The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives voted down amendments to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill which would have left the 2011 Scottish Election – as it should have been – the sole focus of Scottish voters on the day.
Their votes rammed through, without a care, a split focus for Scots voters on the day they have the most significant decision to make for the following four years – which candidate will get their vote and which party they will put in the driving seat to guide Scotland’s future through some of the most difficult years most of us will have known.
While considering their response to that ballot, they will have a second one to deal with at the same time – do they want the Alternative Vote system or do they not?
And all this to decide whether or not to adopt a voting system which is only marginally fairer than the traditional first past the post system and cannot deliver anything like true proportional representation.
This is an expensive vanity project which will not necessarily carry, with the two main UK parties against it. Yet it will take significant financing to make happen and in the process it discards absolutely the trumpeted respect for Scotland and for the othert devolved administrations whose elections fall together on that day.
In our view, the nost appropriate response to this feeble voting system and to the disrespect shown to Scotland is simply to vote NO to the Alternative Vote system. It’s not worth the effort.
Jim Mather, Argyll & Bute’s MSP and who is standing down at the 2011 Scottish Election,feels that the UK Government’s barely planned referendum on Alternative Voting (AV) should of course have been held on a separate day from the Scottish election.
Mr Mather says: ‘Much was made on the formation of the ConDem coalition government in May 2010 about their promise to follow a ‘respect agenda’ when dealing with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That promise has been an early casualty in the new government’s agenda.
‘The devolved governments are united in their opposition to the proposal to hold the UK referendum on using the Alternative Vote on the same day as other elections. It is quite remarkable that, with all the dates available, the concerns of the devolved government of Scotland has been totally disregarded. The handling of this issue has been insensitive and creates a genuine risk that the decision will prejudice the outcome of the Scottish Parliamentary election.
‘By holding the UK referendum on the same day the very real possibility is that the UK media, inevitably focussing on what they perceive to be the “UK national” issue will divert interest and attention on this issue and away from the fixed term election to the Scottish Parliament. The irony is that AV is not even fully supported by any political party and the referendum is merely a rather lame device to cement the coalition and mollify worthy LibDem aspirations for a fairer electoral system for UK elections.
‘It is disturbing to see the coalition government treating the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland with such contempt. We remember the chaos that resulted from the attempt to hold two elections on the same day in 2007 and that is why the Scottish Government then decoupled the local authority and Holyrood elections.
‘In this present instance it is clear that the devolved administrations were not even consulted when the legislation was drafted and that is deplorable and unacceptable’.