When Polling stops Rolling; The Final Prediction

It’s been a long and tiring campaign, but it’s been a blast. I’ve enjoyed my predictive shenanigans (and so have nearly 13,000 of you!) – and there’s just one prediction left to do. Over the past few months, I’ve exclusively considered the results of polls and of averages of polls. This time, although informed by polls, I’ve held my finger to the wind and listened to my gut for a DIY prediction. As ever, word of caution – this isn’t gospel, it’s basically educated guesswork and wonkery, and I report the output from my calculator regardless of how suspect I might view specific individual results.

What our parliament looks like will determine how our country navigates the uncharted and distinctly choppy waters ahead. To a degree the result vis a vis who will form the government seems like a foregone conclusion. But nothing can be taken for granted in elections. And no majority lasts forever. No government can expect everything to go to plan. There are always opportunities for opposition parties to seize the initiative, to win support and trust, to push public discourse in a different direction. Every vote matters.

Final Prediction

Given the dearth of small parties and independents this time, I’ve assumed that the seven parties my calculator tracks will between them manage 98% of the regional vote – up markedly from the 93.6% in 2011. Dedicated followers of this blog will notice a much tidier distribution of regional totals in this prediction. I’ll explain how that came about at the end, for the real nerds. On the constituency front, I’m expecting 99.5% of the vote – that’s up only marginally on 2011, when it was already a pretty solid 98.9%. I’ve also included, for the first time, the full constituency predictions in the PDF – though these aren’t tidied up to the degree regional votes are.


It’ll come as no surprise that I’m predicting an SNP majority – and with 71 seats, an increase of 2 over their 2011 tally. This time, I expect that to be made up of a whopping 68 of the 73 constituencies thanks to 52% share of the constituency vote, giving them a comfortable lead of 31.5% over their next closest rival. I’m expecting far less of an increase in their regional vote, coming in at 45% and only 3 regional seats, two in Highlands & Islands and one in Central. In 2011, the SNP’s list performance was massively underestimated – frankly, I’m not expecting pollsters to have made the same mistake twice.


In spite of the Tories nipping at their heels, the recent bump in Labour polling has me pretty confident – I’d say 2 to 1 – they’ll hold on to second place. Nonetheless, they suffer a significant loss of seats, their 21.5% of the constituency vote returning no MSPs at all, so 19.25% on the regional vote returns all 24 of their MSPs in this prediction. I expect Labour to follow past performance and lose a fair chunk between the list and regional vote, but with their vote already cut to the bone, the gap won’t be as large as it was in 2011.


Unfortunately for the Tories, I don’t see them quite making it to second place this time, though 20 seats would be their best haul yet. Nonetheless, in one sense, the 18.5% I expect for them in the constituencies would give them a marginally healthier result than Labour, seeing them win 3 constituencies – most notably Eastwood in the West Region. Their other 17 MSPs would be delivered on 17% of the list vote, though I predict both Glasgow and Central will remain tough nuts to crack for the party.


Although the Greens have been polling well, between 8% and 11% over the last month of the campaign, caution and some last minute slides in the polls leads me to expect them to just fall a bit short of that 8% mark, with 7.5%. Nonetheless, that could deliver not just their best ever vote share for a Scottish Parliament election, but their best haul of seats too, with 9. As an aside, although this particular calculation would see Kirsten Robb miss out on a seat in Central, the margins are all so fine I’d not be surprised to see Kirsten elected ahead of either Zara Kitson or Andy Wightman (second in Glasgow and Lothian.)

Lib Dems

I don’t expect much in the way of recovery from the Lib Dems. I’ve said in the past I reckon a 6%, 6 seat result is where they are headed, but I also find it hard to imagine that with the expected increase in turnout compared to 2011, a great many of those new voters will be going Lib Dem, nor that many of their former voters will have returned, so I’ve opted for 5.5% instead. This just preserves their current batch of MSPs, with a narrow miss for Alex Cole-Hamilton in Lothian, and meaning the Lib Dems would keep their two constituencies out of the SNP’s clutches.


And what of the hopefuls, seeking their first MSPs? (Okay, RISE includes the SSP which won 6 in 2003, but the coalition is new!) Well, UKIP seem to have slid a bit of late, so I’m not even expecting them to make 3%, coming in at 2.75% instead. That’s still a couple of % too low for Coburn to make it into Highlands and Islands – thankfully. Meanwhile, I just don’t think RISE have made any impact in this campaign outside the Indy bubble. Lacking any figures as big as Sheridan was in his heyday, I imagine a measly 1% translating to no seats.

Detailed National Prediction;

CG Final HIL Final MFNE Final SW Final

PDF of results

PDF of constituency results

Final Prediction Methodology; The baseline methodology of the calculator operates as it always has, but this time, I’ve smoothed out all the regions to give sensible totals and avoid exceeding 100%. This smoothing is not, and I cannot emphasise this enough, even vaguely scientifically rigorous. It’s a broad brush assumption to make the overall prediction look sensible. 

Having assumed a national share of 2% for other parties and independents, and with an average of four additional candidacies per region (see this post on small parties), that means an average of 0.5% per additional candidacy. Taking four as the baseline, regions with exactly four additional candidacies are smoothed to a 98% share between the seven headline parties. Regions with less see those parties collectively gain 0.5% for every minor candidacy short of 4. Regions with more see the opposite, the headliners collectively losing 0.5% for each additional candidacy above 4. 


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