Consisting of the redrawn seats Aberdeen Central, Aberdeen Donside, Aberdeen South and North Kincardine, Aberdeenshire East, Aberdeenshire West, Angus North and Mearns, Angus South, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Dundee City East, and Dundee City West
- South Scotland. Created by the combination of Ayr, Carrick Cumnock and Doon Valley, Clydesdale, Dumfriesshire, East Lothian, Ettrick Roxburgh and Berwickshire, Galloway and West Dumfries, Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley, and Midlothian South, Tweedale and Lauderdale.
At the dissolution of Parliament on 22 March 2011, twenty MSPs were not seeking re-election.
The parliament was dissolved on 22 March 2011 and the campaign began thereafter. The Conservatives saw 3 of their candidates drop out of the election during the period 25–28 March: Malcolm McAskill from the Glasgow regional ballot, Iain Whyte from the Glasgow Maryhill & Springburn constituency ballot and David Meikle from the Glasgow regional ballot.
The Liberal Democrat regional candidate for the Central Scotland region Hugh O'Donnell also withdrew on 27 March, citing discontent with the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition at Westminster. Another Liberal Democrat, John Farquhar Munro, came out in support of Alex Salmond for First Minister, even though he also claimed not to support the SNP. In the Clydesdale constituency, the Liberal Democrat candidate John Paton-Day failed to lodge his papers in time for the nomination deadline, leaving the constituency as the only one in Scotland with no Liberal Democrat candidate. On 17 April, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott described himself as 'uncomfortable' with his Scottish party being 'related' to the Conservatives due to the coalition at Westminster.
A televised debate between the four main party leaders was shown on STV on 29 March, with SNP leader Alex Salmond and Conservative leader Annabel Goldie identified as the strongest performers. The Scottish Sun newspaper came out in support of the SNP's campaign to win a second term, even though the newspaper does not back independence.
Whilst campaigning in Glasgow Central station, the Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray was ambushed by a group of anti-cuts protestors who chased him into a nearby fast-food outlet. The same protestors had already targeted Conservative leader Annabel Goldie a month earlier. On 27 April, Iain Gray and SNP leader Alex Salmond were both present simultaneously in an Ardrossan branch of the Asda supermarket chain; both parties alleged that the other party's leader had 'ran away' from the possibility of an encounter with the other.
The main parties contesting the election all outlined the following main aims:
- Legislate to give Scotland a referendum on independence.
- Maintain the council tax freeze throughout the next parliament.
- Attempt to generate 100% of Scotland's electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
- Continue offering free university tuition to Scottish students.
- Maintain high police numbers.
- Introduce Scottish Living Wage of £7.15 an hour, starting in the public sector.
- Abolish youth unemployment and aim to create 250,000 jobs by 2020.
- Compulsory six-month jail sentences for people convicted of knife-carrying.
- Initiate two-year council tax freeze.
- Re-instate the proposed rail link between Glasgow Central station and Glasgow International Airport, which was cancelled in 2009.
- Continue free University tuition fees for all Scottish students.
- A council tax freeze during the period 2012-2013.
- Re-introduce prescription charges at 2009 standards (£5 for a single item).
- Consider building new nuclear power stations, but not on new sites.
- Bring in Variable University Graduate Fee, with no more than £4,000 being paid annually per student.
- Replace community service with short prison sentences.
- Centralising the Scottish police forces into a single police force.
- Maintain free university tuition for Scottish students.
- Aim to create 100,000 new jobs through selling off Scottish Water which would free £1.5 billion for investment purposes.
- Oppose moves to create a centralised Scottish police force.
- Maintain the Scottish bus pass, but progressively bring the qualifying age up to 65.
- Reform the council tax.
- Bring in large-scale ecosystem restoration projects.
- Replace council tax with land value tax.
- Maintain free university tuition for Scottish students.
- Focus on bringing restorative justice within Scotland's justice system.
- Abolish the Forth Replacement Crossing.
Parties contesting the election
Contesting constituency and regional ballot
- Scottish National Party (SNP)
- Scottish Labour Party
- Scottish Conservative Party
- Scottish Liberal Democrats – Contesting all constituencies except Clydesdale 
- All Scotland Pensioner's Party/Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party – Contesting Mid Fife & Glenrothes and Motherwell & Wishaw
- Scottish Christian Party – Contesting Inverness & Nairn and Motherwell & Wishaw
- Liberal Party – Contesting Argyll & Bute
- National Front – Contesting Aberdeen Central, Aberdeen Donside, Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, Almond Valley, Linlithgow and only the North East Scotland region
- UK Independence Party (UKIP) – Contesting Inverness & Nairn, Moray and North East Fife
Contesting regional ballot only
- Scottish Green Party
- Solidarity – all regions except Glasgow
- Respect Party 'Coalition Against Cuts' – Glasgow only 
- Scottish Socialist Party
- British National Party (BNP)
- Socialist Labour Party
- Scottish Homeland Party – contesting Glasgow and Central regions
- Pirate Party
- Scottish Unionist Party
- Christian Peoples Alliance
- Ban Bankers Bonuses – contesting the Highlands and Islands and West of Scotland regional lists.
Contesting constituency ballot only
In March 2011, two months before the election, Labour held a double-digit lead over the SNP in the opinion polls, 44% to 29%. The SNP's support subsequently rallied, with the two parties level in April polling. In the final poll on the eve of the election, the SNP were eleven points clear of Labour.
The election produced a majority SNP government, making this the first time in the Scottish Parliament where a party had commanded a parliamentary majority. The SNP took 16 seats from Labour, many of whose key figures failed to be returned to parliament, although Labour leader Iain Gray retained East Lothian by 151 votes. The SNP took a further eight seats from the Liberal Democrats and one seat from the Conservatives. The SNP overall majority meant that there was sufficient support in the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum on Scottish independence.
Labour's defeat was attributed to several factors: the party focused too heavily on criticising the Conservative-led coalition at Westminster, and assumed that former Lib Dem voters would automatically switch their vote to Labour, when in fact they appeared to have haemorrhaged support to the SNP. Jackie Baillie compared the result to Labour's performance in the 1983 UK general election. Iain Gray announced his intention to resign as leader of the Labour group of MSPs that autumn.
The election saw a rout of the Liberal Democrats, with no victories in mainland constituencies and 25 lost deposits (candidates gaining less than five per cent of the vote). Leader Tavish Scott said their performance was due to the Liberal Democrats' involvement in the Westminster Government, which had been unpopular with many former LibDem supporters. Scott resigned as leader two days after the election.
For the Conservatives, the main disappointment was the loss of Edinburgh Pentlands, the seat of former party leader David McLetchie, to the SNP. McLetchie was elected on the Lothian regional list and the Conservatives only made a net loss of five seats, with leader Annabel Goldie claiming that their support had held firm. Prime Minister David Cameron congratulated the SNP on the result, but vowed to campaign for the Union in any independence referendum.
George Galloway, under a Unionist anti-cuts banner, failed to receive enough votes to be elected to the Glasgow regional list. The Scottish Greens won two seats, including their co-convenor Patrick Harvie. Margo MacDonald again won election as an independent on the Lothian regional list.
|Parties||Additional member system||Total seats|
|Scottish Senior Citizens||1,618||0.08||±0.00||0||±0||33,253||1.67||−0.23||0||±0||0||±0||0.00|
|Ban Bankers Bonuses||—||—||—||—||—||2,968||0.15||+0.15||0||±0||0||±0||0.00|
|Scotland Homeland Party||—||—||—||—||—||620||0.03||+0.03||0||±0||0||±0||0.00|
|Angus Independents Representatives||1,321||0.07||+0.07||0||±0||471||0.02||+0.02||0||±0||0||±0||0.00|
- Overall turnout: 50.4%
Constituency and regional summary
|Scottish Parliament general election, 2011: Central Scotland|
|Airdrie and Shotts||Alex Neil||SNP gain from Labour|
|Coatbridge and Chryston||Elaine Smith||Labour hold|
|Cumbernauld and Kilsyth||Jamie Hepburn||SNP gain from Labour|
|East Kilbride||Linda Fabiani||SNP gain from Labour|
|Falkirk East||Angus MacDonald||SNP gain from Labour|
|Falkirk West||Michael Matheson||SNP hold|
|Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse||Christina McKelvie||SNP gain from Labour|
|Motherwell and Wishaw||John Pentland||Labour hold|
|Uddingston and Bellshill||Michael McMahon||Labour hold|
|Scottish parliamentary election, 2011: Central Scotland|
|Scottish Parliament general election, 2011: Glasgow|
|Glasgow Anniesland||Bill Kidd||SNP gain from Labour|
|Glasgow Cathcart||James Dornan||SNP gain from Labour|
|Glasgow Kelvin||Sandra White||SNP gain from Labour|
|Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn||Patricia Ferguson||Labour hold|
|Glasgow Pollok||Johann Lamont||Labour hold|
|Glasgow Provan||Paul Martin||Labour hold|
|Glasgow Shettleston||John Mason||SNP gain from Labour|
|Glasgow Southside||Nicola Sturgeon||SNP gain from Labour|
|Rutherglen||James Kelly||Labour hold|
|Scottish parliamentary election, 2011: Glasgow|
|Scottish Green||Patrick Harvie||1||±0||12,454||6.0%||+0.6%|
Highlands and Islands
|Scottish Parliament general election, 2011: Highlands and Islands|
|Argyll & Bute||Michael Russell||SNP hold|
|Caithness, Sutherland & Ross||Rob Gibson||SNP gain from Liberal Democrats|
|Inverness & Nairn||Fergus Ewing||SNP hold|
|Moray||Richard Lochhead||SNP hold|
|Na h-Eileanan an Iar||Alasdair Allan||SNP hold|
|Orkney||Liam McArthur||Liberal Democrats hold|
|Shetland||Tavish Scott||Liberal Democrats hold|
|Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch||Dave Thompson||SNP gain from Liberal Democrats|
|Scottish parliamentary election, 2011: Highlands and Islands|
|Scottish Parliament general election, 2011: Lothian|
|Almond Valley||Angela Constance||SNP hold|
|Edinburgh Central||Marco Biagi||SNP gain from Labour|
|Edinburgh Eastern||Kenny MacAskill||SNP hold|
|Edinburgh Northern and Leith||Malcolm Chisholm||Labour hold|
|Edinburgh Pentlands||Gordon MacDonald||SNP gain from Conservative|
|Edinburgh Southern||Jim Eadie||SNP gain from Liberal Democrats|
|Edinburgh Western||Colin Keir||SNP gain from Liberal Democrats|
|Linlithgow||Fiona Hyslop||SNP gain from Labour|
|Midlothian North & Musselburgh||Colin Beattie||SNP gain from Labour|
|Scottish parliamentary election, 2011: Lothian|
|Scottish Green||Alison Johnstone||1||±0||21,505||7.6%||+0.5%|
Mid Scotland and Fife
|Scottish Parliament general election, 2011: Mid Scotland and Fife|
|Clackmannanshire & Dunblane||Keith Brown||SNP hold|
|Cowdenbeath||Helen Eadie||Labour hold|
|Dunfermline||Bill Walker||SNP gain from Liberal Democrats|
|Fife North East||Roderick Campbell||SNP gain from Liberal Democrats|
|Kirkcaldy||David Torrance||SNP gain from Labour|
|Mid Fife & Glenrothes||Tricia Marwick||SNP hold|
|Perthshire North||John Swinney||SNP hold|
|Perthshire South & Kinross-shire||Roseanna Cunningham||SNP hold|
|Stirling||Bruce Crawford||SNP gain from Labour|
|Scottish Parliament election, 2011: Mid Scotland and Fife|
|Liberal Democrats||Willie Rennie||1||+1||15,103||5.9%||−7.7%|
North East Scotland
|Scottish Parliament general election, 2011: North East Scotland|
|Aberdeen Central||Kevin Stewart||SNP gain from Labour|
|Aberdeen Donside||Brian Adam||SNP hold|
|Aberdeen South & North Kincardine||Maureen Watt||SNP gain from Liberal Democrats|
|Aberdeenshire East||Alex Salmond||SNP hold|
|Aberdeenshire West||Dennis Robertson||SNP gain from Liberal Democrats|
|Angus North & Mearns||Nigel Don||SNP hold|
|Angus South||Graeme Dey||SNP hold|
|Banffshire & Buchan Coast||Stewart Stevenson||SNP hold|
|Dundee City East||Shona Robison||SNP hold|
|Dundee City West||Joe Fitzpatrick||SNP hold|
|Scottish Parliament election, 2011: North East Scotland|
|Liberal Democrats||Alison McInnes||1||±0||18,178||6.8%||−8.4%|
|Scottish Parliament general election, 2011: South Scotland|
|Ayr||John Scott||Conservative hold|
|Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley||Adam Ingram||SNP gain from Labour|
|Clydesdale||Aileen Campbell||SNP gain from Labour|
|Dumfriesshire||Elaine Murray||Labour hold|
|East Lothian||Iain Gray||Labour hold|
|Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire||John Lamont||Conservative hold|
|Galloway and West Dumfries||Alex Fergusson||Conservative hold|
|Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley||Willie Coffey||SNP hold|
|Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale||Christine Grahame||SNP hold|
|Scottish Parliament election, 2011: South Scotland|
|Liberal Democrats||Jim Hume||1||±0||15,096||5.41%||−4.5|
|Scottish Parliament general election, 2011: West Scotland|
|Clydebank & Milngavie||Gil Paterson||SNP gain from Labour|
|Cunninghame North||Kenneth Gibson||SNP hold|
|Cunninghame South||Margaret Burgess||SNP gain from Labour|
|Dumbarton||Jackie Baillie||Labour hold|
|Eastwood||Ken Macintosh||Labour hold|
|Greenock & Inverclyde||Duncan McNeil||Labour hold|
|Paisley||George Adam||SNP gain from Labour|
|Renfrewshire North & West||Derek MacKay||SNP gain from Labour|
|Renfrewshire South||Hugh Henry||Labour hold|
|Strathkelvin & Bearsden||Fiona McLeod||SNP gain from Labour|
|Scottish Parliament election, 2011: West Scotland|
Top target seats of the main parties
Below are listed all the constituencies which required a swing of less than 5% from the 2007 result to change hands. Because the election was fought under new boundaries, the figures are based on notional results from 2007.
Liberal Democrat targets
- Arbuthnott Commission
- National Assembly for Wales election, 2011
- Northern Ireland Assembly election, 2011
- Murphy and Boyack review of the Labour Party in Scotland
- Scottish Labour Party leadership election, 2011
- Scottish Conservative Party leadership election, 2011
- Scottish Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2011
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- British National Party Manifesto
- Communist Party of Britain Manifesto
- Pirate Party UK Scottish Manifesto
- Respect Party 'Coalition Against Cuts' Manifesto
- Scottish Christian Party Manifesto
- Scottish Conservative Party Manifesto
- Scottish Green Party Manifesto
- Scottish Homeland Party Manifesto
- Scottish Labour Party Manifesto
- Scottish Liberal Democrats Manifesto
- Scottish National Party Manifesto
- Scottish Socialist Party Manifesto
- UK Independence Party Manifesto