I keep hearing a lot of things about respecting the mandate of the people, and it is starting to get annoying as it’s just all a lot of bullshit.
We often hear about the 45% respecting the mandate of the 55% in the 2014 independence referendum, Ruth Davidson argues that
“As I said during the election campaign, the SNP manifesto does not give Nicola Sturgeon a mandate for a second independence referendum. Now that she has failed to win a majority, whatever claims the SNP were pursuing with regard to constitutional brinkmanship over the next five years have now been utterly shredded. No mandate, no majority, no cause – the SNP must now let Scotland move on”.
Nicola Sturgeon argues that “everything must be on the table to protect Scotland’s place in Europe” after the UK voted to leave the EU, while the majority of Scots voted to stay”.
“Scotland did not vote for any of those consequences. We voted by a significant margin to avoid those consequences and stay in. That gives me a mandate to try to protect our relationship with the EU. If that is not possible within the UK well then I have been very clear that the option of a second independence referendum has to be on the table.”
Prime Minster Theresa May has said that “As far as I’m concerned the Scottish people had their vote, they voted in 2014, and a very clear message came through, both the United Kingdom and the Scottish Government said they would abide by that”.
Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray – the last Labour MP in Scotland – said that “The SNP must respect the sovereign will of the Scottish people. We know 55% of Scots voted No and that must be adhered to”.
Political mandate basically means a mandate is the authority granted by a constituency to act as its representative. But in a first past the post system it means that we have a Conservative Government with just 36.9% of the vote in the UK but Scotland voted for 56 SNP MPs on 50% of the Scottish Vote.
Where is the mandate there!
The simple fact is that in our electoral system, and alongside devolution, a political mandate is just a mess overall. Respecting the mandate, for all political parties, is just a soundbite when it suits their ends. The Tories you can argue have no mandate in Scotland on 14.9% of the vote in the General Election and just 22% in the Holyrood Elections. Theresa May has been appointed PM with no mandate from the voters, but then Nicola Sturgeon was appointed First Minster in Scotland having won a vote in the Scottish Parliament with an SNP majority in 2014, like May the mandate came from the party not the voters. Nicola Sturgeon has since won the Holyrood Election in 2016, all be it on a minority representation overall within the parliament.
What we are living in now, and this was coined by Quintin Hogg in 1976, is an Elective Dictatorship. Too many of our votes just don’t matter any more due to first past the post and the fact that most seats are deemed safe seats which means elections often come down to what is termed marginal constituencies, today that is around 83 seats or constituencies.
In my opinion not one politician or political party can claim to have a mandate over us as long as we have first past the post in Westminster Elections, the Tories get 309 seats on 36.9% of the vote.
The additional members voting system in Holyrood which gives the SNP 69 seats on 46% of the vote.
Single transferable Vote in local elections in Scotland, SNP get 425 seats on 32% first preference votes, British Labour 394 on 31% of the vote , Tories 115 seats on 13% of the vote and the Lib Dems 71 seats on 6.6% of the vote.
Strangely enough the fairest electoral system that we currently have is the system to elect members to the European Parliament, which is based on proportional representation, a system where party members decide through elections lists of preferred candidates and then the successful candidates are elected based on the proportion of votes each party gets at an election.
Now irrespective of how we might feel about the European Union, the system of election does provide a genuine mandate. In the European context, due to its size of parliament, it doesn’t make getting your voice heard any easier but within a UK and Scottish context it would make every vote count, and therefore deliver a truly representative parliament and deliver an actual political mandate to Govern.
Our system needs to change, we need to have a proportional system for all elections and until we do there is no such thing, in my opinion, as a political mandate, it’s just all bullshit.