January 28, 2004
Executive Advised to Make PR Vote Plans Fairer
By Russell Fallis
Differences over plans for
proportional representation (PR) voting in council elections were
brought into focus tonight as Executive advisers recommended they
be changed to make them fairer.
Labour agreed to replace the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system
with the single transferable vote (STV), based on three and four
member wards, as part of its coalition deal with the Liberal
But an interim report by the STV working group recommends
ministers alter the Bill going through Parliament to allow some
wards to have five seats and others, in some remote areas, to have
Smaller parties support a larger number of members per ward as
this tends to increase proportionality, so the recommendation is
likely to find favour with Lib Dems.
But it is unlikely to be welcomed among Labour backbenchers who
are already unhappy about the legislation, which is now undergoing
its first stage of parliamentary scrutiny at Holyrood.
The report, issued tonight, confirms what Holyroodĺ─˘s Local
Government and Transport Committee was told in December by the
group chair David Green.
He told MSPs then that a majority believed the maximum ward size
should rise to five.
The report states: ĺ─˙Some have argued that the proposed range of
three to four members per ward would provide the least
proportional form of STV in operation and the number should be
increased to at least five to achieve proportionality.
ĺ─˙There are also arguments for having two members where
exceptional local circumstances of remoteness and sparsity of
ĺ─˙The requirement for greater flexibility in the range of number
of members per ward has also been strongly argued by the Local
Government Boundary Commission for Scotland to allow for
The group also recommends that new wards should be created afresh
by the Local Government Boundary Commission ĺ─ý subject to a
three-month extendable consultation period ĺ─ý rather than by
merging existing wards.
Labour public services minister Andy Kerr said: ĺ─˙Clearly this is
an interim report but we will need to consider carefully these
recommendations in the context of the passage of the Local
Governance (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish
A spokesman for First Minister Jack McConnell declined to comment
on the report before seeing and considering its proposals, but
added that the coalitionĺ─˘s partnership agreement was ĺ─˙quite
clearĺ─¨ on the issue of ward sizes.
The working group members include Bob Smith of the Local
Government Boundary Commission for Scotland, Dr Ken Ritchie of the
Electoral Reform Society and Councillor Jim McCabe from the
Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.