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The Effects of Electoral Reform on Party Campaigns, Voters and Party Systems at the Local Level: From Single Member Plurality to the Single Transferable Vote in Scotland

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alistair Clark



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Taylor and Francis , 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This article examines the relationship between local electoral reform and change in party campaigns, voting behaviour and local party system fragmentation. This is important because local politics is often a ‘missing link’ in understanding how electoral reform impacts upon political behaviour. This article approaches these questions through the significant case of Scotland where the local electoral system was reformed across the entire country in 2007 from single member plurality (SMP) to the single transferable vote (STV). This had potentially profound consequences for how parties compete, how voters used their new preferential ballot and the fragmentation of local party systems. The article extends knowledge about these reforms by examining data from three rounds of STV local elections between 2007-2017, before comparing them with local elections under SMP. The first section applies debates regarding electoral reform and party systems to local elections. The second and third sections outline the electoral reforms implemented from 2007, and expectations of how voters and parties might behave. The fourth part examines local party and candidate campaign strategies, before the fifth section discusses how voters have used the STV system. The sixth section reflects on whether this has increased party system fragmentation in both the local electorate and in local governments.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Clark A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Local Government Studies

Year: 2021

Volume: 47

Issue: 1

Pages: 79-99

Online publication date: 03/09/2020

Acceptance date: 03/08/2020

Date deposited: 18/08/2020

ISSN (print): 0300-3930

ISSN (electronic): 1743-9388

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/03003930.2020.1816544


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