More Scottish than Welsh? Understanding the 2011 Devolved Elections in Scotland and Wales

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Series Details Vol.23, No.5, December 2013, p591-612
Publication Date December 2013
ISSN 1359-7566
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In line with the prevailing methodological nationalism of electoral studies, sub-state regional elections are often assumed to be shaped primarily by state-wide political dynamics. But such assumptions make it difficult to understand why, as occurred in Scotland and Wales in May 2011, simultaneous sub-state elections might produce sharply contrasting outcomes. Drawing on original data from the Scottish and Welsh Election Studies, this paper compares voting behaviour in these two elections. We test two main hypotheses: that the election outcomes differed because of the greater influence of UK-wide political dynamics in Wales than in Scotland; and that the differing election outcomes reflected simply the differing attractiveness of the main parties in the two nations. We find substantial support for the latter hypothesis, but also some support for the former: vote choice in the 2011 devolved elections was more distinctively Scottish than it was Welsh. The conclusion considers the implications of our findings for understanding devolved politics in Scotland and Wales, and sub-state elections in general.

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