Scottish Election 2021 results: What do the early turnout figures mean?

Turnout at the Holyrood election appears to be up compared to 2016, but with few results announced it is not clear what exactly this will mean when all of the results have been counted.

The conventional wisdom from much of the Scottish political bubble is that high turnout will likely favour the SNP, but in what appears to be a highly tactical election, that is not guaranteed.

For the parties the issue is clear. Does high turnout mean that one party has successfully ‘got out the vote’ more than others, or is a certain part of the population more than others determined to vote?

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Scottish Election 2021 results: Turnout soars in Holyrood election
Counts across the country are counting a potential record number of ballots cast at a Scottish Parliament election

SNP sources suggested pre-election day that a high turnout overall would lead to a successful day for Nicola Sturgeon, and that tends to be true if you examine previous elections.

Younger and poorer voters are much less likely to turn up to the polling station and put an X in the box, but are also much more likely to be SNP voters.

This has the inevitable problem for the SNP that polling ahead of election days can inflate their support by as much as six percentage points.

This was what happened in 2016 and predictions were that similar could occur in 2021.

However, the high level of turnout currently being seen could also be a reaction from the pro-unionist side of the constitutional divide.

The Scottish Conservative vote, heavily pro-union, is more likely than any other party to have voters who cast their vote tactically in favour of the pro-union party.

In a recent poll, almost 40 per cent of Tory voters fell into this category, and just over a quarter of Labour voters said they were also voting tactically.

Should the high turnout be a result of pro-union voters turning out in force, it is a question of how successful the tactical voting strategy has been and whether the SNP has matched any rise in voter turnout themselves.

At this stage we know the turnout figures mean something, but as ever with elections, before the results are announced it is far from clear exactly what.

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