Max Dunbar against Independent green party logo

FFS explains: Scottish Greens, Independent Green Voice and the lost MSPs

Following the Scottish Parliament election the Scottish Greens claimed it had potentially missed out on winning two additional seats due to another party using the word ‘green’ prominently as part of its name alongside a logo.

In a statement the party accused Independent Green Voice (IGV) of “electoral deceit” for using a logo “with ‘green’ in big letters and the other words in small print on the ballot paper”.

The Scottish Greens said this meant IGV was able to attract enough votes to “potentially prevent two additional Scottish Green MSPs to be elected, one in Glasgow and one in the South of Scotland”.

Ferret Fact Service looked at the numbers behind the claims.

What is Independent Green Voice?

IGV was founded by Alistair McConnachie and registered with the Electoral Commission in 2003.

From launch in 2003 until March this year IGV’s logo consisted of a right forearm with a clenched hand making the thumbs up sign. On 23 March 2021, the party registered a new logo with the Electoral Commission that consists of an image of a leaf and the words Independent Green Voice in capital letters. The word ‘green’ is in a larger font than the other two words.

Is it likely that voters confused IGV with the Scottish Greens?

It is impossible to say how many individual voters were confused by party logos or whether they mistakenly cast their vote for the wrong party.

The party did better than a number of higher profile parties, including the Scottish Family Party and Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party), and picked up 9,756 votes across Scotland.

IGV stood in five Scottish regions. It is difficult to draw any conclusions about IGV’s performance in the South of Scotland as the party had not fielded candidates in the region before. In the 2021 election it received 1,690 votes, giving it a share of 0.5 per cent.

In Glasgow, where McConnachie was IGV’s sole list candidate, the party got 2,210 votes, considerably better than it did in 2007, the last time it put forward a candidate for the regional vote, when the party received 496.

In that election, the party’s manifesto pledges included setting up a Scottish debt commission and organising an annual civil liberties conference. They gained 0.2 per cent of the total.

This time round the party did not release a manifesto and received 2,210 votes, making its share of the vote 0.7 per cent.

Strathclyde University politics Professor John Curtice – a polling expert – suggested one way to test whether voters were confused, was to look at the increase in support for Scottish Greens between 2016 and 2021, in regions where IGV stood and those where they did not.

Ferret Fact Service did not find a significant difference between the increase in vote share for Scottish Greens in regions where IGV stood candidates.

Support for the Scottish Greens increased in both the South of Scotland and Glasgow between 2016 and 2021. In 2016, the party received 14,773 votes in the South of Scotland and in 2021 that had risen to 18,964. As a result, its share of the vote increased from 4.7 per cent to 5.2 per cent, or 0.5 percentage points. In Glasgow, the number of regional votes cast for the party rose from 23,398 to 36,114 and its share of the vote increased from 9.4 per cent to 11.8 per cent, or 2.4 percentage points.

In the three regions where IGV did not stand on the regional list – Highlands and Islands, Lothian and Mid Scotland & Fife – the average increase in vote share for the Scottish Greens since 2016 was 1.5 points. This was the same in areas where IGV was standing.

Would the Scottish Greens have gained more seats if they had received those votes?

The party won a total of eight seats at the 2021 election, all of them via the regional list. It did not get enough votes to win a seat in the South Scotland region. Its co-leader Patrick Harvie was the only Scottish Greens representative to win a seat via the Glasgow regional list.

The regional list system is a form of proportional representation that operates alongside the first past the post constituency system. It is designed to make the number of parliamentarians returned for each party more representative of the number of votes cast.

The list system allocates seats according to a formula that starts by taking the number of list votes a party has received and dividing it by the number of constituency seats it has won in the region plus one.

As the SNP won all eight Glasgow seats, its number of regional votes was initially reduced from 133,917 to 14,879. That left Scottish Labour with the highest number of list votes and so it won the first of the seven Glasgow list seats available.

Applying the formula again, this time dividing Labour’s vote by two because it won the first list seat, gave Labour another seat. The Scottish Conservatives then won the third seat and the Scottish Greens the fourth. Labour won the fifth and sixth seats and the Conservatives won the final seat.

As the Greens started out with 36,114 regional votes and the Conservatives started with 37,027, the Greens would have beaten the Tories to the final seat had they received just over 900 additional votes. IGV received 2210 in the region.

In the South Scotland region, The Scottish Greens were short of gaining the final list MSP by just 115 votes, while IGV’s candidate on the list got 1690 votes.

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