Press Releases

Politicians from seven parties call for citizens’ say over Britain’s constitution

12th April 2016
12 Apr 2016
Democracy Matters
Citizens' Assembly


For immediate release, 12th April 2016

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society on behalf of Democracy Matters

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or

Senior figures from all the main parties are coming together to call for citizens to have a greater say over the constitutional changes sweeping the UK.

The high-profile politicians - including Dominic Grieve MP, Suzanne Evans and Caroline Lucas MP - will be speaking together on Wednesday at the Parliamentary launch of the final report [1] of Democracy Matters, the UK’s first ever ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ on local democracy and devolution [2], funded by the Economic & Social Research Council [3].

The report, Democracy Matters: Lessons from the 2015 Citizens’ Assemblies on English Devolution(link live at 14:00, 12th April) shows a growing appetite among the public to be involved in shaping Britain’s changing democratic make-up – particularly local devolution, which the Electoral Reform Society have criticised for ‘excluding the very people it will affect – local citizens themselves’.

A major conclusion of the report is that ‘citizens are ready, willing and able to take part in participatory and deliberative forms of democracy’.

The report also concludes that ‘Citizens want stronger devolution with more public involvement. They want to feel part of ‘the revolution in devolution’ and not simply to have change imposed upon them.’

The final report being launched is available here from 14:00, 12th April

Event: Wednesday 13th April, 3.30-5pm, Committee Room 2, Palace of Westminster

Journalists are invited to attend the report launch event in Parliament – contact Edward Molloy on or 02037144071

The speakers on the panel are:

  • Dominic Grieve MP (Conservative)
  • Graham Allen MP (Labour)
  • Tommy Sheppard MP (Scottish National Party)
  • Lord (Paul) Tyler (Liberal Democrat)
  • Jonathan Edwards MP (Plaid Cymru)
  • Suzanne Evans (UKIP)
  • Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party)

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “It is fantastic to see politicians from all the major parties come together to address urgent need to involve the public in the huge democratic changes taking place in the UK.

“English devolution is the biggest shakeup to local democracy for decades – yet voters have been left out of the conversation, unable to shape how their areas are changing. A top-down model for devolution simply won’t last, so this report and event will be central to changing the debate and finally letting the public in.”

Professor Matthew Flinders, Principal Investigator for the Democracy Matters project and Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre at the University of Sheffield, said: “Forget the pessimism that usually surrounds public attitudes to politics. What the Democracy Matters project really revealed was a public appetite for opportunities to learn about public policy and to engage with politics. It also revealed the capacity of the internet to deepen and broader democratic engagement and also how 'doing politics differently' can actually be quite fun!”

Dominic Grieve QC, MP for Beaconsfield, said: “I am pleased to be able to take part in the Democracy Matters event. If we are to create a country that responds to the needs of its inhabitants, then we have to listen to what they are saying about the constitutional framework that would best suit them.  The responsibility still lies with politicians to try to craft appropriate solutions, but it is pointless attempting it without an understanding of the breadth of public opinion.” 

Graham Allen, Labour MP for Nottingham North, said: “The people of Britain are crying out for a constitutional convention with people of every party and none participating. Democracy Matters shows that we need millions of founding mothers and fathers to write a democratic settlement ahead of the 2020 Parliament. Let’s get on with it.”

Tommy Sheppard MP, SNP Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, said: “An 84.6% turnout in Scotland for our Independence Referendum proved that there is an appetite for political engagement if people feel their vote can actually change things. Citizens’ Assemblies could dramatically improve our democracy if they give people a stake in shaping our society.”

Lord Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrat Lords Principal Spokesperson for Constitutional and Political Reform, said: "For two centuries all political reform has required both popular pressure and national leadership.  A Citizens' Assembly brings them together. And with the present Government supported by less than a quarter of the eligible electorate the need is urgent."

Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said: “We are living in a time of rapid political change as direct two party Westminster political control over the territory of the UK loosens.  Any political system experiencing rapid change needs to respond to reflect the wishes of the people it serves if it is to survive. I welcome this report as a major step forward in increasing public engagement in how the peoples of the UK are governed.”

Suzanne Evans, UKIP Parliamentary Spokesperson, said: "We need fundamental change to reconnect politics with the public and UKIP in Parliament is fully committed to making that happen. Citizens' Assemblies are a great first step towards embedding new forms of political engagement at both a local and a national level: cutting through the understandable apathy of those who feel their voices aren't being heard is crucial, and when we achieve that, politics can only benefit." 

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “People are increasingly fed up with Britain’s archaic and undemocratic political system. It’s clear that our constitution needs updating - but that process must not be the sole responsibility of people in power. This project is hugely exciting because it aims to devolve power to local communities, and allow people a real say on the issues which affect their lives.”


For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or


[1] The report, Democracy Matters: Lessons from the 2015 Citizens’ Assemblies on English Devolution’, is available from 14:00, 12th April here

[2] Democracy Matters is an Economic and Social Research Council-funded project to hold the UK’s first ever ‘Citizens’ Assemblies’ on local democracy at the end of 2015, in Southampton and Sheffield. Professor Matthew Flinders was the Principal Investigator and led a project team of academics from the University of Sheffield, the University of Southampton, University College London and the University of Westminster and Electoral Reform Society staff who designed and delivered the pilot studies in order to promote renewed civic engagement on crucial constitutional questions such as devolution.

For a full list of academics and organisations involved, see here:

Find out more about the Democracy Matters project:

[3] To find out more about the ESRC see here:

Youth organisations unite to demand Wales’ parties ‘give young people a voice’

7th April 2016
7 Apr 2016


Contact Tel: 

***Neges Ddwyieithog: Scroliwch Lawr am y Gymraeg // Bilingual Message: Scroll down for Welsh*** An online version of this press release is available here.

  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society Cymru
  • Embargoed 00:01, 7th April 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Cymru Communications Officer, on or 07717211630

Campaigners have launched six ‘youth pledges’ they want political parties in Wales to back, ahead of the Welsh Assembly election in just four weeks. 

Youth Promise: Getting Young People Involved in Democracyis Electoral Reform Society Cymru’s call to action for Welsh political parties in the run-up to May 5th.

ERS Cymru are calling for parties to get behind a six key changes AMs can make over the next five years.

The calls are being supported by a range of youth organisations including Youth Cymru and NUS Wales, the two main youth organisations in Wales, as well as Llais Ifanc, Youth Cymru’s Young Leadership Panel, and major UK-wide groups British Youth Council and Bite The Ballot.

The six ‘manifesto asks are for parties to commit to:

  • An independent National Youth Assembly for Wales
  • Extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds for local and Assembly elections
  • The creation of statutory Youth Mayors and Youth Councils for every local authority in Wales
  • Placing the roles and responsibilities of school councils on a statutory footing
  • Requiring local authorities and educational bodies to work together on voter registration drives
  • Implementing the Donaldson Review’s recommendations for better Citizenship Education

ERS Cymru will be writing to the six main party leaders this week to ask them to back the recommendations.

Steve Brooks, Director of ERS Cymru, said:

“Wales is at risk of a turnout time-bomb if young people continue to be turned away from formal politics. Just 43% of 18-24 year olds voted in the last Westminster election: the gap between engagement in politics between young people and old people is growing, and will only get worse if urgent action isn’t taken.

“These six policies, if implemented, could make a huge difference to youth engagement in politics here in Wales. There is so much that needs to be done, but these would be an incredible start early on in the next Assembly, sending a strong message to young people that their voices matter and will be heard.

“Wales has long needed a proper Youth Assembly like the other nations of the UK, and the creation of youth mayors would go a long way to improving the visibility of young people in politics here.

“The Assembly will soon have the power to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote – something Scotland did last year after the incredible levels of engagement of young people the Scottish referendum. Alongside decent citizenship education, votes at 16 would be a massive boost to young people’s power over their own lives and futures. 

“Strengthening school councils would go a long way to giving students across the country experience of how politics works at a really local level. And there needs to be an enormous cross-organisational effort to get young people on the electoral register here in Wales – so many will be left voiceless if urgent action isn’t taken. Finally, parties need to fully commit to implementing the recent Donaldson review recommendations to give young people in Wales the citizenship education they deserve.

“Taken together, these policies are a recipe for a revolution in youth politics here in Wales, and we hope parties back our calls.”

Ebbi Ferguson, Deputy President NUS Wales said:

“NUS Wales has been campaigning for better representation of young people through political structures. It is not acceptable to say that young people are not engaged in politics, when they don’t have routes through which they can get involved.

“We welcome these asks; they would see young people educated on the role of politics in their lives but of equal importance give them opportunities to participate. Politics needs modernisation if we want to address the apathy that exists towards it.”

Ife Grillo, Vice Chair of the British Youth Council, said:

"Young people care about the world around them and want to be able to shape both their present and future. The British Youth Council believes that every young person in the UK should have their say in decision-making.

“We believe that a devolved national voice for young people in Wales will unify their representation – giving them an equal voice to those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Empowering young people to have a voice is not just the right thing to do it’s a duty.”

Oliver Sidorczuk, Advocacy Coordinator at Bite The Ballot, said:

“Every young person in Wales deserves to be empowered with the knowledge to help evolve the relationships between individuals, communities and decision-making. And it's for this reason that Bite The Ballot is proud to echo ERS Cymru's calls for inspiring political and citizenship education and targeted, engaging voter registration drives to be placed at the top of Wales' political agenda.

“We're inspiring 16-24 year olds to become active change-makers; responding to calls to action and sharing in the responsibilities, challenges and opportunities of a modern, evolving democracy. If we're going to achieve this, it's vital that young people in Wales make the link between the issues they feel passionate about and politics. That's why we're supporting ERS Cymru's 'Youth Manifesto'.”

Christian Webb, Chair of Youth Cymru’s Youth Leadership Panel Llais Ifanc, said:

“We back these calls because every young person in Wales deserves the chance to have a say on decisions which affect them. They also deserve to be informed by the education system on how decision-making works, and how they can get involved.”



Read ‘Youth Promise’ here:

ERS Cymru will be releasing predictions in the coming two weeks predicting the average age of the new Assembly after May, and how many young people will be elected. Contact Josiah Mortimer (details at top) for more information


Mudiadau ieuenctid Cymru'n uno i fynnu bod pleidiau'n ‘rhoi llais i bobl ifanc’

  • Datganiad gan Electoral Reform Society Cymru
  • Dan embargo tan 00:01, 7 Ebrill 2016
  • Am fwy o wybodaeth, dyfyniadau neu i drefnu cyfweliad (yn Saesneg), cysylltwch â Josiah Mortimer, Swyddog Cyfathrebu ERS Cymru, drwy e-bostio neu drwy ffonio 07717211630

Yr wythnos hon, bydd ymgyrchwyr yn lansio chwech ‘addewid ieuenctid’ y maent am i bleidiau gwleidyddol yng Nghymru eu cefnogi, cyn etholiad Cynulliad Cymru mewn pedair wythnos yn unig. 

Addewid Ieuenctid: Ennyn Diddordeb Pobl Ifanc mewn Democratiaeth yw galwad ERS Cymru i bleidiau gwleidyddol Cymru weithredu wrth i ni nesáu at 5 Mai.

Mae Electoral Reform Society Cymru yn galw am y pleidiau i gefnogi chwe newid hollbwysig y gall ACau eu gwneud yn ystod y pum mlynedd nesaf.

Cefnogir y galwadau hyn gan ystod o fudiadau ieuenctid gan gynnwys Youth Cymru ac UCM Cymru, y ddau brif fudiad ieuenctid yng Nghymru, yn ogystal â Llais Ifanc, Panel Arweinyddiaeth Ifanc Youth Cymru.  

Mae'r chwe galwad yn gofyn i bleidiau ymrwymo i'r canlynol:

1.     Cynulliad Ieuenctid Cenedlaethol annibynnol i Gymru

2.     Ymestyn y bleidlais i bobl 16 ac 17 oed mewn etholiadau lleol ac etholiadau'r Cynulliad

3.     Creu Meiri Ieuenctid a Chynghorau Ieuenctid statudol ym mhob awdurdod lleol yng Nghymru

4.     Gosod rolau a chyfrifoldebau cynghorau ysgol ar sail statudol

5.     Gorfodi awdurdodau lleol a chyrff addysgol i gydweithio ar ymdrechion i gofrestru pleidleiswyr

6.     Rhoi argymhellion Adolygiad Donaldson am well Addysg Dinasyddiaeth ar waith

Bydd ERS Cymru'n ysgrifennu at arweinwyr y chwe phrif blaid yr wythnos hon i ofyn iddynt gefnogi'r argymhellion.

Meddai Steve Brooks, Cyfarwyddwr ERS Cymru:

“Mae Cymru'n wynebu risg hir-dymor o ran y nifer sy'n troi allan i bleidleisio os yw pobl ifanc yn parhau i gael eu hallgau o wleidyddiaeth ffurfiol. Dim ond 43% o bobl 18-24 oed bleidleisiodd yn yr Etholiad Cyffredinol diwethaf: mae'r bwlch rhwng diddordeb pobl ifanc a hen bobl mewn gwleidyddiaeth yn tyfu, ac ni all ond gwaethygu os na fydd yna weithredu brys.

“Gallai'r chwe pholisi yma, pe caent eu gweithredu, wneud gwahaniaeth mawr yng nghyfranogiad ieuenctid mewn gwleidyddiaeth yma yng Nghymru. Mae yna gymaint sydd angen ei wneud, ond byddai'r camau hyn yn ffordd wych o ddechrau tymor nesaf y Cynulliad, gan anfon neges gref at bobl ifanc bod eu lleisiau'n bwysig a chânt eu clywed.

“Mae Cymru wedi bod angen Cynulliad Ieuenctid ers amser maith fel gwledydd eraill y DU, a byddai creu meiri ieuenctid yn mynd gryn lawer o'r ffordd o ran gwella gwelededd pobl ifanc mewn gwleidyddiaeth yma.

“Yn fuan, bydd gan y Cynulliad rym i roi'r bleidlais i bobl 16 ac 17 oed – rhywbeth a wnaeth yr Alban llynedd yn dilyn lefel anhygoel o gyfranogiad gan bobl ifanc yn refferendwm yr Alban. Ynghyd ag addysg dinasyddiaeth go iawn, byddai cael pleidlais yn 16 yn rhoi hwb enfawr i rym pobl ifanc dros eu bywyd a'u dyfodol eu hunain. 

“Byddai cryfhau cynghorau ysgol yn mynd ymhell o ran rhoi profiad i fyfyrwyr ledled y wlad o sut mae gwleidyddiaeth yn gweithredu ar lefel leol iawn. Ac mae angen cael ymdrech traws-fudiadol i annog pobl ifanc i fod ar y gofrestr etholiadol yma yng Nghymru – felly bydd llawer heb lais oni cheir gweithredu brys. Yn olaf, mae angen i bleidiau ymrwymo'n llawn i roi argymhellion Adolygiad Donaldson ar waith er mwyn rhoi'r addysg dinasyddiaeth maent yn ei haeddu i bobl ifanc yng Nghymru.

“Gyda'i gilydd, mae'r polisïau hyn yn ffordd o greu chwyldro yng ngwleidyddiaeth ieuenctid yma yng Nghymru, ac rydyn ni'n gobeithio bod pleidiau'n cefnogi ein galwadau.”

Meddai Ebbi Ferguson, Dirprwy Lywydd UCM Cymru:

“Mae UCM Cymru wedi bod yn ymgyrchu dros well cynrychiolaeth o bobl ifanc drwy strwythurau gwleidyddol. Mae'n annerbyniol dweud nad oes gan bobl ifanc ddiddordeb mewn gwleidyddiaeth pan does dim ffyrdd ganddyn nhw o gyfranogi.

Rydym yn croesawu'r gofynion hyn a fyddai'n arwain at addysg i bobl ifanc ynglŷn â rôl gwleidyddiaeth yn eu bywyd ond, yr un mor bwysig, rhoi cyfleoedd iddynt i gymryd rhan. Mae angen moderneiddio ar wleidyddiaeth os ydyn ni am fynd i'r afael â'r broblem o ddiffyg diddordeb sy'n bodoli.”

Meddai Christian Webb, Cadeirydd Llais Ifanc, Panel Arweinyddiaeth Ieuenctid Youth Cymru:

“Rydym yn cefnogi'r galwadau hyn oherwydd mae pob person ifanc yng Nghymru'n haeddu cyfle i roi eu barn ar y penderfyniadau sy'n effeithio arnyn nhw. Hefyd, maen nhw'n haeddu cael gwybod gan y system addysg sut mae'r broses benderfynu'n gweithio a sut mae modd iddynt gyfranogi.”



Bydd ERS Cymru'n rhyddhau rhagolygon yn ystod y pythefnos nesaf o ran cyfartaledd oedran aelodau'r Cynulliad newydd ar ôl Mai, a faint o bobl ifanc gaiff eu hethol. Cysylltwch â Josiah Mortimer (ceir manylion uchod) am fwy o wybodaeth.

ERS Cymru welcome Plaid commitment to PR, votes at 16 and youth engagement

5th April 2016
5 Apr 2016


Contact Tel: 

Campaigners react to Plaid Cymru pledges on democratic reform

Statement from Electoral Reform Society Cymru

For immediate release, 05/04/2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Cymru Communications Officer, on or 07717211630

Electoral Reform Society Cymru have welcomed Plaid Cymru’s commitment to back votes at 16, setting up a Welsh Youth Parliament, and major reform to how the Assembly and local councils are elected.

Plaid Cymru’s new manifesto has committed the party to extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds and reforming Wales’ voting system by introducing the Single Transferable Vote. The party will also look at e-voting, and support strengthening the citizenship curriculum, establishing a youth parliament and increasing the number of AMs. All these featured in ERS Cymru’s recent ‘Breathing New Life Into Politics’ manifesto.

Steve Brooks, Director of ERS Cymru, said:

“It’s great to see Plaid Cymru have backed all of our main recommendations from our recent Democracy manifesto [1], calling for proportional representation for local elections and votes at 16 among a wide range of other positive changes.

“Over the next five years, the Assembly will gain new powers over elections in Wales, offering political parties an important opportunity to breathe new life into our democracy.

“We warmly welcome Plaid Cymru’s re-statement of its support a fairer electoral system and votes at 16, and the party’s pledge to look at how electronic voting might work in Wales. 

“We’re looking forward to what the other parties have to say, but the important thing is that when the dust settles after the election, everyone in the new Assembly works together to revitalise our democracy and give the people of Wales the kind of politics they deserve”



On Thursday ERS Cymru will be releasing its ‘Youth Promise’ – policy ‘asks’ to all the main parties in Wales – to strengthen young people’s engagement in democracy in the next Assembly. Contact Josiah Mortimer (details above) for more information.

[1] Read ‘Breathing New Life Into Politics’ here:

Blog here:

New poll shows ‘generation gap’ in EU referendum debate, warn campaigners

4th April 2016
4 Apr 2016


Contact Tel: 

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, 3rd April 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer on 07717211630 or

The Electoral Reform Society are warning of a ‘worrying generation gap’ in the public’s interest in the EU referendum, as new polling by BMG Research [1] released today shows that young people are far less engaged in the referendum debate as older voters.

Just 21% of 18-24 year olds say they are ‘very interested’ in the EU referendum, compared to 47% of those 65 or older, according to polling by BMG [2] commissioned by the ERS. The figure rises to 26% for 25-34 year olds, compared to 32% of 55-64 year olds.

Only 44% of 18-24 year olds say they are certain to vote on June 23rd, compared to 76% of those 65 or older, according to the new polling.

58% of people overall say they will ‘definitely vote’ in the EU referendum, according to BMG Research, while another 15% say they will ‘probably’ vote.

However, when asked if they would be more likely to vote if they had more information, 29% of 18-24 year olds said they’d be ‘much more likely’ to vote, and 27% ‘a little more likely’ – 56% overall. That compares with only 39% of the general public saying they’d be more likely to vote if they had more information, leading the ERS to call for the campaigns and media to ‘reach out beyond Westminster’.

The polling for the ERS also showed a major socioeconomic divide, with 36% of professional ABC1 respondents saying they are ‘very interested’ in the referendum compared to just 27% of more working-class C2DE respondents. Overall, 76% of ABC1 respondents said they are interested compared to just 59% of the C2DE demographic.

Commenting on the findings, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society [3], said:

“That more than double the number of older voters say they are very interested in the EU referendum compared to 18-24 year olds highlights a deeply concerning generation gap in this debate. It seems like young people haven’t been engaged in a debate which has so far focused on personalities rather than the real issues which affect them.

“Not only do young people feel less interested, but they are, as we know, far less likely to vote. This poll shows that there is an enormous 32 percentage point difference between the number of 18-24 year olds and voters over the age of 65 in terms of how likely they are to vote.

“We know that this is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime vote for most people – the last referendum was in 1975 – so it’s all the more important young people who will be most affected by this decision in years to come turn out. This will take effort – just 43% of 18-24 year olds voted in last year’s General Election [4] – but it is vital.

“Overwhelmingly, young people say if they had more information, they would be more likely to vote – 56%, compared to 39% of the public overall, and 26% of those aged 65+.

“On top of that there is a large and worrying socioeconomic divide, with a 17 percentage point chasm between socioeconomic backgrounds, with wealthier voters much more likely to feel engaged in the debate.

“We need to do everything we can to make sure everyone is involved in this huge democratic decision, which will affect all of us. The campaigns and the media clearly need to reach out far wider in targeting a wider range of the public – from young people to economically marginalised groups. “The British public deserve a real debate, and this polling shows the stark need to do everything we can to make sure this referendum isn’t decided by a select few but by the whole country.

“Let’s open up this referendum out of the Westminster bubble and into communities around the UK, so that the public truly have faith in the result.”



The ERS will be releasing more polling on the EU in the coming weeks and months, including on:

  • How well informed voters feel about the upcoming EU referendum
  • How voters have been contacted about the referendum
  • What sources of information have been most important in helping them make their decision
  • How positive/negative voters feel the main campaigns have been
  • Whether the public would be more likely to vote if they had more information

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer on 07717211630 or

[1] Polling by BMG Research of residents aged 18+ in United Kingdom. The sample size is 1518 respondents, with fieldwork conducted between the 24th and 29th February. Cross-tabs available on request.


[3] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: The ERS’ logo is available for free use here:


Cutting funding for smaller parties is ‘hugely regressive step’ say campaigners

21st March 2016
21 Mar 2016


Contact Tel: 
  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 21st March 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, 07717211630 or

Commenting on the news [1] that the government are to announce deep cuts to smaller parties’ funding this week, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The government’s plans to disproportionately cut so-called Short money for smaller opposition parties is an incredibly backwards step.

“UKIP received nearly four million votes last year, but ended up with only one MP. The Greens received over a million votes and likewise ended up with just one MP. Slashing their funding is an affront to those millions of voters who were not fairly represented.

“Currently, Short money - allocated in large part on the basis of number of votes rather than just seats - partially compensates for our woefully disproportionate voting system. Making it less proportional is hugely regressive given that we are now a pluralistic, multi-party democracy, with a need for a strong and diverse opposition.

“57% of the public think a publicly-funded political system would be fairer than the big-donor dominated one we have now. This cut will do nothing to improve people's perceptions of politics being stitched-up by the big parties.

“We hope the government think again and stand up for the millions whose voices were ignored last May.”



See here:



Transparency campaigners welcome Minister’s decision to remove Lobbying Bill loophole

10th March 2016
10 Mar 2016


Contact Tel: 
  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society Scotland on behalf of Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT)
  • For Immediate Release, 10th March 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Willie Sullivan, ERS Scotland Director, on 07940523842 or, contact Katie Gallogly-Swan ERS Scotland Campaigns Organiser, on 07930862497 or

Campaigners are welcoming a ‘victory for transparency’ after receiving a letter from the Minister for Parliamentary Business, Joe Fitzpatrick to Members today, stating that the government will now amend the Lobbying (Scotland) Bill further to ensure that all lobbying organisations will be covered by the Bill.  

The Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency feared that a previous Government amendment to the Bill, which would have meant only organisations with 10 staff members or more would have to register, would create a loophole where advocacy and trade bodies – including organisations as influential as the lead body for the pharmaceutical industry (ABPI Scotland) - would not have to make public their lobbying activity.

The Lobbying Bill Scotland receives its final reading in the Parliament this afternoon (Thursday 10th March) and is expected to pass.

In the letter, sent on the 9th March, Mr Fitzpatrick wrote [1]:

“The Government considers that amendment 22 [limiting the Bill’s scope to organisations with 10 or more employees] would not itself have the effect of exempting representative bodies from having to register.

However, in light of the concerns I have decided to bring forward a further Government amendment to put that matter beyond doubt.

I hope this position will offer reassurance to you and all those who have represented your views to me and to other Members of the Scottish Parliament.” 

Willie Sullivan, Director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland and a member of the Salt Coalition said:

“We are delighted that the Minister has responded positively to our calls for the government to close the loophole on lobbying bodies with fewer than 10 staff. There are dozens of major organisations which would have been completely free of any public scrutiny and openness had this amendment been passed.

“Thousands of people wrote to their MSPs about this, so it is very welcome news that the government has listened and opted for an even more democratic Bill which gives Scottish voters the right to know who is influencing their representatives.

“While we do still have some concerns about the Bill - particularly the fact that only face to face meeting are recorded and not emails or phone calls - we are confident that this Bill, when enacted, will increase public visibility of lobbying and make Holyrood one of the most transparent parliaments in Europe.

“With a built in two year review the new lobby register should provide a firm basis and good evidence for parliament to include other lobbying activity such as email correspondence following the first review.”


The Scottish Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (SALT) is an alliance of civil society groups who are concerned about the growing influence of lobbying on decision-making in Scotland. We believe only increased transparency can begin to restore trust in policy making and make ministers, elected representatives, and officials more accountable to the public. 

For more information on SALT, please visit

View the latest YouGov poll results on Scottish voters’ views on lobbying here:

[1] The full letter can be seen here:

Low turnout feared as just 16% of public feel well informed about EU referendum

8th March 2016
8 Mar 2016








Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 8th March

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or


Just one in six people feel well informed about the upcoming EU referendum, according to new polling released today by the Electoral Reform Society.

The polling by BMG Research [1] shows that just 12% feel ‘well informed’, while a further 4% of the public feel ‘very well informed’ about the June vote.

With less than four months to go before people cast their ballots, nearly half (46%) feel poorly or very poorly informed about the vote. This falls to 38% among those who say they will definitely vote in the referendum, and rises to 61% among those who say they probably will not vote – suggesting there is a link between how much people feel they know about the referendum debate and how likely they are to vote.

The BMG polling [2] also shows that over double the number of 55-64 year olds feel well informed (21%) about the referendum compared to 18-24 year olds (10%), suggesting that young people will be less likely to vote on polling day. Men are also twice as likely to feel well informed than women (21% vs 10%).

The Electoral Reform Society – which today launches its own programme of work on the EU vote, called A Better Referendum [3] – says the findings highlight the need for a deeper and more informative debate around the referendum.

The ERS is making 5 recommendations for:

1.    The Remain and Leave campaigns to commit to taking part in televised debates on the EU referendum

2.    The campaigns to make voter registration a key plank of their plans

3.    The campaigns to support initiatives aimed at giving citizens a chance to debate the issues in more depth, for example by providing speakers for local debates

4.    The campaigns to commit to a ‘Ceasefire Week’, where both sides only put out the positive cases for their arguments

5.    Media organisations, relevant public bodies and non-governmental organisations to commit to providing balanced coverage of the debate, including clear and comprehensible facts on Britain’s relationship with the EU

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society [4], said:

“These figures are a wake-up call to politicians, parties, public bodies and everyone involved in the referendum to do all they can to boost public knowledge and engagement in this crucial vote. People want a real, informed debate about Britain’s relationship with the European Union, so let’s give it to them.

“We saw in Scotland during the independence referendum what can happen when people feel informed about an important decision and empowered to take part. People are crying out for the full information they need to get to grips with the EU referendum debate, and for the space to have those discussions.

“The campaigns have a responsibility to listen to voters and engage with them, as well as broadcast their views. And in a close referendum, turnout will be key – so it’s in the campaigns’ interest to provide a platform for a rich and stimulating debate.

“And the media have a part to play in creating the conditions for a good referendum debate. Let’s hear about the issues at stake and not just about the personalities and in-fighting.

“Our five recommendations could help open up a real conversation among the public about the issues surrounding Britain’s membership of the European Union. There are simple things which can be done to bring this referendum to life, from TV debates to grassroots events and a ‘Ceasefire Week’. Let’s take the conversation beyond Westminster and Fleet Street to communities across the UK.

“We know that there is a clear link between how well informed people feel and their likelihood to vote. So let’s do everything we can to foster a deep and vibrant debate around the EU referendum.”

As part of its ‘A Better Referendum’ programme being launched today, the ERS will be releasing extensive monthly BMG polling on the EU, including tracker questions on:

·         How informed people feel about the referendum

·         Which campaigns voters have heard from (and how)

·         What percentage of people the public think are likely to vote (wisdom of crowds)

·         How negative/positive both sides are seen in their campaigning

The ERS will also be providing commentary on the vote (including technical aspects of the referendum) throughout the campaign. For more information on the polling and commentary contact Josiah Mortimer (details at the top).



[1] Polling conducted by BMG Research between the 19th and 23rd February 2016. 1517 representative respondents aged 18 or over took part in the online poll. For full crosstabs, see here:

[2] BMG Research:

[3] See notes at end of press release

[4] A photo of Katie Ghose is available here:

Party funding: ERS welcomes Lords’ call for changes to Trade Union Bill

2nd March 2016
2 Mar 2016


Contact Tel: 
  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 2nd March 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or

The Electoral Reform Society has warmly welcomed recommendations by a Lords committee to amend elements of the Trade Union Bill [1], so that a fair and sustainable party funding settlement might be reached.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society [2], said:

“This report gives the Government a clear opportunity to start urgently needed talks on reforming party funding. The public are sick to death of scandals involving big donors, and want to see real reform of the way parties are financed. But as this committee has explicitly recognised, changing the way one party is funded without looking at the wider picture is not the route to a sustainable settlement.

“We strongly welcome the committee’s recommendations on reforming the proposed opt-in process for new trade union members. In particular, a minimum 12-month period for unions to move to the new arrangement gives parties a window of opportunity to get round the table and sort out their funding issues once and for all.

“We also welcome the committee’s recommendation to exclude existing union members from the new opt-in arrangement until cross-party talks on party funding reform have been established. It isn’t right that one party which happens to be in government should be able to move unilaterally against its opponents’ source of funds. The committee has rightly pointed out that this could start a tit-for-tat funding war that would only serve to damage our representative democracy and further undermine public faith in political parties.

“The reforms to the way union members opt into political funds could be the first step towards a sustainable party funding settlement. But if it’s the only step, then it will do more harm than good. Now is the time for parties to get together and agree a settlement which ends big donors’ perceived influence and restores people’s trust in the process.”

The report comes after Peers voted on the 20th January to set up a cross-party select committee [3] on party funding reform, amidst growing concern that the Trade Union Bill was ‘dangerously one-sided’ in its approach to the issue.

Baroness Smith of Basildon’s motion [4] concerned the party funding elements of the Trade Union Bill (clauses 10 and 11), which would force union members to ‘opt in’ to unions’ political funds – significantly cutting the Labour party’s income without balancing it for other parties.

Recent polling by BMG Research for the ERS showed that 77% of public think that big donors have too much influence on parties [5].

Read the ERS’ briefing on the Trade Union Bill here:

In 2014 the ERS published ‘Deal or No Deal: How to put an end to party funding scandals’. Read the full report and recommendations here.

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or


[1] Report available here:

[2] A photo of Katie Ghose is available here:


[4] See here: and here

[5] Polling by BMG research for the ERS:

Electoral register ‘getting more unequal by the year’

24th February 2016
24 Feb 2016


Contact Tel: 
  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 24th February 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or

Concerted action is required to ensure hundreds of thousands of British voters do not end up disenfranchised ahead of elections in May, the Electoral Reform Society has warned.

The warning comes as new government figures [1] show there has been a 600,000 drop in the number of registered voters over the past year – and a drop of 1.4 million names over the last two years. This fall has taken place since the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration (IER).

Both the Electoral Reform Society and the Electoral Commission warned against [2] the Government’s move to end the transition to IER in December last year [2], a year earlier than previously planned.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [3]:

“The fall in the number of registered voters over the past two years shows the danger of the government’s decision to push through the shift to individual electoral registration a year ahead of schedule, against the advice of the Electoral Commission. With elections all over the country in just three months, far too many people are now in danger of missing out on their most basic civic right.

“Any fall at this early stage of transition from household registration to IER is worrying, particularly if it begins to become a trend as the new system takes hold.

“The constituencies which saw the biggest drop are largely student seats and deprived areas – groups which are already under-represented. The areas with the biggest rise are largely wealthier areas. This patchy picture means electoral registration – and the number of parliamentary seats representing each area – is getting more unequal by the year.

"We can’t have a democratic system based on a registration postcode lottery. And whatever the size of the fall, this evidence of growing social and age divides in our democracy could be hugely damaging if it carries on in the long-run.

“We need a registration revolution in this country, bringing in polling-day registration and other innovations [4] to make it easier to register. In the meantime, we need a major UK-wide push to get people signed up ahead of May’s elections and the EU referendum in June.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or


[1] The total number of UK parliamentary electors in 2015 was 44,722,000, a fall of 1.3% from 2014 – ONS


[3] A photo of Katie Ghose is available here:


Rushed referendum ‘side-lines Welsh voters’, say campaigners

20th February 2016
20 Feb 2016


Contact Tel: 
  • Statement from Electoral Reform Society Cymru
  • For immediate release, 20th February 2016
  • For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview/comment piece, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Cymru Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or

Electoral Reform Society Cymru have expressed disappointment at the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the EU referendum will be held on the 23rd of June, describing it as ‘damaging for debate’ and ‘side-ling Welsh voters’.

The organisation which campaigns for a better democracy has said that a June referendum means that the run-up to the Welsh Assembly election will be dominated by discussions on the EU referendum rather than who will form the next Welsh government.

Steve Brooks, Director of ERS Cymru, said:

“This decision is both bad news for Welsh voters and for the EU referendum debate. Having just seven weeks between the two votes means the crucial few weeks before the Assembly election will likely be overshadowed by the EU referendum.

“Instead of rushing the referendum, Cameron should give fair space to both debates – especially with the Scottish, London and Northern Ireland Parliament/Assembly elections going on too. Let’s give both votes a clear run, rather than risking muddling the issues or one debate dominating the other.

“Instead, this referendum date is side-lines Welsh voters – and voters in Scotland, London and Northern Ireland for that matter. The devolved elections get far too little UK-wide attention as it is and this is only going to be worsened by a June EU vote.

“Four months is simply not enough time to have detailed and serious debates about these two very different ballots which will massively affect the people of Wales and the UK. Today’s decision is a negative move.

“Nonetheless, the ERS will do everything we can in this short time to help ensure the debate is positive, diverse and well-run as possible.”