After the first day of counting in the Scottish Parliament election the SNP has come away with gains in three key seats.

Results have been counted at 48 of Scotland’s 73 constituency seats, and the chances of the SNP securing an overall majority remain on a knife edge.

With the remaining results to be declared on Saturday, we look at the picture across Scotland so far.

The Magic Number

After the end of counting on Friday the SNP are sitting on 39 constituency seats. The magic number at Holyrood is 65 – the number of seats it takes to win a majority.

This has happened only once in the parliament’s history, with the first two terms governed by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition and the SNP having had two stints as a minority government.


This isn’t just important for the ever-present question of independence, and whether the incoming SNP government can bring about a new referendum, it’s also about the day-to-day running of the parliament.

A minority government needs support from other parties to pass its budget each year – in the last term Nicola Sturgeon did deals with the Greens, but in the 2007 parliament Alex Salmond’s administration often chummed up with the Conservatives.

So whether or not the SNP tip over the line themselves, and hit that figure of 65 outright, could be significant for what goes on at Holyrood next term, even aside from independence.

So don’t chuck out those manifestos yet – if it is to be another minority government, we may see the policy priorities of some other parties coming to the fore as well as those of the governing SNP.

Pivotal seats

Some gains are more significant than others. They are sometimes talked about as “net gains”, and you can discern them on the electoral map by the dint of them being a tiny drop of red or blue amid a sea of yellow.

The first two SNP gains, East Lothian and Ayr, are both (somehow) in the South Scotland region. However, the SNP won three list seats there last time out, so could potentially lose one or two of those as a result of gaining constituencies.

The SNP won 39 constituency seats, including Ayr where the majority was just 170

We will find out for sure on Saturday, but every seat a party gains in a region makes it exponentially harder to win list seats.

However, Edinburgh Central is in a region – Lothian – where the SNP did not previously have any list seats. This makes it a true net gain, and is far more helpful to them in the quest for a majority.

There were a couple of other seats which could have been a net gain for the SNP – Dumbarton and Eastwood among them – but they fell agonisingly short in both.

There is one left, however, on Saturday, which could prove pivotal – Aberdeenshire West.

Tactical voting

This has been an extremely hard election to take an “overall picture” from, because the situation on the ground in different constituencies has been very volatile.

To put it another way, the swings have been all over the place.

Take for example the north east of Scotland, where the Conservatives had some big swings in places like Banffshire and Buchan Coast – albeit while falling short of actually gaining a seat.

Meanwhile, Labour had some heartening results around Glasgow and the west of Scotland – although they were chiefly pleased not to lose Dumbarton, having shed East Lothian to the SNP.

vote share
Presentational grey line

Rather than one party being up or down across the country, the race is becoming far more local – and binary.

In most seats now, the contest seems to be between the SNP, and whichever other party has the best chance of beating them.

In parts of the Highlands and Islands, that’s the Lib Dems, in the north east and the Borders it’s the Tories, in parts of the central belt and the west it’s Labour.

This tactical voting has secured a few seats that the SNP were hoping to pick off.

But it’s much less clear how it will affect the race for regional list seats – which will be pivotal in deciding the final placings.


I am an experienced seasoned educational with training in early childhood and international education practices. I have worked in schools accredited by accreditation bodies and worked at different levels in both local and international schools.

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