Now that the votes are counted…

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This blog provides a brief overview of the results of the general election of 12 December 2019. If you need to catch up on how election night unfolded and what the result means for Scotland, this is the blog for you. Figures in this blog for the 2019 election results have been taken from the BBC election results.

A blog on the impact of the result for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and a blog of the full results in Scotland will also be published by SPICe.

Has one party secured a majority?

Yes. The Conservatives reached the 326-seat threshold at just after 5am which means that they had won the election by securing a majority of seats. At the time of publication, and with all but one seat declared across the UK, the Conservatives have won 364 seats, securing a comfortable majority of over 70 seats in the House of Commons. All 59 Scottish seats have been declared.

There are 650 Members of Parliament (MPs) elected from across the UK. This means that any party which secures 326 seats will have a majority. In practise the number required to secure a majority can be a little lower. This is because Sinn Fein MPs do not take their seats, and the Speaker of the House of Commons cannot vote and so does not count.

What is the result across the UK?

With 649 of 650 seats declared across the UK, the result is:

  • Conservatives 364
  • Labour 203
  • SNP 48 (one SNP candidate, Neale Hanvey, was suspended from the party after the nomination deadline had passed. As such, Neale Hanvey appeared on the ballot paper as an SNP candidate in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath but will sit as an independent. This means that the SNP group at Westminster will be 47. In this blog the 48 seat figure is used)
  • Liberal Democrats 11
  • Other 23

How did Scotland vote?

Scotland elects 59 MPs.

The SNP took the majority of seats across Scotland, winning 48 – an increase of 13 on 2017.

At the 2017 general election the Conservatives won 13 seats; Labour 7 and the Liberal Democrats 4. At this election, the seats stand as:

  • SNP 48
  • Conservatives 6
  • Liberal Democrats 4
  • Labour 1

What does this mean for Scotland?

At this election, constitutional issues loomed large.

The SNP’s successful night was fought on a pro-EU, pro-independence platform. The Conservative losses demonstrate that, in a majority of areas, electors in Scotland rejected the party’s pro-Brexit, pro-union stance.

It is expected that the Scottish Government will request a Section 30 Order (an Order to grant the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a second independence referendum) before Christmas . The First Minister has said that the support for the SNP is a mandate for a second independence referendum. Speaking at the Glasgow count, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP refused to be drawn on what her course of action would be if the request was rejected by the Prime Minister.

Making his acceptance speech in the Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat, Ian Blackford MP, leader of the SNP at Westminster said “We will be demanding that democracy takes place…we will have our referendum [on independence]”.

It was a bad night for the Conservatives in Scotland, securing six seats – a loss of seven since 2017.

Scottish Labour won only one seat, with Ian Murray securing 23,745 votes and a majority of 11,095. A very comfortable majority for Ian Murray, but still a fall from his 15,514 majority at the 2017 election. Overall it was a night of heavy defeat for Labour, losing six seats.

The Liberal Democrats won the North East Fife marginal but, in a bad night for the party, lost the seat of East Dunbartonshire which was held by party leader Jo Swinson to the SNP, by 149 votes. The party also held seats in Edinburgh West, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and Orkney and Shetland.

Key marginal seats

Scotland was a key battleground for parties during the election, given the high number of marginal seats. After securing 56 seats in the 2015 election, the SNP lost 21 seats at the 2017 general election. The main party to benefit from the SNP losses in 2017 were the Conservatives who secured 13 Scottish seats at the last election.

The five most marginal seats in Scotland from 2017 were all won on incredibly slim majorities. Looking at the results in these seats this election compared to 2017 may give an indication of the temperature of the electorate on key constitutional issues like Brexit and Scottish independence.

1 North East Fife: Ahead of the election, the most marginal seat in the UK was North East Fife, held by the SNP on 2017 by a majority of just 2 votes. The Liberal Democrats were seen as the main challenger and this time around they took the seat with a majority of 1,316 votes.

2 Perth and Perthshire North: The SNP held the seat in 2017, but by just 21 votes. Going into the election the seat was the third most marginal in the UK (Kensington was the second most marginal in the UK and was a Labour gain in 2017 by 20 votes). The SNP’s Pete Wishart won the seat, increasing his majority to 7,550 with the Conservatives coming in second place.

3 Glasgow South West: The SNP held the seat in 2017 by just 60 votes. The seat had been Labour for ten years, but it was an SNP gain in 2015 with a 10,000 majority. Labour were seen to be the main challenger this time around, but the SNP held the seat with a greatly increased majority of 4,900. The SNP secured 47.9% of the vote with Labour coming second on 34.6%.

4 Glasgow East: At the 2017 election the SNP’s majority in the seat dropped from 10,387 to just 75. Like Glasgow South West, Labour were the SNP’s main competition, but the SNP held the seat with an increased majority of 5,566. The SNP secured 47.7% of the vote and Labour 33.2%.

5 Stirling: A majority of only 148 votes separated the Conservatives and the SNP in this seat in 2017.  The Conservatives took the seat from the SNP in 2017, meaning it was a key seat for the SNP this time around. The SNP won the seat, securing over 50% of the vote and a majority of 9,254.

Is there a UK Government?

Yes, the Conservatives will continue to be the party of Government at a UK level, having secured enough seats to form a majority government. Boris Johnson won his seat, securing a majority of 7,210. Mr Johnson will continue as Prime Minister.

Technically the UK is never without a government. Even when the House of Commons is dissolved ahead of an election, Government Ministers retain their office. This is to make sure that the country is not without a government at any time.

Why is having a majority at the House of Commons important?

A party does not have to command a majority in the House of Commons to be the party of government. A government must, however, be able to secure a majority in the House of Commons on votes of confidence and supply. The votes don’t all have to come from one party but if a government is unable to secure a majority on votes of confidence and supply then the Prime Minister has to ask the Monarch to invite someone else (usually the leader of the second largest party) to form a government.

In the 2017 election, for example, the Conservative Government lost its majority but entered into a supply and confidence agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party.

Did the weather play a part?

This is the UK’s first December election since 1923. There had been concern that a December poll could be disrupted by extreme weather, particularly in rural areas.

In Scotland, local authorities had contingency plans in place to mitigate the effects of bad weather on the poll. Argyll and Bute Council, for example, had boats on standby in case bad weather meant that helicopters were unable to fly to take ballot boxes from island polling stations to the count. Highland Council had volunteers on had able to move people and resources around in four by four vehicles. The count was also moved to Inverness Leisure Centre as the venue is easier to keep warm.

There was a yellow weather warning in place across parts of Scotland until 10am on polling day due to freezing temperatures causing a risk of ice. Across other parts of the UK, flood warnings were in place. There had also been warnings of snow on higher ground across the UK as the country braced for a colder week of weather. Earlier in the week, the UK had seen gale force winds which had forced Edinburgh’s Christmas Market and Edinburgh Castle to close. Ferry services in the Highlands and Islands had also been affected.

Judging by turnout in Scottish seats, the weather did not appear to be a significant factor in this election.

You can find out more about the results, How Scotland voted: UK General Election 2019, and what the potential impact of these results will mean for Brexit,  General Election 2019 – Brexit, moving to Phase 2, elsewhere on SPICe Spotlight.

Sarah Atherton, SPICe research