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Glasgow Evening Times

June 23, 2004

Summary: Today Scotland will vote whether to switch to proportional representation system.  This new bill is expected to pass.

Scotland Evening Times
Go-Ahead for New Election System
By Brian Currie, Political Editor
June, 23, 2004

A NEW way of electing local councillors will be passed by the Scottish Parliament today.

MSPs were debating the Bill to scrap the first-past-the-post system and replace it with a form of proportional representation, but it has already overcome all serious opposition.

The next local authority elections in 2007 will be fought using the Single Transferable Vote system.

That means larger wards with three or four councillors in each, instead of the present one, and will lead to more hung councils.

Under the new Local Governance Bill, Labour - which currently has outright control of 13 of Scotland's 32 local authorities - will be the main loser.

That risk was accepted by First Minister Jack McConnell because proportional representation was the cornerstone of the partnership agreement in the Labour-LibDem coalition pact.

Driving the change through Parliament is Minister for Finance and Public Services Andy Kerr who said today: "Improving the delivery of top-quality public services is one of our key priorities and one that is shared by Scotland's councils.

"The Governance Bill is a milestone in driving forward our renewing local democracy agenda.

"It reflects our continuing commitment to improving democratic participation and widening the range of people who become involved in local government.

"The package of measures in this Bill will make it easier for people to consider standing for election."

Despite opposition from some Labour MSPs, the Bill sailed though its first stage when it was debated in Parliament by 95 votes to 19 and six abstentions.

Two Labour backbenchers - Elaine Smith of Coatbridge and Chryston and Helen Eadie of Dunfermline East - sided with the Tories against the Bill.

Another six labour MSPs abstained including three from Glasgow - Paul Martin, Bill Butler and Johann Lamont.

The new local elections voting system will mean Scotland's 1222 single-member wards will be replaced by 250-400 multi-member wards.


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