The 2019 General Election is now truly underway, as nominations for candidates closed yesterday (14th). We now know every one of the 292 candidates who are in the running for Scotland’s 59 seats. I’ve done the hard work of absorbing every Notice of Poll and adding the details to my GE 2019 Hub, so you don’t have to! As you’d expect, the 4 parties which hold Scottish seats in Westminster are standing in every seat – but what about other candidates?
Before getting fully stuck into which parties are standing where, another one of my soapbox moments about the state of the UK’s democracy. Part of why this is an interesting little post to run is that smaller parties simply can’t stand everywhere thanks to the combination of deposits and First Past the Post.
At £500 up front to get your name on the ballot, for any party wishing to contest every seat in Scotland that’s £29,500. Almost £30k before you’ve printed a leaflet, run an ad, or paid any staff. Whether or not you win it back by getting 5% is immaterial if you can’t afford to part with it in the first place. PR would alleviate this somewhat – for example, a hypothetical split of Scotland into 10 multi-member constituencies would only require £5,000 for nationwide contesting.
This is a shoddy barrier to democracy that doesn’t exist in most of our European neighbours. Even here, the Electoral Commission – that’s right, the people whose job it is to ensure elections are conducted legally and fairly – have repeatedly said deposits should be abolished. For anyone wondering why some parties don’t just stand everywhere, bear all this in mind.
Scottish Green Party
At other levels of government, the Greens are one of Scotland’s major players. They’ve been represented in Holyrood since the first elections in 1999, and are currently the 4th largest party there, ahead of the Lib Dems. They also have seats in a half dozen councils, including large groups holding balance of power in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Westminster’s First Past the Post system isn’t kind to them, however.
Nonetheless, they are the party with the largest number of candidates outside the Westminster parties, present in a total of 22 constituencies. That’s substantially up from 3 in 2017, when that deposit based financial pressure proved an insurmountable barrier following hot on the heels of council elections. It is however their second highest contest rate, behind the 32 they stood in 2015 and ahead of 20 in 2010.
Most of their candidates are in the Central Belt, especially in and around Edinburgh, with northern outliers in Aberdeen and Inverness.
Brexit and UKIP
By remarkable coincidence, the Brexit Party and UKIP aren’t facing off against one another in any constituency. That allowed me to display Brexit’s 15 constituencies and UKIP’s 7 on the same map. For a total of 22 seats, hardline pro-Brexit parties are standing in as many seats as the Greens. That’s more than double the 10 UKIP stood for in 2017, but only just over half the 41 they contested in 2015.
Interestingly enough, the overlap between these two opposing forces is only 50:50. Only 11 constituencies have a candidate from both the Greens and Brexit/UKIP, meaning there are 11 Green constituencies without the latter, and 11 Brexit/UKIP constituencies without the former.
It’s worth noting that the Brexit stand down in Conservative-held seats definitely took at least 2 candidates off this number. I know they had an East Renfrewshire candidate lined up, and ironically enough their Glasgow North East (not a Conservative seat) candidate, who is also their MEP, stood down from that constituency in protest at the decision to stand down elsewhere. Makes sense to someone!
Finally, and usually good for some of the more “uhhh, what?” moments of any election, the “minor” parties. Here I’m taking that to mean parties which have basically no national profile or representation, and no recent history of such. There are 8 such candidates, representing 7 parties in 7 constituencies.
The only one of them to be standing multiple candidates is the Scottish Family Party with two. Those are in the seats of Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, so I wonder if there was a reason to that or if it’s just coincidence.
Everyone else has just one candidate. There’s the Christian People’s Alliance and their splinter group the Scottish Christian Party, just to remind us that it’s not just the socialists that like to fracture. The Veterans and People’s Party are another flavour of, ahem, not entirely friendly Euroscepticism.
Renew are a centrist pro-EU party, something the UK has definitely been lacking, whilst the Social Democratic Party are the dregs of the dregs of the original SDP, being what remained after the post-Bootle shutdown of what remained after the SDP-Liberal merger. Finally, long-time followers of Ballot Box Scotland will recognise the Scottish Libertarians as regular by-election candidates – and also that their candidate here is in East Ayrshire, where they inexplicably presented a full slate of council candidates in 2017.
Notable by their absence are the left-wing minor parties. No SSP, no Solidarity, no Communists (they had a few elections of standing in Glasgow North West, getting their leaflet for my first ever GE in 2010 was… interesting), no Socialist Labour Party, not a Marxist sausage.
Just the Westminster Parties
That leaves us with a total of 23 seats with a short ballot of just the 4 Westminster parties. These are quite geographically concentrated in the North East, South and historic Renfrewshire. What’s interesting here is the uneven pattern between seats held by different parties.
- Conservative held seats – only 3 of 13 have additional candidates (23%)
- SNP held – 24 of 35 (69%)
- Labour held – 5 of 7 (71%)
- Lib Dem held – 4 of 4 (100%)
The impact this will have on overall seat distribution is likely to be pretty small recent polling considered, but it does again show that impact from the Brexit Party opting not to stand in any Conservative held seats.