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Poll reveals stark ‘generation gap’ in Scottish elections

23rd May 2017
23 May 2017
Tags: 
BMG
poll
youth engagement
ERS Scotland

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 21st May 2017

ERS Scotland Director Willie Sullivan and youth spokespeople are available for further comment and interviews. Contact Willie Sullivan on 07940523842, or Lewis Carr (Young Scot) 01313132488/ 07495452392, Fergus Boden (NUS Scotland) Fergus.boden@nus-scotland.org.uk, 07876 831235, or Karen Keith (Scottish Youth Parliament), 0131 557 0452. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


A new poll for the Electoral Reform Society Scotland has revealed a ‘dangerous generation gap’ in how people feel about voting ahead of the General Election.  

The poll by BMG Research finds that while young people are highly engaged in political discussion and are interested in positively engaging ideas to bring power closer to them, they feel fundamentally alienated from the political system.

It shows that 26% of 16-24 year olds feel they have the option to vote for someone who 'understands their life' compared to half of the over 65s.

Yet 50% of 16-24 year olds say they talk about how they can make their community a better place to live – the highest return across all age groups. It compares to only 33% of the over 65s discussing such matters in their friendship groups and families.

Asked if they discuss general politics with friends and family, 64% of 16-24 year olds said they did. Once again this was the highest level across any other age group, with 43% of the over 65's agreeing that they discussed politics with their friends and family.

The poll also finds that 16-24 year olds agree that their lives are impacted by who is in government, with 67% disagreeing with the notion that it doesn’t matter which party is in power in relation to their own life.

At the same time, the BMG research shows that young people react positively to ideas that they feel improve the political system. For example, 65% of 16 - 24 year olds agree that technology should be used to 'give more power to citizens'. But less than half - only 40% - of over 65s feel the same way.

Jonathon Shafi, spokesperson and Campaigns Organiser for Electoral Reform Society Scotland, said:

"This polling tells us that young people are far from apathetic. It is striking that they appear to discuss national politics and making improvements to their community or town more than their older counterparts. 

"But it is also telling that they feel that politicians don't understand their lives. We know that older people tend to vote more, but we also see that young people want to embrace technology to give citizens more power. 

"What's important about this is that young people appear to want to be able to connect their general political awareness and interest with power and decision making. 

"We have a generation who understand the impact of politics on their lives, but feel they need better tools to engage with it. A more deliberative approach to our democracy would aid this – involving citizens at every level in decision-making would go a long way to bringing people of all ages closer to politics.

“Alongside other reforms to improve our democracy, we have the chance to close this dangerous generation gap before it becomes unbridgeable.”

NUS Scotland President Vonnie Sandlan said:

“It’s clear from this poll that young people care deeply about political issues and want to make positive change in their communities, but it is hugely concerning that the majority do not feel that they can vote for politicians who represent them.

"Politicians have a clear role to play in encouraging students and young people to vote, as well as ensuring that political agendas are shaped and co-created by young people. The most effective way to encourage students and young people to exercise their democratic right to vote is by making it clear that their futures matter. 

"With so much uncertainty around Brexit and what the future will bring, students need to hear that politicians are actively considering the opportunities and employment prospects of those studying now – and that our diverse education communities, and the ability of students to easily work and study within the EU, will be protected.

“There are around half a million students in Scotland and their votes will make a real impact on the outcome of this election. We’re touring the country up until 22 May to get students and young people registered to vote and make sure their voices are heard. This election falls at the end of term as many students start to move home or elsewhere for summer. We’re encouraging all students to think about where they will be on 8 June and ensuring they know how to apply for a postal or proxy vote.”
 
Terri Smith, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said:
 
“The Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) is the democratically elected voice of all of Scotland's young people. As Chair of SYP, I know only too well that the young people in my constituency, and across the country, are genuinely interested in the present and the future of this nation, so I am not surprised at the results of this research. It is, however, very worrying that some young people feel disillusioned with the political system. 

“It is of critical importance that young people make sure that their voices are heard, especially in the forthcoming general election. The deadline to register to vote is Monday, and I want to say to every single young person in the country: get registered, by Monday at the latest, and when the time comes, get voting! Only by voting will you be able to make sure that your voice is truly heard, and that we will have a chance to change this nation for the better.”

Louise MacDonald, Chief Executive of Young Scot, said:

“This poll demonstrates that Scotland’s young people are passionate about the difference they can make to their local communities and to tackling local and national issues. It's vital that young people are given access to information on how they can participate and are encouraged to register as soon as possible before the deadline on Monday.”

Registering to vote takes just five minutes online: www.gov.uk/registertovote 

ENDS

Notes to Editors

BMG polling on behalf of ERS Scotland. Fieldwork dates: 5th - 11th May 2017. Sample: 1,035 Scottish resdients aged 16+

‘Overbearing and counterproductive’: Conservatives’ mandatory voter ID plans raise barriers to democracy

18th May 2017
18 May 2017

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 18th May 2017

For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


The Electoral Reform Society have challenged plans in the Conservative manifesto [1] to introduce voter ID across the UK as ‘overbearing and counterproductive’.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This pledge risks making our democracy even more unequal. As we’ve said before, mandatory voter ID is a sledgehammer to crack a nut [2] – there is simply not enough evidence of voter fraud in the UK to justify such a dramatic change to Britain’s democratic traditions.

“The introduction of voter ID is something that has to be thought about very carefully – because there’s a substantial risk that this could raise barriers to participation and put people off voting.

“There’s clear evidence that strict voter ID rules in some US states disproportionately disadvantages ethnic minority voters and already-marginalised groups [3]. And where they aren’t strict – as in Sir Eric Pickles’ proposals – they offer the worst of both worlds: making it harder for most people to vote while not preventing those who really are trying to defraud the system from doing so.

“The experience of photographic electoral ID in Northern Ireland is more positive – but there, ID is provided for free. The Pickles review proposals are instead a watered-down form which wouldn’t necessarily reduce fraud. For example, allowing the use of non-photographic (and perhaps easily-forgeable) utility bills would mean the change could actually do more harm than good.

“The UK has an international reputation for running elections with integrity and openness. It would be wrong to risk throwing that reputation away by making it harder for people to vote, without thinking about the consequences or how to improve our democracy and turnout alongside it.

“There are other things that can be done to limit potential fraud, without damaging participation. Clearer guidance and better training of election staff and Returning Officers are changes everyone can get behind, while other suggestions to introduce stronger powers against voter intimidation and to make it easier to launch ‘election petitions’ to report fraud are very much worth discussing.

“Let’s look at more positive reforms before making overbearing and counterproductive changes that raise barriers to our democracy.” 

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] The Conservative manifesto states:

“The British public deserves to have confidence in our democracy. We will legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting, to reform postal voting and to improve other aspects of the elections process to ensure that our elections are the most secure in the world. We will retain the traditional method of voting by pencil and paper, and tackle every aspect of electoral fraud.”

[2] See the ERS’ response to the Pickles review on alleged voter fraud last August: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/voter-fraud-nut-and-sledgehammer

[3] See here http://spa.sagepub.com/content/12/4/394 and here http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/30/us/federal-appeals-court-strikes-down-north-carolina-voter-id-provision.html?_r=0

For more information on Sir Eric Pickles’ report on alleged voter fraud see here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37055521

 

Local election results: ‘Old boys club’ still rules councils across Wales, say campaigners

9th May 2017
9 May 2017

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Embargoed Tuesday 9th May, 00:01

For media enquiries please contact Josiah Mortimer onjosiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630


Only 27% of councillors across Wales are female following last week’s local elections, according to campaigners.
 
Gender equality charity Chwarae Teg and Wales’ leading pro-democracy organisation, ERS Cymru, have found that of 1254 newly elected councillors just 359 are women.
 
The results follow stark warnings before the elections that May 4th’s elections could lead to a diversity crisis in our councils [1].
 
In Ynys Mȏn only 10% of councillors are female, while Blaenau Gwent and Ceredigion also show a ‘startlingly low’ proportion of female councillors at just below 12% each.
 
These figures show a severe lack of progress from the 2012 elections, where 26% of councillors were women, with female representation ‘flatlining’.
 
Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru, said:
 
These results have confirmed our fears that councils across Wales will be once again overwhelmingly dominated by men for the next five years. With barely a quarter of councillors being women, the full range of talents and experiences we have in Wales will simply not be reflected in our councils.
 
“Ultimately this is a hammer blow for local democracy, with voters not being effectively mirrored by the people supposed to represent them. The failure of parties and local authorities to take action to encourage and facilitate more women becoming councillors lets voters down and does Welsh politics a huge disservice.
 
“This is part of a broader democratic malaise in our local authorities - let’s not forget that 93 seats were uncontested at this election, while many feel feel their votes do not count. Alongside an outdated voting system and low levels of public knowledge about politics, it’s not a recipe for positive politics.
 
“The low levels of turnout at last week’s election are another sign of this. But it is no wonder so few people vote in local elections when councils continue to be dominated by councillors that do not reflect the communities they serve”.
 
Cerys Furlong, Chief Executive of Chwarae Teg, said:
 
“These figures show that political parties have not taken the need for equality and diversity in local government seriously. It is no longer acceptable for parties to say they support diversity without making the necessary changes to ensure equality is achieved.
 
“I find it frankly embarrassing that so little progress has been made on this issue, and that in the 21st Century we seem content to allow the status quo to persist, where women’s voices are largely absent from decision making in our councils.
 
“Prior to the election we warned of a diversity crisis looming and that is absolutely what we can see now. The time for warm words has passed, and we need to see clear and firm action from all political parties in Wales.
 
“That needs to start today to ensure that by the next local election in 2022, all parties are fielding a diverse range of candidates, representative of the communities they serve and 50% of the population who are women.”
 
ENDS
 
Notes to Editors
 
For media enquiries please contact Josiah Mortimer onjosiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630
 
[1] Chwarae Teg and ERS Cymru’s research on the number of female candidates for these elections can be found here:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1x5kTMxOu624ggksYL12NH8iMj_FwiAwEgO1jX_C4nlw/edit?usp=sharing
 
Number and percentage of female councillors
 
Council
Number of female councillors
% of female councillors
Blaenau Gwent
5
11.9
Bridgend
17
31.5
Caerphilly
19
26
Cardiff
24
32
Carmarthenshire
23
31.1
Ceredigion
5
11.9
Conwy
16
27.1
Denbighshire
11
23.4
Flintshire
19
27.1
Gwynedd
17
22.7
Merthyr Tydfil
4
12.1
Monmouthshire
15
34.9
Neath Port Talbot
21
32.8
Newport
15
30
Pembrokeshire
8
13.3
Powys
23
31.5
Rhondda Cynon Taf
31
41.3
Swansea
30
41.7
Torfaen
16
36.4
Vale of Glamorgan
17
36.2
Wrexham
10
19.2
Ynys Môn
3
10
TOTALS
359
 
 
27.8
 
 
Percentage of female councillors by party
 
Party
% Female
Independent
20.9
Plaid Cymru
26.2
Conservative
28.1
Labour
32.4
Lib Dem
33.9
 

 

The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit: Public to debate UK’s exit terms

27th April 2017
27 Apr 2017
Tags: 
Citizens' Assembly
Brexit

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The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit: Public to debate UK’s exit terms

  • Statement from UCL’s Constitution Unit, the University of Westminster's Centre for the Study of Democracy, the University of Southampton, and the Electoral Reform Society
  • Embargoed for 10am, 27th April 2017
  • ERS Chief Executive Katie Ghose is available for interview. Contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630.

Leading academics and democracy campaigners are to hold a ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ on Brexit [1] this September, in a bid to ensure the public’s voices are heard in the process of Britain leaving the EU.

The project will bring together a diverse sample of citizens to contribute to the Brexit process – and provide the first example of meaningful public deliberation on what form Brexit should take.

Citizens will engage in detailed and informed discussions to reach well thought-out conclusions, in a process organised by leading academics at UCL’s Constitution Unit, in partnership with the University of Westminster's Centre for the Study of Democracy, the University of Southampton and the Electoral Reform Society.

Over two weekends in September – just ahead of pivotal elections in Germany which could shape the negotiations – a diverse group of voters will learn about the options for Brexit, hearing from a wide range of experts and campaigners from all sides of the debate, and deliberate on what they have heard.

Crucially, the Assembly will then agree recommendations that will be written up in a final report and presented to key decision makers at a high-profile Westminster event. 

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This is the first real opportunity for the public to have their say on Theresa May’s Brexit plans.

“There is widespread agreement that the Brexit plans should respect and respond to public opinion – as demanded by both democratic principle and the need for broad public legitimacy. This Assembly provides a unique and innovative approach to gauging the opinions of citizens on the most pressing constitutional issue we face as a country.

“As we noted before polling day last year, public engagement in Brexit shouldn’t end on June 23rd. This project is an exciting way of continuing the public engagement we saw last year – and letting voters influence the debate.”

Principal Investigator, Dr Alan Renwick, said:

“The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit is a chance to help to bridge the gap between the ‘52 per cent’ and the ‘48 per cent’ in the Brexit debate – and explore how deliberative democratic approaches can make that happen.

“The Brexit referendum last June was a clear example of citizen involvement in the determining the course of Britain’s constitution. This Citizens’ Assembly will provide a powerful mechanism to continue that vital involvement, giving the government a clear signal of where public opinion now sits on the form Brexit should take.”

The project team already has a great deal of expertise in running similar assemblies – having conducted the UK’s first ever assemblies on local devolution in Sheffield and Southampton in late 2015 [2].

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630.

Notes to Editors

[1] Citizens’ Assemblies have been increasingly used across Europe and North America to settle key policy and constitutional issues ahead of or following referendums – with Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly recently leading to the legalisation of equal marriage.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit will have around 45 members who will be selected by a survey company to reflect the diversity of the UK’s population in terms of gender, age, place of residence, social class, and attitudes to Brexit. The Assembly’s ideas will enrich public debates over the form that Brexit should take, just at the time when key choices and trade-offs are likely to be crystallising.

As well as being a major democratic project, the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit will lead to a range of academic outputs, alongside comment pieces, blogs and social media work – offering new insights into how democratic decision-making is best organised. The Citizens' Assembly on Brexit aims to help build the case for deliberative democratic approaches for other major political and constitutional issues, from the nature of local democracy to the future of the Union.

The project team aims to collaborate closely with others in developing the Assembly plans, including government ministers and officials, parliamentarians, experts, journalists, and campaigners on both sides –as well as appointing a diverse Advisory Board with to consult on the proposed overall direction.

The process will be scrupulously even-handed, working with the ‘UK in a Changing Europe’ programme – which has provided widely respected impartial guidance during and since the referendum campaign – in developing the Assembly’s learning programme. Supporters of both Leave and Remain will be asked to comment on drafts of all briefing materials and will be directly involved in the Assembly sessions.

[2] For more information see: www.citizensassembly.co.uk.

Nearly 130,000 Welsh residents denied a vote in upcoming local elections

7th April 2017
7 Apr 2017

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Parts of Wales branded ‘democracy deserts’ as 92 councillors elected unopposed, with another ward where no candidates have put themselves forward.

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, 7th April 2017, for immediate release


ERS Cymru Director Jess Blair is available for further comment and interviews. For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society estimates that 127,631 Welsh residents will be denied the vote in this year’s council elections (Thursday May 4th) - with swathes of councillors already being elected before a single vote is cast.

Half of Wales’ local authorities are returning councillors without opposition. In the worst-affected council area, Gwynedd, 25,270 voters will be denied a choice of candidate in the local elections.

Across Wales, 92 councillors will be elected unopposed, meaning local residents will not be able to express an opinion on the future of key services and council tax levels. In one ward in Powys, Yscir, not a single person has put themselves forward as a candidate for election.

According to ERS analysis, Wales now accounts for the vast majority of uncontested seats in the UK - with Wales’ 92 uncontested seats figure comparing to just four for the whole of England in this round of elections.

Jess Blair, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said:

“Local elections are one of the main opportunities for voters to have our say over services that affect our everyday lives. But with nearly 130,000 people across Wales having no choice at the upcoming elections, that opportunity is being taken away for many of us. Welsh residents are being denied a voice - to the detriment of our democracy and our services.  

“This is the symptom of a broken First Past the Post voting system - one which creates hundreds of safe seats, where other parties often don’t stand a chance of winning.

“But it’s also the symptom of wider issues of political engagement in Wales which need tackling head on - from introducing votes at 16 and decent citizenship education to moving towards automatic voter registration and fair funding for political parties.

“This will be the first vote since last June’s referendum, and with Article 50 being triggered at the end of March there has never been a more important time for people’s opinions about the future to be heard.

“It is vital that we remove the barriers to having an effective and representative democracy, and these figures are a damning indictment that the current system isn’t working.

“We need to look at the way politics works in Wales - including reforming the voting system for local elections so that no one is denied a voice.”

ENDS

Jessica Blair became Director of ERS Cymru in March 2017. A photo of her is available here for free use: https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/697035313202520065/kWKlWY1M.jpg

Notes for Editors

The 11 ‘Democratic Deserts’ in Wales

Local authority

Estimated number of electors

Number of uncontested seats

Gwynedd                        

25,270

21

Powys                              

23,723

17*

Flintshire                     

18,619

12

Pembrokeshire      

18,461

13

Conwy                  

8,918

6

Ceredigion                

8,907

7

Denbigh                           

7,341

5

Neath Port Talbot     

6,029

4

Wrexham               

5,479

3

Caerphilly                   

1655

1

Carmarthenshire        

1570

4

Total

127,631

93

*includes ward with no candidates

For more information or to arrange an interview, comment piece or coverage in advance, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630.

Electoral Reform Society Cymru is Wales’ leading pro-democracy organisation. Set up in 2008, ERS Cymru is the campaign group for voters in Wales, pushing for greater accountability, democracy and transparency, and working to bring democracy closer to citizens.

ERS Cymru campaigns for a fair voting system for local elections in Wales, as well as votes at 16, and a stronger, more effective Senedd.

The organisation will be publishing full analysis of the May local elections. Get in touch if you want more information.

Lords’ expenses scandal shows need for ‘root and branch reform’ say campaigners

3rd April 2017
3 Apr 2017
Tags: 
house of lords
lords reform

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, 3rd April 2017

For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


The Electoral Reform Society have described revelations in the Sunday Times [1] that some Peers are claiming up to £40,000 a year in expenses, while making little or no contributions to debates, committees or questions, as ‘more evidence we need root and branch reform’.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s completely unacceptable that Peers can claim thousands without even speaking or voting in the House, and it highlights the reality that there is no accountability for Peers – the public can’t kick them out if they fail to serve the interests of citizens.

“It’s no surprise that the cost of Peers claiming is going up – the Lords is stuffed to the brim with party appointees and is growing out of control. With over 800 members, it’s the second largest chamber in the world – after China’s legislature.

“Whilst many Peers work hard and claim accordingly, we know that others claim their £300 but make minimal or no contribution. The government can no longer ignore this flagrant waste of public funds.

“Rather than spending thousands on Peers who fail to even speak up in Parliament, we need a fairly-elected upper House. That call is only likely to grow in the wake of these findings.

“This is yet more evidence that we need root and branch reform – tinkering just doesn't cut it.

“It’s now time to look again at this problem and how to solve it. That review has to look at fundamentally changing the structure of our broken upper house.

“We urgently need to sort out the House of Lords, and move to a fully-elected chamber where the people who make our laws are elected by the public - and can be kicked out by the public.

“Let’s fix this broken House before the situation gets any worse."

ENDS

Notes

[1] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/revealed-rich-peers-paid-for-doing-nothing-hz5jv3vw7

ERS condemn 'ludicrous' hereditary Peer by-election

3rd March 2017
3 Mar 2017
Tags: 
house of lords
lords reform
hereditary Peers
hereditary peer by-election
hereditary by-election
Electoral Reform Society
Katie Ghose

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The Electoral Reform Society have described the upcoming hereditary Peer by-election [1] in the House of Lords as a ‘farce’ and ‘the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up’.  

The ‘vote’ will take place in the House of Lords on the 21st March. Peers will decide from a small group of hereditary Lords who will be able to vote in the upper chamber for the rest of their lives – and claim £300 per day.

The vote have been described as ‘the most elitist election in the world’, and follows the passing of Lord Lyell. 

All of the 27 candidates are men and more than half are over 60.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Yet again we are witnessing the farce of a hereditary Peer ‘by-election’ – the most ludicrous part of our constitutional set-up. There are just 30 voters per candidate in this so-called election. Lords are literally picking their peers from a tiny pool of aristocrats.

“The most bizarre thing is that the electorate of 804 is actually the largest in years – some of the by-elections in the past have had an electorate of three or less [2], a total embarrassment to our politics. Most of the time it is only the handful of current hereditary Peers from each group who can pick a new person to sit in our upper house for the rest of their lives.

“Ending this absurd practice should be addressed urgently. For most people, it is simply astonishing that in the 21st century, a small cadre of hereditary Lords still decide who sits in our legislature and who votes on laws that affect us all.

“It’s a sorry state of affairs that an act to end this ludicrous practice once and for all was dropped by Peers just a few months ago. It was the most modest of Bills, proposed by Peers themselves to end an absurd anachronism. This issue must be revisited and tackled as soon as possible, for the sake of faith in our institutions and democracy. Frankly, it makes a mockery of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’.

“Scrapping the hereditary peer system must be the first step in the process of cutting the second largest chamber on Earth down to size – and replacing it with a fairly elected revising chamber that can represent us all.

“We hope the government now come forward with more substantial reforms to ensure that this long era of hereditary and unelected law-making draws to a close.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact: Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk 

Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-information-office/2017/Notice-by-election-07-02-17.pdf

[2] See here

ERS Scotland launch Prof Curtice report on 2016 Holyrood election

1st March 2017
1 Mar 2017
Tags: 
Holyrood
Scottish election
Scottish election report
John Curtice
Willie Sullivan
ERS Scotland

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Statement from Electoral Reform Society Scotland, 28th February 2017

Embargoed 1st March, 00:01

Contact: Willie Sullivan, ERS Scotland Director – willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07940523842 or Professor John Curtice on 07710348755 to arrange an interview or further comment. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


The Electoral Reform Society has published the first extensive analysis of the 2016 Holyrood election by Professor John Curtice, looking at the tactical use of regional votes – and how the 2011 SNP majority appears to be an anomaly.

The report, The 2016 Scottish Election: Getting to minority government finds that:

  • SNP ‘warnings’ that voting Green on the regional vote would help non-independence parties were largely unfounded – the primary cause of the SNP failing to gain a majority was not votes on the regional list for other pro-independence parties, but gains for other parties in the constituency vote – particularly the Conservatives becoming Scotland’s second party.
  • While the Conservatives came second, the gender imbalance in their candidates meant no increase in Holyrood's female representation. Parliament’s early gains for women’s representation have worryingly stalled.
  • Parties have become more adept at their strategies for nominating candidates under the voting system.

This election report is a considered look at last year’s election results, and a detailed analysis of the voting numbers and how they interact with parties’ standing, campaigns, the electoral system, and some of the divisions in Scottish society.

John Curtice, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde and author of the report, said:

“Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Holyrood election was that the SNP failed to secure a second overall majority even though the party’s share of the constituency vote was up on 2011. This report explains why.

“There is little consistent evidence that the SNP lost out because unionist voters ‘ganged up’ on the SNP by voting for whichever of the unionist parties appeared best placed to defeat the SNP locally. Labour’s vote, for example, actually fell most heavily in constituencies where they had previously shared first and second place with the SNP.

“Some of those who voted for the SNP on the constituency ballot do appear to have backed the Greens on the list vote, where the SNP’s tally fell. While this may have cost the SNP one or two list seats, the higher level of support for the Greens helped ensure that there were more pro-independence MSPs at Holyrood than would otherwise have been the case.”

He continued: “The main reason why the SNP lost out was that the party failed to win a number of key constituency contests – in particular, two in Edinburgh and on in Fife, Aberdeenshire and Dumbarton – that the party should have won, given the national swing.

“These failures were not compensated for in the allocation of list seats because elsewhere in the relevant region the SNP had already won its proportionate share of seats in the constituency contests. The result was a more proportionate outcome than would otherwise have been the case – or, indeed, actually occurred in 2011.”

Writing in the report, Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland, said:

“With only 55% of those registered to vote turning out in 2016, we must voice concerns about the overall legitimacy of our system and of the representatives of our parliament. In a year of populist shocks in liberal democracies across the world, including Brexit in the UK, our priority must be in finding ways of building confidence in our democratic system. That will mean going beyond elections to look at the culture and institutions of Scotland and asking how they need to change to meet new times.

Nonetheless, “As an electoral system, the 2016 Scottish Parliament election showed the Additional Member System (AMS) in its best light since the parliament was created. AMS did what it was supposed to do, giving the most proportional result yet – perhaps making up for the anomaly of 2011, when the SNP got a majority of seats on around 46% of the vote.”

Sullivan commented: "While many SNP supporters were understandably interested in prioritising an SNP majority, less partisan voters often prefer cooperation and political diversity – particularly in a system set up  to give fair representation. Majority governments elected on minority votes do nothing for trust in democracy. The 2016 election was therefore a broadly fair reflection of how Scottish people voted. Scotland’s political leaders should encourage many voices to be heard – and give up on the idea of hoarding power in a few places.

“However, there are still things that can be done to make the Scottish election system even better, whether making it more proportional or moving towards the Single Transferable Vote which allows voters to rank candidates by preference – putting citizens rather than parties at the centre.”

In terms of gender representation, Sullivan continued: "Parliament should be representative of our wider society, and gender representation is perhaps the most obvious democratic deficit we see in Holyrood and wider politics. Many of the parties are stalling or falling in managing to get women into winnable seats.

“Perhaps it’s time to have a debate about how we ensure parties go beyond just good intentions and move into action when it comes to gender diversity."

As well as raising the gender challenge, the report concludes: “Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the devolved electoral process in Scotland is to persuade voters to participate in the first place. For many voters, Holyrood still does not seem to matter enough to be worth bothering with. Overcoming that impression is a challenge facing all of Scotland’s newly elected politicians, irrespective of where they stand on the continuing debate about the country’s constitutional future.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The report is published here (do not share until post-embargo): http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/2016-Scottish-Election-Report.pdf

'Meet the Lords' documentary lays bare 'astonishing and scandalous' situation in upper chamber, say campaigners

21st February 2017
21 Feb 2017
Tags: 
Meet the Lords
house of lords
lords reform
BBC Meet the Lords

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Statement  from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 21st February 2017

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, email/call Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630


Commenting on revelations [1] from the BBC’s ‘Meet the Lords’ series, which will be shown next Monday, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

We already knew some Peers claim their £300 without speaking or voting, but to hear this from the former Lords speaker herself is astonishing and shows just how severe this problem really is. Baroness D’Souza has exposed a truly scandalous situation.

“Since they’re unelected, there is essentially no way to get rid of Peers who do this. The public are sick to death of the kind of behaviour that ‘Meet the Lords’ highlights.

“Our research at the end of 2015 showed that £1.3m was claimed by 64 Peers in the 2014/15 financial period who failed to speak in that year [2]. And Peers who failed to take part in any votes from 2010-2015 claimed £360,000 back from the taxpayer [3]. The situation with the Lords is spiralling out of control, both in terms of size and cost.

“Rather than spending thousands on Peers who fail to even speak up in Parliament, we need a fairly-elected upper House. That call is only likely to grow after this series looks set to lay bare some of the outrageous abuses of privilege in the upper chamber.

“It’s completely unacceptable that Peers can claim thousands without even speaking or voting in the House, and it highlights the reality that there is no accountability for Peers – the public can’t kick them out if they fail to serve the interests of citizens. Let’s fix this broken House before the situation gets any worse.

“This documentary also highlights the farce that is the hereditary peerage system. The practice of holding so-called ‘by-elections’ for hereditary Peers – with only aristocrats able to vote and stand – is an embarrassment to our politics. Some of these by-elections have had an electorate of three or less, which makes a mockery of the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’. Scrapping the hereditary peer system would be a start in the process of clearing out our out-dated upper house and the cutting the second largest chamber on Earth (after the People’s Republic of China) down to size.

“This documentary provides yet more evidence that we urgently need to sort out the House of Lords, and move to a fully-elected chamber where the people who make our laws are elected by the public - and can be kicked out by the public.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, email/call Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630

Notes to Editors

[1] They include the claim from former Lords Speaker Baroness D’Souza that a Peer left a taxi waiting outside ­Parliament while he went inside to register for his daily allowance. D’Souza claimed the lord was one of “many, many, many who contribute absolutely nothing, but who claim the full allowance”.

[2] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/press_release/file/House%20of%20Lords%20Research%20PR%20JM%207th%20Sept%202015.pdf

[3] http://news.sky.com/story/peers-claimed-163360k-without-voting-in-lords-10349255

Read the ERS’ ‘Fact vs Fiction’ report on the House of Lords https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/House-of-Lords-Fact-Vs-Fiction-Report.pdf

Lords reform shouldn’t be threat but 'real plan to take back control’, say campaigners

20th February 2017
20 Feb 2017
Tags: 
house of lords
Brexit
Article 50
EU
EU referendum
Article 50 Bill
Brexit Bill

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07717211630

Electoral Reform Society statement for immediate release, 20th February 2017

Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


Commenting on the fact that Peers begin debating the Article 50 Bill today, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s understandable that peers on both sides want to have their say on legislation – after all that is what they are meant to be there for. But it would be wrong for Peers to try and disrupt the Brexit process. The upper chamber simply doesn’t have any legitimacy to scrutinise let alone block legislation given that it is totally unelected.

“Whatever Peers do when it comes to Article 50, serious reform of the Lords has to be on the table – not as a threat in the event that Peers try and amend the Brexit bill, but as a vital step in genuinely ‘taking back control’ for British voters. Lords reform shouldn’t be something that’s just wheeled out to intimidate Peers any time they go against the wishes of government – it should be part of a real plan for democratic reform after Brexit.  

“We do need a revising chamber to scrutinise vital bills like this. But given that the Article 50 bill is of such huge constitutional importance, those voting on it should be chosen by voters themselves.

“It would be a sorry irony indeed if ‘take back control’ meant simply handing power to unelected Lords. A big theme of the EU referendum was democracy, so we need to put those words into practice and bring power back to voters here.  

“Whatever the case, we’d be more than happy to work with the government on reforming the Lords. Just one in ten voters support the current chamber as it is [1] – it’s time for real reform and a fairly-elected upper house.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk

ENDS

[1] http://electoral-reform.org.uk/press-release/poll-just-one-ten-think-lords-should-remain-unelected