Scottish election 2016: disaster for Labour, reality check for the SNP – and the Tories are back

Craig Andrew McAngus

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


The 2016 Scottish election was meant to be a foregone conclusion. Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP was expected to achieve another majority in a repeat of 2011, but it hasn’t happened. The party is the clear winner, securing a historic third term, but two seats short of the majority line. It didn’t quite win as many constituencies as it hoped, and the regional-list vote didn’t deliver enough seats to get the SNP to the magic 65.

The other big surprise is the scale of the Conservative revival. The polls were predicting a tight race between Labour and the Conservatives for second place, although most commentators believed that Labour would just about hold on to its position as the largest opposition party. As things have transpired, Labour had a terrible night and now finds itself as Scotland’s third party. Ten years ago – even five years ago – such a thought would have been inconceivable. Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives are now the official Holyrood opposition, with seven seats more than Labour.

So what happened? As with any election, the dust has to settle and the result picked over in greater detail. But a few patterns have emerged.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2016

Bibliographical note

Craig McAngus does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Dive into the research topics of 'Scottish election 2016: disaster for Labour, reality check for the SNP – and the Tories are back'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this