WITH the Scottish local elections coming up on May 5, it is worth having a look at the Single Transferrable Vote system (STV) which will be used to decide your next councillors.

Compared to the first-past-the-post system (FPTP) used in UK General Elections and the Additional Member List system used in Holyrood, STV is relatively complex.

With that in mind, here’s our handy explainer to the STV system.

How does STV work?

Instead of electing one representative for each area, voters pool together to elect a small team of councillors to represent a ward.

Voters rank the candidates in order of preference. They put a 1 next to their preferred candidate, a 2 next to their second, a 3 by their third, and so on. Voters do not need to number all the candidates. They can number as many or as few as they like.

How are votes counted?

To win, a candidate must reach a pre-set quota. This is initially done by counting the first preference votes. If no one reaches the required quota level, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the second preference of the people that voted for them. If a candidate subsequently reaches the pre-set quota then they are elected as a councillor.

Any 'surplus' votes a candidate receives above the pre-set quote are then redistributed among the other candidates based on voters' second choices. This process is repeated until all posts are filled.

The National: National Extra Scottish politics newsletter banner

What are the advantages of STV?

  • Many campaigners say this is the closest to true proportional representation of any voting system currently in use and has previously been advocated for by the Electoral Reform Society.
  • It also offers voters a wider range of choice, allowing them to select candidates from different parties.
  • As all votes affect the final outcome, unlike in certain instances in FPTP, there is no need for tactical voting and voters are free to choose candidates they like most rather than for those who stand the best chance of beating their least favourite.
  • The system works so that it is less likely to completely control a council which encourages a consensual style of politics.

What are the disadvantages of STV?

  • The system is relatively more complex than other systems which may confuse or deter voter participation.
  • Due to the increased likelihood of coalitions, decision-making within councils may be made harder.

What do you think about STV? Let us know in the comments below.