Jo seeks fair votes for Scots Parliament

Jo and Nicol Stephen have taken steps at Westminster and Holyrood to push for the introduction of STV for the Scottish Parliament

Jo Swinson has joined Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen to launch a campaign to change the way members of the Scottish Parliament are elected.

Liberal Democrats believe that the Single Transferable Vote (STV) is the fairest form of election and after this month’s elections offers an opportunity to restore public confidence in democracy.

Jo has tabled a Bill at Westminster to amend the Scotland Act to allow for the use of STV for future elections to the Scottish Parliament. Simultaneously, Nicol Stephen lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling on the UK Government to bring forward legislation to introduce STV in time for the next Scottish Parliament elections, scheduled for 2011.

Commenting on the move, Jo said:

“This government has already overseen the implementation of successful STV elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly. We have also seen all 32 Scottish local authorities successfully elected by STV. Now is the time to introduce STV elections for the Scottish Parliament. I have tabled a Bill in the House of Commons which will give the government an opportunity to amend the Scotland Act to this end.”

Nicol Stephen said:

“I welcome the Electoral Commission’s decision to appoint an independent investigator to look into what went wrong in this month’s Scottish Parliament elections. However, it will take a great deal more than an Electoral Commission investigation to restore the public’s trust in our democratic process.

“Today the Liberal Democrats are launching a campaign demanding that future elections to the Scottish Parliament are carried out under the STV method of fair votes.

“Liberal Democrats have long believed that STV offers the most effective way of electing parliaments. It gives voters more choice than any other system. This in turn puts most power in the hands of the voters, rather than the parties. Fewer votes are ‘wasted’ under STV. This means that most voters can identify a representative who they personally helped to elect. Such a link then accordingly increases a representative’s accountability.

“This month’s local government elections have finally quashed the argument that STV is too complicated for voters to understand. With a much smaller total of rejected ballot papers in the council elections than in the Scottish Parliament elections, it is clear that having the same electoral system for both elections would have reduced significantly the problems we saw across Scotland.

“The UK Government must take rapid and decisive action to restore public confidence in our electoral systems. The time is right to introduce STV elections for the next Scottish Parliament elections.”

STV uses preferential voting in multi-member constituencies. Each voter gets one vote, which can transfer from their first preference to their second preference and so on. If your preferred candidate has no chance of being elected or has enough votes already, your vote is transferred to another candidate in accordance with your instructions. STV thus ensures that very few votes are wasted, unlike other systems, especially First-Past-the-Post, where only a small number of votes actually contribute to the result.

All elections in the Republic of Ireland (with the exception of Presidential elections) are held using STV. Local Government, European and Legislative Assembly elections in Northern Ireland are all held using the STV method, as are various elections in Australia, New Zealand and Malta.

The use of STV in the UK is not without precedent. In 1917, the House of Commons voted in favour of proposals to use STV for 211 of the 569 UK constituencies and the Alternative Vote for the rest. However, after five successive rejections by the House of Lords, the plans were ditched.

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