ERS Cymru welcomes expected Senedd support for Wales Bill // Datganiad ERS Cymru i bleidlais disgwyliedig o gefnogaeth gan y Cynulliad i Fesur Cymru

17th January 2017
17 Jan 2017
Wales Bill
ERS Cymru
ERS Wales
welsh assembly


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***Bilingual Press Release: Scroll down for Welsh***

***Datganiad Dwyieithog: Scroliwch lawr am y Gymraeg***

  • Statement from ERS Cymru for immediate release, 17th January 2017
  • For more information, quotes, or to arrange an interview, contact Dr Owain ap Gareth, ERS Cymru Research and Campaigns Officer, on or 07771661802

Commenting on the Welsh Assembly’s expected vote in support of the Wales Bill, Dr Owain ap Gareth, Research and Campaigns Officer for ERS Cymru, said:

“While the legislation is by no means perfect, it’s welcome that the Assembly looks set to back the Wales Bill. The Bill paves the way for a much stronger Senedd, and a greater voice for Welsh citizens over the laws that affect their lives. Giving the Assembly control over its own processes is a vital democratic move, and the two-thirds majority needed under the Bill to change the ‘rules of the game’ protect voters from any partisan self-interest.

“We support the move to a Reserved powers model. However, the process of developing the Bill has left much to be desired in terms of clear principles about what devolution in the UK is for and where we are going. Given the confusion that has surrounded this Bill, we hope that lessons will be learnt in Whitehall that there needs to be better dialogue with Welsh devolved institutions on the basis of partnership, rather than simply muddling through and hoping for the best.

“This approach has led to a bits-and-pieces process and a settlement that is far less clear than it could and should have been. We hope these lessons will be learned as the Bill continues to progress. Good, clear governance structures are vitally important for Wales to face the challenges ahead, and we hope the next stages for Welsh devolution are both clear and agreed with real and meaningful dialogue with Welsh voters and elected politicians here.

“Cardiff Bay and Westminster face significant challenges over the next few years and it is important that they are able to work effectively together, whatever their party hue. Now it’s time to look at ways to make the devolution process smoother going forwards – and learn lessons for the future to ensure the best possible outcome for the people of Wales.”



Datganiad ERS Cymru i bleidlais disgwyliedig o gefnogaeth gan y Cynulliad i Fesur Cymru

  • Datganiad gan ERS Cymru i’w ryddhau ar unwaith, Ionawr 17, 2017
  • Am fwy o wybodaeth, dyfyniadau, neu i drefnu cyfweliad, cysylltwch â Dr Owain ap Gareth, Swyddog Ymchwil ac Ymgyrch, ar neu 07771661802

Yn ymateb i bleidlais ddisgwyledig Cynulliad Cymru heddiw yn cefnogi Mesur Cymru, dywedodd Dr Owain ap Gareth, Swyddog Ymchwil a Ymgyrchoedd gyfer ERS Cymru hyn:

"Er yn bell o fod yn berffaith, rydym yn croeso fod Aelodau'r Cynulliad am bleidleisio i gefnogi Mesur Cymru. Tra nid yw ar unrhyw gyfrif yn berffaith, mae'r Mesur yn paratoi'r ffordd ar gyfer Senedd gryfach o lawer, a mwy o lais i ddinasyddion Cymru dros y cyfreithiau sy'n effeithio ar eu bywydau. Mae rhoi rheolaeth y Cynulliad dros ei brosesau eu hunain yn gam democrataidd hanfodol, ac mae’r angen o fwyafrif o ddwy ran o dair i newid y 'rheolau’r gêm' yn diogelu pleidleiswyr rhag hunan-fudd pleidiol.

"Rydym yn cefnogi'r symudiad i fodel “pwerau neilltuedig”. Serch hynny, mae'r broses o ddatblygu'r Mesur wedi bod yn hynod anfoddhaol o safbwynt sefydlu egwyddorion clir ynghylch yr hyn mae datganoli yn y DU i’w gyflawni, ac i ble yr ydym yn mynd. O ystyried y dryswch a fu ynghylch y Mesur hwn, rydym yn gobeithio y bydd gwersi'n cael eu dysgu yn Whitehall ynglŷn â chynnal gwell deialog gyda sefydliadau datganoledig yng Nghymru ar sail partneriaeth, yn hytrach na dim ond creu proses ar hap a gobeithio am y gorau.

"Mae'r dull hwn wedi arwain at broses anhylaw a thameidiog, gan orffen fyny gyda setliad sy'n llawer llai eglur nag y gallai - ac y dylai - wedi bod. Rydym yn gobeithio y bydd gwersi yn cael eu dysgu o hyn. Mae strwythurau llywodraethu da, clir yn hanfodol bwysig i Gymru i wynebu'r heriau sydd o'n blaen, ac rydym yn gobeithio bydd y camau nesaf o ddatganoli yn gliriach ac yn cael ei wireddu drwy ddeialog go iawn gyda phleidleiswyr Cymru a chynrychiolwyr etholedig yma yng Nghymru.

"Mae Bae Caerdydd a San Steffan yn wynebu heriau sylweddol dros y blynyddoedd nesaf, ac mae'n bwysig eu bod yn gallu gweithio'n effeithiol gyda'i gilydd, beth bynnag yw’r pleidiau yn llywodraethu. Mae'n bryd edrych ar ffyrdd o wneud y daith ddatganoli yn fwy llyfn -. a dysgu’r gwersi ar gyfer y dyfodol i sicrhau y canlyniad gorau posibl i bobl Cymru."


Scotland deserves debate and democracy

9th March 2012
9 Mar 2012
scottish independence
votes at 16


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Scotland deserves debate and democracy

The Electoral Reform Society in Scotland has today (Friday March 9th) submitted a response to the Westminster Government’s consultation: Scotland’s Constitutional Future.

Reflecting on the submission, Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland said:

If any referendum on Scotland’s future is to accurately represent the views of the Scottish people it must offer a real choice. It is clear that Independence or the Status Quo cannot be the only things on the menu.
Avoiding a ‘second question’ represents a false choice. It risks not giving the Scottish people a the choice of a future which polling shows many of them can unite around.

ERS Scotland does not have a position on which options should be included but would urge all parties to work to present clear choices to the voters. Scots will then be able to vote for the status quo or change. They will then have the opportunity to decide on the flavour of change that works for them.

The debate must consider what best serves Scottish democracy. Our experience with the Alternative Vote referendum suggests a lengthy lead in time. To that end, we support the Scottish Government’s proposal of an Autumn 2014 ballot.

There is no reason why 16 and 17 year olds should not be able to vote in this and all elections. However, we would strongly caution against a ‘false franchise’ made up only of ‘attainers’ - those 16 and 17 year olds who will have their birthday before the30th November after the polling day.

ERS Scotland plans to run a series of debates and public meetings discussing Scotland’s democracy over the next eighteen months. We look forward to both the UK and Scottish Government’s responses to their consultations and hope a clear, responsible and democratic decision can be made on how to run the poll.”


Notes to editors

The key conclusions from the response are:

  • The Scottish Government has a mandate to call a referendum on Scotland’s constitution the proposition and timing of such a referendum should be decided by the Scottish Parliament with the question, planning and organisation of the poll managed by the Electoral Commission in Scotland under the rules set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
  • A Section 30 order is the best option to ensure legal clarity. It would be extremely irresponsible to allow this matter to be contested in the courts and possibly damaging to the democratic institutions in Edinburgh and at Westminster.
  • Should a section 30 order be used, it should be made with only limited conditions attached in order to ensure:
  1. That the referendum is conducted using the amended generic PPERA rules.
  2. That the Electoral Commission in Scotland has responsibility for consulting on the wording of the question, and for the operation of the poll.
  3. That lines of accountability and reporting to both parliaments are clear and unambiguous and do not allow for any political interference in the operation of the poll.
  • The process of the Scotland Bill be put on hold until the referendum has been held and a decision taken by the Scottish people.
  • We support the extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds for all UK elections. This should not be done only for the referendum but for all public elections in Scotland. Additionally, we would not wish to see a ‘false franchise’ established by only allowing ‘attainers ’ to vote rather than all 16 and 17 year olds. Given the franchise is a reserved matter we would hope the UK Government would work with the Scottish Government to provide for this.
  • Our experience from the AV referendum is that proper debate, analysis and questioning of the arguments takes a good deal of time. Campaigns will present misinformation and partial arguments which can only be challenged and bottomed out over significant timescales. Therefore, we would favour a longer time for arguments to be fully tested and worked through, and for public information and arguments to disseminate into the public consciousness.
  • We feel that given current debates and state of Scottish public opinion, the best way to find out where consensus might be found is to hold a two question referendum with a so called gateway question on Status Quo v Change and a second question on Devo Max v Independence. The result of the second question will only be relevant if the first question is a positive vote for change. Any format that does not allow all three main options to be considered during the one campaign is unsatisfactory.
  • In response to arguments that the two questions (of independence or more powers) are separate constitutional issues, we would suggest that such labelling is disingenuous. Any change in powers will have to be negotiated between the Scottish Government and Westminster regardless of their extent. The referendum is to determine the preference of the Scottish people, in and of itself it will not change the constitution. We have some sympathy with Peter Kellner of YouGov’s position, expressed during the Scottish Affairs Committee of March 7th March 2012, that once that negotiation has taken place the proposals agreed between the two Governments should be put to the Scottish public in a second referendum.

ERS welcome Salmond-Moore discussions

13th February 2012
13 Feb 2012
scottish independence
voting systems


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ERS welcome Salmond-Moore discussions

As the First Minister and the Scottish Secretary have met to discuss how the referendum vote should be run, ERS Scotland appeals to both sides to consider what is the most democratic route forwards and to ensure all voices are heard.


Juliet Swann, Campaigns and Research Officer with the Electoral Reform Society in Scotland commented:


It’s great that Salmond and Moore have met and begun to iron out the technicalities of the referendum. The debate ahead requires respect and recognition of the Scottish Parliament’s mandate over Scotland’s affairs.


“Once the details are agreed, it is vital that an independent non-partisan body tests and verifies the question, and that the poll is organised and managed in a similarly independent manner. We are pleased the Scottish Government has accepted the role of the Electoral Commission and we have every confidence in them to do this job.


“We must bear in mind that the Holyrood system was not set up to manage majority Government, which makes the role of the Commission available to the Parliament as a whole as an independent monitor all the more important. Part and parcel of discussions around a good Scottish democracy must include an evaluation on how to make our devolved institution as democratic and accountable as possible. This crucial debate must be had in a thoughtful and open fashion.”

Trust the Scottish people to take the best path for our future

25th January 2012
25 Jan 2012
scottish independence


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Trust the Scottish people to take the best path for our future

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government’s consultation on the proposed Independence referendum, and the acknowledgement from the First Minister that the choices we now face are fundamentally matters of democracy.

In that spirit, we would caution that the debate should rise above party politics and vested interests.

ERS Scotland’s Director Willie Sullivan said:

“All polling suggests that the Scottish people are clustering around three main options: status quo, so called Devo Max, and Independence.

“If there is only to be one question then the structure is straightforward; a simple Yes or No for Independence.

“If the consultation responses indicate that the Scottish people want the opportunity to vote on all three options, then the best way to do this would be to ask two questions on the same ballot paper: The first asking yes or no to any change and the second to determine what level of change. This approach was recently road-tested in New Zealand.

“This is by far the simplest and fairest way to ensure that everyone gets a real say but we are concerned that instead of ensuring that it’s the Scottish people who have a chance to determine Scotland’s future, the debate among politicians is becoming polarised and disingenuous.”

The debate on the ‘Claim of Right’ tomorrow (26 January) represents an historic opportunity to address wider questions of Scotland’s constitution and democracy.

Willie Sullivan added:

“Thursday’s debate is an important opportunity to consider what the idea of sovereignty lying with the people actually means and how we can make this a reality.

“We challenge all parties to set out how they will ensure that power in Scotland is awarded and exercised fairly and that representatives can be held to account in a manner that supports a good society.”

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland is currently developing a programme of work called ‘Demo Max’, launching in the spring, to investigate the attributes of a ‘good Scottish democracy’ in this changing constitutional climate.


For comment contact Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland on 07940523842

Notes to Editors

[1] The New Zealand voting system referendum of 26 November 2011 followed this model. Sample ballot papers are available online:

[2] Demo Max will be a programme of investigation over 18 months into what makes a good Scottish Democracy. The discussions will be based around three main themes
1) Sovereignty of the People – how is the ideal made real?
2) Protecting People Power – How to ensure the state is not unduly influenced by vested interests ( i,e Media proprietors, Lobbyists , Financial Industry )
3) Institutions of State – How is a good Scottish Democracy described, codified and embedded in the institutions and processes of the State.
The programme will consist of high level seminars, public discussions, virtual and real, reports and publications at relevant points. We hope to involve a wide range of individuals and agencies.

Scottish Democracy failing to realise dream of devolution

15th November 2011
15 Nov 2011
single transferable vote
voting systems


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Scottish Democracy failing to realise dream of devolution

With Scottish politics now dominated by two big parties, small parties under pressure and women’s representation on the wane, the Electoral Reform Society say action is now needed to ensure that Scotland’s political system can continue to meet the original aspirations and expectations of the advocates of devolution.

In their new ERS report, Prof John Curtice and Dr Martin Steven look at the election’s successes and failures and see what lessons can be learned for the future of Scottish democracy.

Professor John Curtice said:

The widespread expectation that the Scottish Parliament would be a multi-party parliament in which no party would ever have an overall majority has been dashed.

“In truth, although the electoral system bequeathed to the Scottish Parliament by Labour was far more proportional than First Past the Post, it was never one that was best fitted to the realisation of that original expectation. It still favours larger parties over smaller ones, who indeed are actually being discouraged from standing in the constituency contests.

“The fit between reality and expectation could be made closer with relative ease. The trouble is, such a step would require politicians in larger parties to be willing to help those in smaller ones – and perhaps that will still seem like a step too far?

Willie Sullivan, Director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland said:

Just because Scotland’s modern Electoral System makes Westminster look like a tribal council doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try and make it better.

“The concentration of power into two large parties in our parliament is of course better than power being concentrated in one. That’s what happened in Local Government under First-Past-the-Post before 2007.
“Concentrations of power are never good. We are convinced our democracy would work better with more parties in the system so that more voices are represented and heard and that power is shared, checked and balanced.

“The bias against smaller parties is one concern arising from this study of our election system in 2011 another is the power handed to party machines in deciding who goes where on the list and so in many cases who gets a seat. If a full move to STV is not available then we urge politicians to consider an open list system for that part of AMS’

The 2011 Scottish Parliament election by Prof John Curtice & Dr Martin Steven Is available for download here

The report is being launched at 6pm on 15th November 2011 in Committee Room 5 of the Scottish Parliament.
RSVP to Willie Sullivan, 07940523842
Professor Curtice will make a presentation on his findings, Chaired by Katie Ghose CEO of the ERS, followed by questions and discussion

Notes to editors

  • The AMS system is discouraging smaller parties from contesting single member constituencies.
  • In 2011, a majority of constituency contests were only fought by the four largest parties. Not only was this in sharp contrast to the position on the list ballot, but it meant that most voters had far less choice in their local constituency contest in 2011 than they had enjoyed in the general election in 2010.
  • Across Scotland, only 30 candidates from other parties stood on the constituency ballot. This was less than at any previous Scottish election, and was far lower than the 113 candidates that contested any one of the 59 Westminster constituency seats in 2010.
  • Women are now more reliant for their election on the list part of the system rather than the constituencies.
  • The level of defeat and retrial amongst female Labour MSPs in 2011 means that unless Labour reintroduces a strategy that secures gender balance in its con¬stituency nominations, any future recov¬ery in the party’s electoral fortunes could well be accompanied by a reduction in the overall level of female representation.
  • 2011 demonstrated that some voters are willing to take advantage of the fact that they have two votes to behave in accordance with the expectations of advocates of AMS.
  • Popular incumbent MSPs have developed a considerable personal vote that enables them to secure a substantially higher share of the vote than their party list manages locally – and this played a key role in enabling Labour to hang on to constituency votes and seats that it might otherwise have lost.
  • An incumbent Labour or SNP MSP, on average, managed to win some three per cent more of the vote in their constituency than on the list.
  • All 4 four Conservative Incumbents did better than their party.
  • Curtice and Steven show that a switch from the d’Hondt to the Sainte-Laguë method of allocating list seats, a method that is already enshrined in other aspects of the UK’s electoral arrangements, would have produced a more proportional result in which the SNP would not have won a majority despite winning well under 50% of the vote.

Scotland's New Political Map – 'One Size Doesn't Fit All'

13th October 2011
13 Oct 2011
boundary commission for scotland
constituency size


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Scotland’s New Political Map – 'One Size Doesn't Fit All'

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland has commented on the publication of new Scottish parliamentary boundaries. [1]

Publication comes little over a week after Conservative cabinet minister Baroness Warsi dubbed the revised constituency map of England both "mad and insane". [2]

The Society has attacked the "thankless task" handed to the Boundary Commission for Scotland. It is now calling on the government to reassess the extremely tight variance of 5% between constituency sizes – which has meant 16 Westminster seats will cross council boundaries, breaking up traditional communities such as Ayr and Dunfermline.

The Society has attacked the "thankless task" handed to the Boundary Commission for Scotland. It is now calling on the government to reassess the extremely tight variance of 5% between constituency sizes - as new rules mean 16 Westminster seats will cross council boundaries, breaking up traditional communities such Ayr and Dunfermline.

Willie Sullivan, Director of the Electoral Reform Society Scotland said:
If Scotland's new boundaries seem as "mad and insane" as England's then responsibility must lie with the British government.

"The Boundary Commission for Scotland was given a thankless task. This government's rigid 'One Size Fits All' approach was never going to fit Scotland - its cold mathematical vision of equality flies in the face of real communities, simple geography and common sense.

"The call for equal size seats dates back to the Chartists, but we doubt they would recognise the results. Instead the government risks making the constituency link a thing of the past."
Key Points
  • The Boundary Commission for Scotland has published detailed proposals reducing the number of Scottish MPs from 59 to 52.

  • Only two of Scotland’s seats - Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Western Isles) and Orkney and Shetland – have been protected under the proposals.

  • The remaining 50 constituencies must now have a number of electors set at between 72,810 and 80,473 – the maximum ‘5% variance’. A wider variance would have allowed the Commission to be more sympathetic to geography and traditional communities.

  • The Boundary Commission has been forced to draw 16 proposed mainland seats that spread across two local authority boundaries. Ayr is now split between Kyle and Cumnock and North Ayrshire and Arran, Dunfermline is now split into Clackmannanshire and Dunfermline West and Dunfermline East.

  • Likely casualties include the seat of Scotland’s only Conservative MP David Mundell whose Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale constituency has been split three ways.
For comment contact Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland on 07940523842
[2] See Lady Warsi: some proposed boundary changes are 'mad and insane', Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, 3 October 2011