The elections to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, 3rd May, 2007, were notable for two reasons. Firstly, they brought an end to Labour's domination of the parliament, which it has led for the last eight years. The Scottish National Party (SNP, 47 seats) now holds one more seat than Labour (46 seats), and has formed a minority government, after failing to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems' were opposed to a referendum on independence (from England and the United Kingdom. The Lib Dem's have also ruled out a coalition with Labour, as happened in the last parliament. The Conservatives ruled out coalitions involving their party before the election.
Secondly, there was a huge number of spoiled ballot papers, almost 142,000. This was caused by the fact that the two voting papers used different systems: a single transferrable vote (STV - voting 1,2,3,4 in order of preference for as many candidates as desired) for the local council elections, and the familiar X in the box in two columns of the same paper for the parliamentary elections. This caused much confusion, as it was the first time the STV vote was used, and many voters did not understand the system. The sheer volume of spoiled papers must bring uncertainty to some results where voting was close.
A new electronic counting system also failed to live up to expectations, and many counts took far longer than expected.
The Tories (17 seats) managed to defeat the Lib Dems on 16 seats.Small parties fared badly in the election, with the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party, and both Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity party and the Scottish Socialist Party failing to gain seats. The Green Party have only two seats, and one independent was elected.
A helicopter carrying votes from the Western Isles was unable to fly on election night, causing delay in counting, and a man was arrested for smashing ballot boxes with a golf club at a polling station in Edinburgh.
Alex Salmond was elected by parliament to lead a minority government as first minister on 16th May. 65 seats are required for a majority vote. If the first minister hadn't been chosen within 28 days, the Scotland Act says a new election would have had to be called. On November 11th, the SNP came to an agreement with the Greens, whereby the Greens supported Alex Salmond for first minister, which led to the defeat of Labour's Jack McConnell, the previous incumbent, as the Lib Dems and Tories abstained. In return, the SNP will back a climate change bill, but the Green support will not go as far as supporting Salmond in a no confidence vote. Salmond's election as first minister means the nationalists hold power for the first time in their history, albeit on the flimsiest of margins. On November 14th, the parliament chose Tory Alex Fergusson as the presiding officer of the new parliament, replacing George Reid, who is retiring as the former presiding officer. The two deputy presiding officers chosen were Labour MSP Trish Godman (who was re-elected) and the SNP's Alasdair Morgan won the other post.
On the 18th May it was announced that Livingston MSP Angela Constance would be taking maternity leave later this year, cutting the SNP's voting power by one, and making its hold on power even weaker. Ms Constance's baby is due in the autumn.
Comparative results of 2003 and 2007 elections
2003 2007 Change
Scottish National Party 27 47 +20
Labour 50 46 -4
Liberal Democrats 17 16 -1
Conservatives 18 17 -1
Greens 7 2 -5
Scottish Socialist Party 6 0 -6
Scottish Senior Citizens 1 0 -1
Independent 3 1 -2