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Election lessons for more than the politicians

The Scottish Parliament elections this month have changed the face of Scottish politics, with the major parties losing out to the minor ones and independents.

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has published a briefing paper with analysis of the results from several perspectives and other material that will interest particularly modern studies students.

The contributions from leading commentators on elections and politics include one suggesting that a more colourful, single-issue orientated Parliament beckons.

The paper outlines how the additional member system works in Scotland, comparing the results of the 1999 and 2003 elections. It shows how this system is changing the make-up of the Parliament in terms of party representation, with smaller parties and independent candidates taking a stronger role than is possible with the first past the post election system used for Westminster.

Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, suggests the transformation that is occurring may not just be a result of the election system. "Voters were clearly defecting from the traditional big parties irrespective of the electoral system," he writes. He also suggests that voters' perception of the importance of the Parliament may be a factor.

Peter Lynch, of Stirling University, discusses in more depth what implications the election results might have for the political parties in Scotland.

Nicola McEwan, of Edinburgh University, considers the role of the second vote in greater depth and how it has influenced the outcome of the 2003 election.

Chris Eynon, of the research organisation NFO System Three, discusses the strengths and weaknesses of polling data and lessons that can be learned from the polls.

The briefing paper also considers the role of the media in the election and how the campaign fared from the media perspective.

Election data, graphs and maps of Scottish parliamentary constituencies are included, along with a possible layout of the chamber with the new members.

SPICe will soon also be publishing a spreadsheet containing all the election results data and further statistical analysis.

Stephen Curtis

Stephen Curtis is social affairs research team leader at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre

www.scottish.parliament.ukresearchsb-number.htm The file may take some time to download because of its size

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