Council vote changes outlined
The bill would change how councillors are elected.

Published February 4th 2003 in BBC News

Legislative proposals to reform the way local councillors are elected have been published by the Scottish Executive.

However, the draft bill to introduce a form of proportional representation (PR) for local government will not be considered until after the next election.

The Scottish National Party has said that the bill is not worth the paper it is written on.

SNP local government spokeswoman Tricia Marwick said: "A bill is only a bill when it's introduced to parliament; what the executive is touting has no more status than any other bit of paper."

The Liberal Democrats have long been in favour of PR for local government but their coalition partners in the Labour Party are largely opposed.

The draft Local Governance (Scotland) Bill was unveiled on Tuesday by deputy minister for finance and public services Peter Peacock.

It proposes replacing the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system with a single-transferable-vote (STV) regime.

This would allocate council seats to political parties more closely in line with the proportion of votes cast for each side.

Key condition

Most Labour councillors oppose PR and the Scottish party's ruling executive committee voted to reject electoral reform last July.

But progress on PR was a key condition for Lib Dem leader Jim Wallace agreeing to join Labour in coalition, ensuring the executive had a majority in parliament after the 1999 elections.

Last September, with pressure growing from Lib Dem backbenchers, the executive promised to bring forward a bill before the election on 1 May this year.

The draft bill also contains plans to encourage more diversity among councillors, including a reduction in the lower age limit on eligibility for elections to 18.

There are also plans to improve financial rewards for councillors and tie pay more closely to responsibility.

The SNP's Tricia Marwick said the bill is worthless.

She said its publication, three months before the Holyrood and council elections, comes too late to be considered by the current band of MSPs.

She urged supporters of PR to back her member's bill on STV which goes before parliament on Thursday.