Scottish Parliament Poll March 2021

This page first posted 30 March 2021

Working with pollster Find Out Now for the Daily Express, Electoral Calculus has conducted and analysed a poll of voting intention for the Scottish parliament.

The results are good news for the SNP as they are shown to have a commanding lead.

Scottish Parliament Voting Intention

In tabular form, the results are


Find Out Now interviewed 1,022 people in Scotland, aged 16 and above, between 23-26 March 2021 (tables).

Using Electoral Calculus models, this translates into the following predicted number of seats won


The SNP need 65 seats to have an absolute majority at Holyrood, and our poll suggests that they are on course to exceed that by winning around 71 seats.

Scottish Parliament Electoral System
Read about this hybrid system

The Scottish parliament is run with a hybrid mixture of first-past-the-post and proportional representation. This can be a little confusing to non-residents, so here is a brief explanation.

For these elections, Scotland is divided into eight regions, and each region is divided into first-past-the-post (FPTP) constituencies. There are 73 constituencies in total.

At the election, each voter is asked for two votes: one for their FPTP constituency, and one for regional proportional representation.

The 73 seats are elected in the usual FPTP method. The candidate with the most votes (that is, with more votes than any other individual candidate) gets elected.

There are additional 8 PR seats in each region. These are elected using the D'Hondt system of proportional representation, where the initial number of seats won is set to be the FPTP seats won by that party in that region. For each region, the D'Hondt algorithm is the following four step process:

  1. Initialise the integer vector of seats won by each party, SeatsWon, to be the number of FPTP seats won by that party in this region
  2. For each party, calculate its "adjusted" votes, given by the formula: AdjustedVotes = RegionalVotes / (SeatsWon + 1)
  3. Take the party with the largest number of adjusted votes, award it a regional seat, and increment its SeatsWon by one
  4. Go back to step 2 and repeat, until all 8 regional seats have been awarded.

The effect of this process is broadly to award regional PR seats to parties which are under-represented at the constituency level. But it does not take any seats away from parties which are over-represented at the FPTP level.

The Alba effect

The poll was conducted before Alex Salmond, former SNP leader, announced the creation of his new Alba party. Alba, he said, will not contest the FPTP seats but will stand candidates in the regional lists. He also claimed to be working towards a "supermajority" for independence.

Many commentators, particularly unionist ones, have been gleeful about this event, thinking that it will split the nationalist vote.

Some cynical commentators also suspect that Salmond's true objective is not a "supermajority" but for the SNP to be deprived of an overall majority and to be dependent on the Alba party to govern. This would restore Salmond to a place in the government of Scotland.

But the issue of splitting votes applies much more to the FPTP constituencies than the regional PR vote. Since Alba is not standing in the constituencies, it will not directly damage the SNP there. Indeed, our poll figures show that the SNP on course to get an absolute majority from the FPTP seats alone.

There has not yet been polling to estimate how popular the Alba party is with voters. If we make the generous assumption that one-quarter of SNP regional supporters in each region will vote for Alba instead, then the result in terms of seats won would be:


On these figures, the main losers would be the main unionist parties, who lose six seats between them. Although the SNP would lose a couple of regional seats, it might not stop them from getting an overall majority. And Alex Salmond would end up leading the fifth largest party at Holyrood, without being in government.