scotland

Let's Get Lobbying Law Right in Scotland

6th February 2015
6 Feb 2015
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 LET’S GET LOBBYING LAW RIGHT IN SCOTLAND

 

ERS Scotland welcomes the Scottish Parliament Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee report today recommending the introduction of a register of lobbying activity for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. We would highlight the breadth of the Committee inquiry and its commitment to full consultation using a variety of channels including social media. This is in stark contrast to the rushed lobbying law introduced last year at Westminster which risks gagging campaigning groups in the run up to elections.

 Willie Sullivan, Director of the Society in Scotland said:

 “This welcome recommendation, alongside the devolution of election spending, means Scotland can avoid the dog’s breakfast that is the UK Lobbying Act and instead introduce a decent register of lobbying activity that allows the workings of our democracy to be as transparent as possible.

 “Scotland has witnessed a democratic awakening. Our citizens are talking politics and are keen to take part in our democracy. Additionally, the Scottish Parliament is set to be given more say in the decisions that affect the lives of Scots. Now is the time to ensure those decisions are made with the utmost transparency. This will help make sure our citizens will have faith in those decisions.”

 Mr Sullivan added:

 “Lobbying ‘scandals’ are by their nature hidden. The aim of a lobbying register is to prevent these scandals before they arise, rather than to expose them once they have happened. 

 “A register of lobbyists, detailing who is meeting with whom to discuss what, and how much they are spending, will make it clear where there may be influence on our politicians and decision makers.

 “Whether there is undue influence on debates, policy and legislation is not the question – there may well not be - but we should be sure that there isn’t.”

 ENDS

 Contact: Willie Sullivan. M: 0794 052 3842 E: willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk or

Juliet Swann. E: juliet.swann@electoral-reform.org.uk

 Notes

 The SPPA report can be found here http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittee...

 The Electoral Reform Society is one of a number of civil society groups calling for the repeal of Part 2 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014. The Act places disproportionate burdens on campaigning organisations and does not effectively regulate lobbying. With the devolution of Parts 5 and 6 of Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000, as included in the draft clause 7 (Campaign and controlled expenditure) of the Smith Command Paper, the Scottish Parliament could throw out this law and instead introduce a proportionate, useful and fair register of lobbying activity.

Smith process has side-stepped citizens

22nd January 2015
22 Jan 2015
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For immediate release, 22/01/2015

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society Scotland

Smith process has side-stepped citizens

As the Command Paper devolving the powers agreed by the Smith Commission to Scotland is published, ERS Scotland remains convinced that how these powers are implemented, and where power should lie in Scotland needs to be cross-examined by citizens.

Willie Sullivan, Director ERS Scotland said:

“The vibrant citizen led debate and surge in democratic participation that we saw during the referendum campaign demonstrated what our democracy could be given the right conditions. We all have a responsibility to sustain the levels of engagement seen over the past months. If we return to business as usual, we will have failed to grasp a once in a lifetime opportunity, we will be letting down the people and we may be missing a chance to revive democracy.

We are pleased that the command paper clearly recognises the need to continue to engage citizens in the process of discussing what happens next. [1] We hope today’s announcement does not end the debate about who has power but is the start of a truly participative process rather than an old-fashioned top down consultation exercise. We claim the people are sovereign in Scotland; we need a process that shows this is true.

We also welcome the recognition that more powers should not just stop at Holyrood, but that Scotland’s communities should be involved in decision making. It is an essential first step that the planned outreach is new and means something.

The inspirational energy that rose up across Scotland during the referendum deserves and expects to be fully involved in what happens next.”

ENDS

Contact: Willie Sullivan. M: 07940 523842

E: willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk

[1] From the Command Paper:

The UK Government will organise a series of events and activities across Scotland to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have their say and to enhance their understanding of the enduring devolution settlement as we move forward to delivery of further devolution for Scotland. You can read more about this in the Next Steps section.

The Scottish Government will explore how they can transfer powers from the Scottish Parliament to empower local communities across Scotland, and the UK Government stands prepared to share their experiences to facilitate this process.

ERS SCOTLAND UNVEILS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A GOOD SCOTTISH DEMOCRACY

25th August 2013
25 Aug 2013
Tags: 
democracy
scotland
media
citizens' chamber
referendum

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The Electoral Reform Society Scotland has outlined a series of recommendations stemming from members of the public who participated in their 13-month Democracy Max inquiry.

These ideas are aimed at improving Scottish democracy in the context of the independence referendum. 

The key recommendations of Democracy Max are:

 

  • ‘Mini-Publics’ – deliberative local groups working alongside representative democracy and empowering people to run their own towns and villages
  • A Citizens’ Assembly – a chamber of citizens, possibly selected like a jury, to check and challenge elected politicians
  • Party funding reform – parties funded in transparent ways other than through big donations from organisations or rich individuals
  • Better media – as traditional business models struggle and press barons are exposed, our participants suggested ways for a greater number of voices to be heard and for media to operate more explicitly in the public interest
  • Openness and transparency – an assumption that information should be publicly available and a requirement to make the case as to why any information is not
  • Lobbying reform – a statutory register of lobbying which sets out who is lobbying whom and why
  • Constitutional clarity – a written set of principles for Scots to unite around, setting out who we are and by which rules we wish to be governed
  •  

    An inbuilt system to review and advise on how the Scottish Parliament and Government are faring in abiding by these principles

Scotland is mulling its political and constitutional future against a backdrop of growing distrust and disengagement in politics. In this context, the Electoral Reform Society Scotland has been asking the question: ‘What would make a good Scottish Democracy?’


The process began in July last year when the ERS Scotland brought together a cross-section of over 80 Scots from a range of places and backgrounds to a day-long ‘People’s Gathering’ and asked them what was wrong with politics and democracy and what could be made better. Over the last year they have taken the findings of that People’s Gathering and discussed them with experts, academics, campaigners, activists and others in roundtable sessions, each followed by a public meeting.

 

On Monday evening at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, ERS Scotland will launch its final report, ‘A vision of a good Scottish democracy’.  

 

Willie Sullivan, ERS Scotland Director, said:

 

“We believe that the Scottish independence referendum debate is an opportunity to challenge our political system to change, to confound the low expectations voters have of politics, and to deliver on the high hopes they still hold for democracy.

 

“We started from the position that politics is too important to be left to politicians. So we asked our People’s Gathering to tell us what they thought was wrong with democracy and what could be made better. But we didn’t just take them at their word. Instead we continued to discuss, question and delve in order to understand more fully what was not working and to make sure the solutions we suggested were credible and workable.

 

“It was clear from the investigation that formal politics is in trouble and, rightly or wrongly, people blame political parties for much of that. If trust is to be returned to politics some fundamental changes are required.

 

“I am delighted to say the participants in our investigation have suggested a number of thought-provoking ideas. Many of them are not new, but they do have a renewed relevance at this time. We have weighed up the pros and cons of each in our discussions and feel they deserve consideration as interventions to improve our democracy. We suspect some of them are more vital than others and so should be acted on quickly.

 

“There are some big ideas for political reform here, such as a Citizens’ Assembly as a second chamber of parliament, selected like a jury, and Mini-Publics where people can run their own communities. It may seem strange that an organisation that has campaigned for fairer elections for over 130 years is saying that we require more involvement of ordinary citizens rather than elected representatives in decision-making and scrutiny. However our belief in the importance of representative democracy has led us to realise that in a time of untrusted elites, social media and ‘big data’ we need to evolve our political system to keep pace with the 21st century. The involvement of people who are not primarily concerned with power or with winning elections means that representative democracy can be given a new legitimacy by having the right checks against the powerful. This is not an alternative to elections but a way to return legitimacy to elected representatives.”

ENDS

Contact:

Willie Sullivan willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07940 523842

Juliet Swann juliet.swann@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07968 527561

Notes

The full report can be downloaded here

Scotland needs to get a grip on election turnout

26th July 2012
26 Jul 2012
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scotland
local government
elections 2012

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Scotland needs to get a grip on election turnout

Following the inability of Scottish authorities to publish basic data on turnout in May’s Local elections the Electoral Reform Society Scotland has published its own figures.

Based on the data available (see note 1), the turnout across Scotland’s 32 local authorities is 39.7%.

The data gathering has also highlighted huge inconsistencies in how individual councils handle data on public engagement .

The Society has now called for the Scottish Government to take responsibility for publishing an accurate turnout figure, including calculating methodology in a timely manner.

Willie Sullivan, Director of the Electoral Reform Society in Scotland, said:

Election turnout figures are fundamental for monitoring the health of any democracy. In Scotland we haven’t even agreed how to measure it.

The Scottish Government and the Electoral Management Board must work to improve the consistency of reporting across councils and publish an agreed methodology. Only then will we know for sure who’s turning out and who’s turning off from our democracy.

ERS Scotland has just launched Democracy-Max, a yearlong enquiry into the health of Scottish democracy. Following a packed public meeting on Saturday 14th July, Sullivan added:

Turn out is falling, but there is a real appetite among the Scottish public for engagement in the political process. People have to have some confidence that expressing there view will have some sort of effect on the way they are governed . Our investigation into what makes a ‘Good Scottish Democracy ‘ is an ambitious 12 month programme attempting to imagine a political system that will deepen that confidence.”

Ends

Notes to editors

Note 1: Methodology:

To calculate the turnout figure, we sourced each council area's declarations and input the data for reported turnout, total valid votes and percentage turnout per ward.

Since several councils did not publish details of their total electorate figures, we worked backwards to calculate the electorate of each ward by dividing the reported ward turnout figure by the ward percentage turnout and multiplying by 100. Totalling the ward electorate figures, we reached an estimated national electorate figure of 3,990,398.

The local government electorate figure (as at 1 December 2011, published in February 2012) was 4,010,000, some 19,000 more than the estimated figure we calculated. This is within the margin of error for statistical analysis, and given 4 months passed between the publication of this figure and the election itself, can be accounted for by natural changes in the population (there were, for example, 14,218 deaths registered by the General Register Office Scotland between 1 January and 31 March 2012).

We then divided the total of the ward reported turnouts (1,584,130) by the estimated national electorate figure (3.990,398) and multiplied by 100 to reach a national turnout figure of 39.7%

While the actual electorate figures are still to be finalised, based on the available information (and the electorate numbers which the councils themselves are declaring their figures against) we believe this to be the most accurate way of calculating the electorate figure with the information currently available.

A spreadsheet providing the ward-level data and the calculations involved is available on request.

Note 2: The people gathering

The people gathering was the commencement of the Electoral Reform Society’s investigation into what would make the ‘Good Scottish Democracy’ or ‘Democracy Max’
http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/democracy-max/

Note 3: Last local election

The last time Scotland held a Local Government election decoupled from a parliamentary election was in 1995, when the turnout was 44.9%. Thus the 2012 election indicates a clear fall from that election, though the 39.7% turnout in Scotland is significantly higher than the corresponding figure in England for 2012 of 31%.

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland is collating data for each of Scotland’s 353 council wards in an extensive analysis of the election results, with the turnout data just a small element of this project. As a small office, this is an incredibly lengthy process, but the collating of turnout would be very straightforward for the relevant government department should a centrally agreed methodology be found .

Are cracks in the devolved governments' gender equality already starting to show?

15th March 2012
15 Mar 2012
Tags: 
women's representation
research
wales
scotland
devolved institutions

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Are cracks in the devolved governments' gender equality already starting to show?

The Electoral Reform Society have published a new report warning that progress on gender representation in the devolved governments will slide into a reverse unless action is taken.


Key points from report on women's representation in Scotland and Wales

  • Progress on women’s representation in Holyrood and the Senedd now stagnant or in decline
  • Disturbing void opening up in the talent pool of prospective female AMs and MSPs (of the candidates in 2011only 8 out of 23 AMs were female and a paltry 171 out of 579 MSPs)
  • In Wales current representation relies heavily on incumbents from the 2003 election who benefited from positive action which is no longer in place
  • In Scotland the decline in women’s representation is in large part concurrent with this loss of the ‘rainbow parliament’ and the rise of the SNP (only 28% of the SNP’s majority group of MSPs are female).
  • Scarcity of women at local government level (only 25% in Wales and 21.6% in Scotland compared with England’s 30%) contains an important warning for the future as many AMs and MPSs gain vital experience as councillors.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said

The pipeline of future female talent for the devolved governments appears to have sprung a leak. If this trend continues it could have a devastating impact on the Welsh and Scottish Parliament's future gender parity.

There is a very real threat that inertia on this issue will cause an embarrassing fall back for the devolved governments to the dismal lows of Westminster’s own levels of gender representation.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Our new coalition campaign: Counting Women IN, has a simple goal: 50/50 men and women in all our political institutions. This is the first time organisations across the gender and democracy sectors have come together in this way and we’ll be working closely with parties across the UK to help them get their act together.

END

Download: Women’s Representation in Scotland and Wales

Contact For more information or to arrange an interview with Katie Ghose, CEO of the Electoral Reform Society, contact Sophie Langridge at mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk or call 020 7202 8601.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Welsh Assembly now has two out of four party leaders female: Plaid Cymru’s new leader Elin Jones/Leanne Wood and the Lib Dems' Kirsty Williams. The Scottish parliament also has two out of four female party leaders; Labour's Johann Lamont and Tories' Ruth Davidson.
  2. Plaid Cymru does however have a female Chair, Chief Executive, President and now a female leader.
  3. The Counting Women In campaign is a new coalition set up by five leading campaigning organisations in democracy and women’s rights; the Centre for Women and Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, the Fawcett Society, the Hansard Society and Unlock Democracy
  4. The Welsh Assembly (41.6% female) and the Scottish Parliament (35% female) rank eighth and eighteenth wordwide respectively when it comes to electing women. The UK House of Commons currently ranks 53rd, tied with Malawi.
  5. To find out more about the Electoral Reform Society Wales and Scotland visit www.electoral-reform.org.uk/where-we-work/
  6. The Electoral Reform Society is an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters and improve UK democracy.

Scotland deserves debate and democracy

9th March 2012
9 Mar 2012
Tags: 
scotland
devolution
scottish independence
referendum
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.”

ENDS

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
Tags: 
scotland
referendum
devolution
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
Tags: 
scotland
scottish independence
devolution

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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.

ENDS

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:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/NZ_voting_referendum_...

[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
Tags: 
scotland
devolution
multi-party
stv
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 willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk
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
Tags: 
scotland
devolution
boundaries
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
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/oct/03/baroness-warsi-boundary-changes-mad