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July 20, 2009

Scotland: "Commons should adopt PR, say Scots voters"

The Herald reports: Scots are the most satisfied about the way democracy works in the UK, a poll published today shows.

Yet the snapshot of 2000 Britons, taken by YouGov for the Fabian Society earlier this month, also shows that voters north of the border are the strongest advocates when it comes to certain changes.

For example, Scots are most strongly in favour of changing Westminster's voting system to proportional representation; and have by far the firmest republican tendencies, as they are the biggest supporters of replacing the Queen with an elected president as head of state, and are most in favour of having an elected House of Lords. ...

On voting reform, some 34% (41% in Scotland) said they favoured PR over the current first-past-the-post system for Westminster, with the Alternative Vote system coming top of the second preferences at 37%(41%). -- Read the whole story --> Commons Should Adopt PR Say Scots Voters (from The Herald )

February 3, 2009

Scotland: register of voters lost after by-election

The Herald reports: THE official register of all those who voted in the crucial Glenrothes by-election in November was lost within days of being handed over by the returning officer to the sheriff clerk in Kirkcaldy, it has been revealed.

The loss has prompted an investigation by the Scottish Court Service, but Tricia Marwick, the SNP MSP for Central Fife, yesterday called for an independent inquiry. ...

Within a fortnight of the election, in which Labour defied the pundits by holding with a majority of 6737, local SNP officials approached Kirkcaldy sheriff court inquiring about the cost of buying a photocopy of the marked-up register. ...

The SNP say they asked several times over December and January before being told it was lost.

A spokesman for the Scottish Court Service said: "Despite comprehensive searches for this document, we have been unable to locate the marked register requested within Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court. -- Demand For Inquiry As Glenrothes Byelection Register Is Lost (from The Herald )

Note: "Sheriff" is a type of judge in Scotland. The "SNP" is the Scottish Nationalist Party, which lost the Glenrothes by-election.

July 18, 2008

Scotland: educational charity became involved in politics, report says

The Herald reports: The think tank set up in memory of the late Labour leader John Smith broke the laws governing charities by getting involved in party politics, the Charity Commission has ruled.

The commission, which completed a 17-month investigation into the organisation closely linked to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, voiced concern that the Smith Institute strayed too far from its educational remit by hosting events at 11 Downing Street and by issuing material of a party political nature.

However, the commission concluded that there was "no evidence" to support an allegation that Mr Brown, who was chancellor during the period in question, used the institute to "further his political aspirations". ...

The report found a number of instances "where the balance and neutrality of the institute's work were compromised by a party political association". -- John Smith Institute Broke Charity Laws On Political Support (from The Herald )

July 1, 2008

UK: proposal to strip Scottish MPs of vote on English bills

The Scotsman reports: THE Conservatives' long-awaited response to the discrepancy between English and Scottish MPs' voting rights will be laid bare today, when Kenneth Clarke, the former chancellor, launches his Democracy Taskforce report.

Mr Clarke is to propose stripping Scots MPs of the right to vote at the crucial committee stage of bills if the legislation is on devolved matters that only apply to constituents south of the Border.

His proposals in the report, Answering the Question – Devolution, The West Lothian Question and the future of the Union, fall short of the creation of an English grand committee proposed by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary. Some activists claim Mr Clarke's proposals still give Scottish MPs too much power.

The report is to be launched in London today by Mr Clarke and Nick Herbert, the shadow justice secretary. Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP who first pointed out the constitutional anomaly, leading it to be called the "West Lothian Question" after his seat at the time, said the detail of the proposals was vital. -- Scots MPs may lose right to vote on English bills - The Scotsman

May 26, 2008

Scotland: campaign finance rules will vary depending on who calls referendum on independence from UK

The Herald reports: A referendum on independence could lead to unfair and unbalanced campaigning by political parties if it were called by Holyrood, it has emerged.

John McCormick, the Electoral Commission s Scottish member, said yesterday that the current election law, passed in 2000, would set clear rules if Westminster calls another national referendum, including a cap on campaign finance, registration of non-party campaign organisations and a register of donors. The Electoral Commission chairman, currently Sam Younger, would be the national referendum returning officer, or he could delegate that role.

But that does not apply to the Scottish Parliament if it calls a referendum, meaning the campaign could be skewed by large amounts of money, without its source being open, allowing one side to dominate the campaign.

With the SNP wanting a referendum in autumn 2010 and with Labour s Holyrood leader, Wendy Alexander, saying she will back one, at least in principle, the rules to ensure a fair fight are far from clear. -- Fairness Warning On Rules For Referendum from The Herald

May 17, 2008

Scotland: expert casts doubt on 2007 election results

Scotland on Sunday reports: THE expert appointed to investigate last year s Scottish Parliament election fiasco has said some MSPs may have no right to sit at Holyrood.

Elections watchdog Ron Gould revealed he is not comfortable with the view that all 129 MSPs elected last year actually received more votes than their opponents. He blames the farce in which more than 140,000 ballots were spoiled.

Gould s astonishing comments last night threw a cloud of uncertainty over the Scottish Parliament s integrity, and over the SNP s historic victory.

Last May, First Minister Alex Salmond won power on the back of a one seat victory over Labour. One constituency, Cunninghame North, was won with a majority of just 49. It later emerged that 1,015 votes had been spoilt. In other seats the spoiled papers outweighed the winner s majority, suggesting different results could have emerged if they had been counted. -- Wrong MSPs elected in poll fiasco - Scotland on Sunday

March 26, 2008

Scotland: Salmond proposes preferential-voting referendum on independence, more powers, or status quo

The Scotsman reports: SCOTLAND could become independent with less than 50 per cent of people backing that as their first choice for the country, under plans unveiled by Alex Salmond yesterday.

The First Minister delivered a bombshell announcement that the referendum on independence would probably not be a straight yes-no vote.

Instead, people would be asked to rank a series of options in order of preference – independence, the status quo or more powers for the parliament. This could mean independence being gained, even if only a minority rank it as first choice.

Critics immediately raised concerns because, on such a momentous issue, voters' second choices would become as important as the first, after the option with least votes was knocked out. In an extreme set of circumstances, independence could be achieved with only 26 per cent making it their top preference, if all the second-choice votes plumped for a break from the Union. ...

Under this system, the first choice votes would be added up and the option with the least support eliminated. The second-choice votes from this third option would then be re-allocated and the option achieving the most overall votes would win. -- Minority vote could take Scotland out of the Union - The Scotsman

March 7, 2008

Scotland: vote-counting firm could not count the votes because software license had expired

The Herald reports: The firm behind last year s election fiasco has been blamed again after a local council by-election was thrown into disarray.

More than 100,000 votes were not counted in last May s debacle but fewer than 3000 were involved in the latest count, which saw the declaration abandoned overnight in South Lanarkshire.

Only 2594 votes were cast in South Lanarkshire Council s Cambuslang East ward on Thursday but candidates had to wait until noon yesterday to find out the result after the system could not process the data once the votes were counted.

It emerged the software that was being used by DRS, the firm used to supply the equipment and staff for the count, did not work because the licence had expired. The same counting software was used for the Cambuslang East count as that used in last May s Holyrood election. -- Holyrood Election Firm In New Poll Shambles from The Herald

February 13, 2008

Scotland: it's redistricting time

The Herald reports: THE first proposals for constituency boundary changes since devolution sent MSPs scurrying to their back offices with advisers yesterday. Who might lose? Who might gain? Which comrades might be rivals for a combined seat? ...

The secretary of the Boundary Commission for Scotland was much more sanguine. "MSPs' careers are really not my bag," explained Dr Hugh Buchanan, the calmest voice on the whole issue yesterday.

The reason for Dr Buchanan's calm at the centre of the storm of speculation is that the commission works to statute and the statute is pretty tight.

They work out what the average seat size should be, they try to fit these into local authority boundaries, then they deal with knock-ons from that until they have an overall plan they are prepared to put before the public. -- How The Flight To Suburbia Has Redrawn Scottish Political Map (from The Herald )

January 27, 2008

Scotland: Vote-counting firm refuses to appear before Scottish parliamentary committee

The Sunday Herald reports: THE FIRM that provided the e-counting technology at last year's botched Holyrood election is refusing to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into the fiasco.

DRS, which supplied the equipment for scanning and reading the ballot papers, said it has had to "regrettably decline" a request for oral evidence.

The company believes the "quantity of information" it provided to a previous inquiry makes an appearance at Holyrood unnecessary.

The snub comes as the parliament's local government and communities committee looks at the problems surrounding last year's Scottish elections.

Around 140,000 ballots were spoiled last May after voters failed to get to grips with the new single ballot paper.

An official inquiry into the bungled election, led by Canadian Ron Gould, blamed political parties and the Scotland Office for putting their own interests above those of the public. -- Votecount Firm Snubs Holyrood Inquiry (from Sunday Herald)

January 7, 2008

Scotland: Scottish Parliament begins debate on Gould report

The Scotsman reports: SNP ministers hope a majority of MSPs will back plans this week to transfer responsibility for Scottish elections to Holyrood.

Parliament will debate the issue on Thursday as part of the long inquest into last year's voting fiasco which resulted in more than 140,000 spoiled ballot papers.

Ron Gould, the Canadian expert brought in to review the chaos, concluded that responsibility for elections should be handed over to the Scottish Parliament.

This is something the SNP is keen to secure as it would allow MSPs to change the voting system for Holyrood and make the Scottish Parliament more autonomous.

The Gould Report will be debated by MSPs this week and Scottish Government sources made clear last night that they wanted to send a message to the UK government that Holyrood wants control of its own elections. -- Holyrood hopes for remit to run Scots elections - The Scotsman

December 14, 2007

Scotland: Labour Party leader accept 950-pound illegal contribution

The Economist reports: FOR Gordon Brown, the party-funding scandal which has already claimed the job of the Labour Party's general secretary, Peter Watt, and threatens senior figures in the government shows no sign of going away. It has instead spread north to his native Scotland, where Wendy Alexander, Labour's leader in the devolved Parliament, is fighting to save her career.

The sum involved in Ms Alexander's case (£950, or $1,960) is comically small next to the more than £660,000 given to the Labour Party by David Abrahams, a Newcastle businessman, through intermediaries. Yet Ms Alexander, seen but recently as the Scottish Labour Party's shining hope, boobed tremendously. To finance her leadership campaign (which, since she was the only candidate, was not a costly affair) she raised £16,000, including £950 from Paul Green. A property developer who lives in the Channel Islands, Mr Green cannot vote in British elections, so accepting his cash was against the law.

Ms Alexander maintains that she was led to believe the money came from a Glasgow company controlled by Mr Green. But the company denies any knowledge of the donation. Mr Green insists it was a personal contribution, even brandishing a letter of thanks from Ms Alexander sent to his Jersey home. One head has already rolled: Charlie Gordon, a Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) from Glasgow, who solicited Mr Green's donation, has resigned as the party's transport spokesman. But this has failed to pacify those such as Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of Westminster's Committee on Standards in Public Life, who believe that Ms Alexander should consider her position, too. -- Political donations | Not so darling Wendy |

November 30, 2007

Scotland: Labour Party leader accepted illegal contribution -- with a thank-you note

The Scotsman reports: WENDY Alexander was facing a police investigation into her campaign finances last night after it emerged that she had written a personal thank-you letter to a businessman for an illegal donation.

The Scottish Labour leader disclosed this week that members of her campaign team had broken the law when they accepted a cheque for £950 from Paul Green, a Channel Isles-based businessman, for her leadership campaign. He is not a registered UK voter, so is not allowed to donate to British political parties.

Ms Alexander's aides have consistently argued that the donation was handled only by Charlie Gordon, a Labour MSP, and that she did not know the details of Mr Green's donation. Mr Gordon at first told the campaign team the money had been donated legitimately through a Glasgow company, Combined Property Services, but it later emerged that Mr Green's name had been on the cheque.

And it was revealed yesterday that Ms Alexander had written to Mr Green personally in October this year, from her home in Glasgow, thanking him for his cheque. -- The Scotsman - Bombshell for Labour on illegal donations

October 25, 2007

Scotland: Gould clarifies report

The Herald reports: Douglas Alexander, the minister criticised over the Scottish election fiasco, last night demanded an apology from those politicians who had "impugned his integrity".

After the publication of a critical report into the voting shambles earlier this week the former Scotland Secretary, who is now at the International Development Department and Gordon Brown's General Election co-ordinator, was accused by MPs of "having his finger in the till" and of "attempted gerrymandering".

But yesterday Ron Gould, the Canadian election expert who wrote the report, said in a letter to the Electorial Commission that he had never suggested specific actions were taken by ministers to advance their own party's interests.

n the light of Mr Gould's comments Mr Alexander now wants an apology from politicians including Tory leader David Cameron, shadow Scotland Secretary David Mundell, First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish LibDem MP Alistair Carmichael. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

October 22, 2007

Scotland: Gould report makes recommendations for changing election administration

The Herald reports: Scotland needs to have a national returning officer and one layer of government controlling elections, according to a hard-hitting review of the fiasco that hit the May 3 ballots this year. It is understood that Ron Gould, the Canadian elections expert who has led a five-month review of what went wrong at the Holyrood and council votes, will report this morning that the fractured nature of elections in Scotland needs to be confronted.

Instead of 32 returning officers, each having autonomy over their own count, he is thought to conclude that there should be a streamlined, national system with one person overseeing the process.

The report is understood to be critical of the division between the Scotland Office in Whitehall having responsibility for Holyrood elections, while the Scottish Government in Edinburgh oversees council elections.

Moving to a single tier taking control would be likely to mean a significant devolution of power from Westminster to Holyrood.

It could open the door to a change of voting system for the Scottish Parliament, as there is probably a majority in favour of moving to the electoral system used for the first time for local authorities this year, meaning preferential votes for multi-member constituencies. The Gould report is also thought to confront the controversial question of how parties can describe themselves on the ballot form, after the SNP used "Alex Salmond for First Minister" to gain a prominent position on the form. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

The report is here (but none of the links work as of this posting).

September 22, 2007

Scotland: poor areas had more spoilt ballots

The Herald reports: Voters in Scotland's poorest communities were twice as likely to have their votes rejected in last May's ballot fiasco as the average for Scotland.

The astonishing finding has come from Strathclyde University research, which suggests that Glasgow was by far the worst affected.

Social deprivation - including low educational attainment, poor health and unemployment - was the biggest factor leading to variation in rejection, even after other factors have been calculated out of the complex equation.

Glasgow had eight of the 10 constituencies with the highest number of spoiled papers. In Glasgow Shettleston, 12% of votes cast were spoiled. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

June 23, 2007

Scotland: University study finds ballot-paper design caused spoilt ballots

Scotland on Sunday reports: THE record number of spoilt votes at last month's Scottish elections were largely caused by major faults in the design of the ballot paper, according to an academic study.

Researchers at Strathclyde University have concluded that thousands of people made mistakes because they did not understand the instructions on the papers which, for the first time, asked them to mark two votes on a single sheet.

In both Glasgow and Edinburgh, some of the instructions were truncated to make room for the 23 different parties on the regional list. This, the researchers concluded, was a key reason why people got confused and spoiled their papers.

The findings, by Dr Christopher Carman and Professor James Mitchell, concluded that there were a total of 146,097 spoiled papers. This compares to just 15,107 in the 2003 election. Of Scotland's 73 constituencies, there were 16 where the winning margin was less than the number of ballots spoiled. -- Scotland on Sunday - Politics - Ballot paper design at fault for record number of spoilt votes

Scotland: SNP will start petition campaign for independence referendum

The Scotsman reports: SNP activists want to by-pass parliament on the issue of independence by starting a massive petition to force MSPs to agree to a referendum, it emerged last night.

The SNP National Council is expected to approve a plan today which would give the go-ahead for a nationwide campaign.

Activists believe the parliament would be left with no choice but to accept the referendum plan if the petition was signed by 100,000 people or more.

The SNP government is committed to introducing a bill paving the way for a referendum but it does not have the support of enough MSPs from other parties to secure its passage through parliament. -- The Scotsman - Politics - SNP to seek 100,000 signatures in push for independence referendum

June 17, 2007

Scotland: Scottish Labour condemns UK Labour minister's decision on single ballot paper

The Sunday Herald reports: LABOUR MSPS have fuelled the simmering tensions with the party at Westminster by blaming Scottish secretary Douglas Alexander for the Holyrood election fiasco which disenfranchised more than 100,000 voters.

A secret report listing Labour MSPs' views on the poll debacle claimed Alexander's decision to use a single ballot paper for the parliament election was "confusing" and wrong.

It also suggested MSPs' concerns on the issue had been ignored by the wider Scottish party, which pushed ahead with its plan for one ballot paper.

The claims reveal the tensions between Labour at Holyrood and Westminster and point to the recriminations taking place behind the scenes after the party's loss to the SNP. -- The Sunday Herald - Scotland's award-winning independent newspaper

Scotland: Tories will back a referendum, but campaign against independence

Scotland on Sunday reports: A REFERENDUM on Scottish independence could be held as early as next year after a dramatic move by Conservative leaders to support the historic poll.

The party's vice-chairman has publicly backed a referendum as soon as possible to "clear the air" over Scotland's constitutional future.

Several Tory MSPs are backing the move, claiming the poll - which is likely to reject independence three to one - would "shoot the Nationalists' fox".

Conservative supporters of the plan believe it is essential to kill off the independence issue to reassure businesses and potential investors that Scotland has a stable future, while also giving them a chance to set the "positive case" for the Union. -- Scotland on Sunday - Politics - Tories back vote on independence

May 29, 2007

Scotland: independent inquiry may review spoilt ballots

The Herald reports: The Scotland Office has indicated that it is willing to change the law to let the Holyrood election inquiry see the thousands of ballot papers which were spoiled on May 3.

Concerns have been raised that the inquiry, under the leadership of the Canadian election expert Ron Gould, may be toothless because it has no statutory powers to order the release of the 142,000 discarded ballots.

But The Herald has learned that the Scotland Office would be willing to introduce a piece of secondary legislation at Westminster which would allow the spoiled papers to be made available. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

May 25, 2007

Scotland: Labour will not challenge close loss in one seat

BBC News reports: Labour has announced that it will not mount a legal challenge to a Scottish election result which cost a minister his seat.

Former Enterprise Minister Allan Wilson saw his Cunninghame North seat fall to the SNP who took it by a majority of just 48 in the Holyrood elections.

More than 1,000 votes were rejected in Cunninghame North.

Labour said the independent inquiry ordered by the Electoral Commission should be adequate. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | No Labour challenge over election

May 24, 2007

Scotland: views of an American observer

Rob Richie's article on observing the Scottish election begins:
On May 3rd, Scotland held groundbreaking elections for its regional parliament and for local government, using two different proportional voting methods. As a result of these new, fairer methods, the Scottish National Party (SNP) ousted the Labor Party from power in the parliamentary vote and with other opposition parties gained major ground in local elections. At the same time, however, a sharp rise in invalid ballots and delays in the count caused a storm of controversy.

I was part of a 25-member delegation of civic leaders, city councilors and election officials organized by FairVote and the British Electoral Reform Society that observed the elections and attended pre-election and post-election briefings on redistricting and election administration in Britain. We need more such delegations, as there is much we can learn from the experiences of other advanced democracies as they work to reform their election practices. -- IN THE NEWS » Blog Archive » Election Observers Abroad

May 23, 2007

Scotland: Labour MP trots out the "Hitler argument" against election system

The Scotman reports:
THE voting system which delivered victory for Alex Salmond was yesterday likened to the one which saw Adolf Hitler rise to power.

In a heated exchange in the Commons about the Scottish elections fiasco, a Labour MP blamed the proportional representation system for the voting debacle and the SNP's win.

Anne Moffat, who represents East Lothian, asked MPs: "Is it not the case proportional representation gave Germany Adolf Hitler and in Scotland, to a lesser degree, we have the [Westminster] member for Banff and Buchan (Alex Salmond). Can that be a good thing?"

The remark prompted shouts of "outrageous" in the Commons chamber. It came in the middle of a Westminster debate initiated by the Conservatives, calling for an independent inquiry into the May elections. -- The Scotsman - Politics - Poll system that put Salmond in office 'gave Germany Hitler'

May 22, 2007

Scotland: Gould to ask public's views on election snafu

BBC News reports: The international expert who is to carry out the inquiry into the Scottish election voting fiasco will ask members of the public to submit their views.

Canadian Ron Gould, who has been invited by the Electoral Commission to lead the review, will also interview politicians and electoral officials.

He hopes to complete his inquiries into both the Holyrood and local government elections by the end of August. ...

He has been tasked with examining issues including the high number of rejected ballots, the electronic counting process and the controversial decision to hold local elections on the same day as the Holyrood vote. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Vote inquiry wants public views

May 20, 2007

Scotland: ERS report on local government elections

The Electoral Reform Society has issued its report on the Scottish local authority elections: The introduction of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) for Scottish local government was a change long campaigned for by the Electoral Reform Society along with numerous other civic and political groups. We are, on the whole, delighted with the result.

The repercussions of the elections on 3 May are continuing to emerge. There are some points, though, which are already apparent. The elections to Scotland’s local authorities give us a positive story to tell about Scotland’s voters wielding the power of STV for the first time.

It is important to recognise the significance of these Scottish local elections. This was the first time that STV had been used in a large-scale public election on the UK mainland. It was a new system and, to a certain extent, an experiment. This initial report from the Electoral Reform Society aims to present the first findings from that experiment accessibly yet comprehensively. An STV election – particularly this one, being the first – invites further analysis and comment and we will provide that in a comprehensive report in the summer. This initial report, however, contains the key lessons that can be learned from the results of the 3 May local elections. -- Scottish LG report May 2007.pdf (application/pdf Object)

May 18, 2007

Scotland: ERS calls council elections "resounding success"

BBC News reports:
The Electoral Reform Society has hailed Scotland's council election as a resounding success.

The organisation has suggested that there were "major inadequacies" in the vote for the Scottish Parliament, which saw more than 140,000 rejected ballots.

However, a report from the society will say that the single transferable vote (STV) system used in the council election worked well.

It wants Holyrood to adopt the STV method, a call backed by the Lib Dems.

Research carried out by the BBC has shown that the proportion of spoilt ballot papers was far lower for the council election on 3 May. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Council election hailed a success

May 16, 2007

Scotland: Salmond elected as First Minister

The Scotsman reports: The Scottish National Party leader, Alex Salmond, has become Scotland's First Minister after a close vote in the Scottish Parliament.

In the first round of voting, Mr Salmond received 49 votes. Jack McConnell, the Scottish Labour leader, received 46 votes. Annabel Goldie of the Scottish Conservatives and Nicol Stephen, the Scottish Liberal Democrats leader, were eliminated from the contest after getting 16 votes each.

In the second round of voting Mr Salmond received 49 votes and Mr McConnell 46, making the SNP leader First Minister. The Lib Dems and the Tories abstained. -- The Scotsman - Politics - Alex Salmond becomes Scotland's First Minister

May 15, 2007

Scotland: analysis of an STV election

I was reviewing the election returns for the Edinburgh City Council. Edinburgh is divided into 17 wards, each of which returns 3 or 4 council members. Local councilors all over Scotland are elected using Single Transferable Voting.

In most of the wards, the 3 or 4 candidates with the most first preferences were elected. In three wards (Wards 14, 16, and 17), this was not true -- and in each case, it was the Conservative candidate who lost by not getting enough transfers from other parties.

Let's take a look at Ward 17 (Portobello/Craigmillar). You probably ought to print out the "All preferences" spreadsheet so you can follow along. The candidate with the most first preferences was Bridgman (the sole SNP candidate). About 1/3 of his ballots had no additional preferences. The two candidates receiving the most transfers from Bridgeman's surplus were Child (Labour) and McColl (Green). Each of these parties agrees on a lot of issues with the SNP, so the transfers were not that surprising.

But let's look at the end of the count. The top three candidates were Bridgeman (SNP), Child (Labor), and Miller (Conservative). Child picks up enough transfers from eliminated candidates to be elected, but Miller does not get elected. The third position goes to Hawkins (Liberal Democrat) who was behind Miller on first preference votes. What made the difference? Miller received very few transfers, but Hawkins picked up a good number of votes in the Stage 6 exclusion of Circi (Liberal -- not Liberal Democrat), the Stage 10 exclusion of Burns (Independent), and the Stage 12 exclusion of McColl (Green).

In contrast, Miller received only dribbles of votes from excluded candidates' transfers.

Another thing to note about the Edinburgh council elections is the diversity of representation in each ward. Only in a few wards are there more than one councilor from the same party: Ward 3 (2 of 3 are LibDems), Ward 6 (2 of 3 are LibDems), Ward 7 (2 of 4 are Labour), Ward 8 (2 of 3 are Conservative), and Ward 16 (2 of 4 are Labour).

Scotland: change in ballot may have increased voters' errors

BBC reports: Another clue has emerged as to why more than 140,000 ballots were rejected in the Scottish elections.

BBC Scotland has established that voters in two of the biggest cities did not receive the ballot papers they had been led to expect.

The papers had been redesigned after the nominations closed to cope with the high number of parties and individuals. ...

In Lothian and Glasgow, no fewer than 23 parties and individuals were vying for the list vote.

It was feared there would be too many on the ballot paper to permit electronic counting.

So in both regions arrows designed to help voters put one cross in each column were scrapped.

It meant thousands of voters went to the polling booths expecting to see one design of ballot paper and were faced with another. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Clue over voter ballot confusion

Scotland: lower rate of spoilt ballots in STV council elections

The Scotsman reports: THE city council elections escaped the widespread confusion that plagued the Holyrood vote, detailed statistics released today show.

Figures given out by Edinburgh returning officer Tom Aitchison reveal only 1.3 per cent of council votes were spoiled at the May 3 elections in the Capital, compared with 5.2 per cent of Holyrood constituency votes, and 3.1 per cent of Holyrood list votes.

There had been fears the introduction of a new voting system for council elections, the Single Transferable Vote (STV), would lead to confusion among voters.

Although the percentage of spoiled council ballot papers this time was double the 0.6 per cent recorded in Edinburgh's last council elections in 2003, it was nowhere near the disastrous figures for this year's Scottish Parliament elections.

The Electoral Reform Society - which has long campaigned for STV - said the low rate of spoiled papers in the council elections showed voters had coped well with the change from voting with an X to ranking candidates in order of preference. -- News - Holyrood Elections - Council result makes easier reading than Holyrood

May 13, 2007

Scotland: Greens will "cooperate" with SNP's minority government

The Scotsman reports: THE SNP moved a step closer to minority government yesterday after securing only loose support from the Scottish Green Party.

The two parties had hoped to form a coalition, or at least a "confidence and supply" model of working in order to strengthen both sides.

But without the involvement of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and enough seats to form a majority, there was little incentive to make serious policy commitments and, in the end, the parties settled on a "co-operation agreement".

However, the deal allows the SNP to move on to forming a minority government next week, especially after securing a vote from the Greens for Alex Salmond as First Minister.

For their part, the Greens get a convenership of one of the parliamentary committees and a commitment by the SNP to bring forward climate-change targets early in any government as well as oppose building any nuclear power stations in Scotland. -- The Scotsman - Politics - SNP and Greens' pact paves way for new government

Scotland: the results

BBC has some good tables of the results of the Scottish Parliamentary elections and less good tables on the council elections. The council election tables are less useful because they give no indication of the number of votes received by any party on the first count nor any of the details of the transfers (remember the council elections were by Single Transferable Vote). -- BBC NEWS | Election 2007 | Scottish Parliament | Election Result: Scotland

May 10, 2007

Scotland: catching up on the election results.

God bless the libraries. I am writing now on a public-access computer at the Conwy County Library in North Wales. Public-access computer and Internet cafes are not nearly as common as wi-fi access points in Britain, and I did not carry along a computer.

I will be travelling over the next two days, first to the airport and then home, so this is an interim catch-up session. The stories below are from the big papers in Scotland -- the ones I relied on while in-country. Next week, I hope to give you some first hand reporting of the election process -- and maybe some pictures.

Scotland: Nationalists win one-vote plurality in Scottish Parliament

The Scotsman reported on last Friday: THE Scottish Nationalists have become the largest party in the Scottish parliament, beating Labour by one seat, but the process of counting the votes was dogged by chaos.

When the last results finally came in, just before 6pm, the SNP had 47 seats and Labour 46. The Conservatives won 17 seats, the Liberal Democrats 16. The Green Party earned two seats and the independent Margo MacDonald won re-election on the Lothians list. The SSP and Solidarity were completely wiped out. -- SNP beat Labour by one seat in Scottish election

Scotland: Greens and Labour considering election contests

The Scotsman reported on last Satruday: THE GREENS have demanded to examine every spoiled ballot paper from the election as a major inquiry into Scotland's election fiasco gets underway.

The party emerged from the election with just two MSPs - co-leader of the party Robin Harper, who retained his seat on the Lothians list, and Patrick Harvie, who kept his seat in Glasgow.

This was a dramatic drop from the seven MSPs elected at the 2003 count, and the party confirmed it had submitted a Freedom of Information request to look at the 100,000 spoiled ballot papers to try to work out what went wrong. ...

It also emerged last night that Labour was taking legal advice on whether or not to mount a legal challenge to the result in Cunninghame North, which saw Deputy Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister Allan Wilson lose by just 48 to the SNP's Kenneth Gibson. -- Greens demand to see spoiled ballots after dramatic fall in seats

Scotland: Calls for independent inquiry of Scottish election problems

The Scotsman reports today: DOUGLAS Alexander, the Scottish Secretary, last night faced new pressure to set up an independent inquiry into last week's election chaos.

On Tuesday, Mr Alexander handed the job of investigating the Holyrood ballot paper fiasco to the Electoral Commission voting watchdog.

But fresh details of the number of spoilt papers revealed yesterday put Mr Alexander under pressure to change his mind as the commission itself had backed the decision to have one ballot paper for the regional list and constituency votes.

Figures compiled by academics at Strathclyde University showed there were 85,717 rejected constituency votes and 56,247 from the regional list.

Although reports yesterday that this amounted to more than 140,000 spoilt ballots were mistaken - many of the wrongly filled-in sections were on the same papers - the new detail led to fresh calls for a full independent investigation.

However, the figures, compiled from data provided by returning officers around Scotland, make it even clearer that there was voter confusion over the regional and constituency vote being on the same paper.

With the initial instruction on the ballot paper saying people had two votes, a large number seem to have voted twice in the regional list. -- Pressure grows for poll inquiry

Scotland: 10% of parliamentary ballots "spoiled"

Scotland on Sunday reported: INTERNATIONAL observers last night labelled the Holyrood election voting chaos "totally unacceptable".

Robert Richie, executive director of US-based Fair Vote, was among more than 30 experts from North America who watched Scottish democracy in action. But he said the difficulties, which saw one in 10 votes rejected, amounted to Scotland's version of the "hanging chads" fiasco in Florida which marred the 2000 US presidential election.

Richie said the difficulty arose from the design and instructions on the ballot papers and lack of consistency in judging which ballots were spoiled.

"The most fundamental flaw was the ballot design of the party and constituency votes in two columns on the same page, rather than on separate pages.

"Also, it seems confusion was caused by the change in the rules which allowed parties to use the names of leaders, rather than the party, in the first column. We saw this with the SNP's 'Alex Salmond for First Minister' and 'Tommy Sheridan Solidarity'. Some people may have thought they were voting for candidates."

The delegation of foreign observers was in Scotland at the invitation of the Electoral Reform Society, which has condemned the problems that engulfed the Holyrood polls. -- Election chaos unacceptable, say observers

April 29, 2007

In London

I had forgotten how bloody uncomfortable trans-Atlantic plane travel is. I might have been better off sealed into a crate.

The election observation team had its first meeting today. We meet with leaders in the Department of Constitutional Affairs (to become the Ministry of Justice in mid-May) and the Electoral Commission.

April 27, 2007

Scotland: latest poll shows SNP ahead by 9 points

The Edinburgh Evening News reports:
THE SNP has stretched its lead over Labour in a new opinion poll out today.

The YouGov survey puts the Nationalists nine points ahead in the constituency vote with 39 per cent support, compared with Labour's 30 per cent, 15 per cent for the Liberal Democrats and 13 per cent for the Tories.

But in the regional vote, the SNP lead fell from six points to four. The Nationalists were on 31 per cent, Labour 27 per cent, the Tories 13 per cent and the Lib Dems 11 per cent. The main reason for the gap closing appears to be a leap in Green support from six to nine per cent. ...

Translated into seats, today's poll findings give the SNP 44 MSPs, five more than Labour with 39, while the Lib Dems and Tories would each have 17, the Greens nine and others three. -- Edinburgh Evening News - Politics - Nationalists stretch to a nine per cent lead poll over Labour

April 26, 2007

Scotland: Labour and SNP appear to be tied in polls

The Edinburgh Evening News reports:
Two new polls today showed the SNP still ahead with just a week to go until polling day.

A survey by mruk research, which last month gave Labour a four-point lead, today put the SNP four points ahead in the constituency vote - 38 per cent to Labour's 34 per cent - and one point ahead on the list vote of 37 per cent to Labour's 36 per cent.

The other poll by Progressive Scottish Opinion gave the SNP a two-point lead in the constituency vote and a three-point advantage on the list.

But it suggested a dead heat in terms of seats with both parties getting 44 MSPs elected. -- Edinburgh Evening News - Politics - SNP rules out quick replay for a 'No' vote referendum

Scotland: neither LibDems or Tories will join a coalition to keep SNP out of power

Two stories in Friday's papers show that neither the 3rd or 4th party will join a coalition with Labour just to keep the SNP out of power. The Scotsman reported: THERE will be no Unionist coalition to keep the SNP out of office, Nicol Stephen revealed yesterday.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said the largest party in the parliament would have the "moral authority" to govern.

If that party was the SNP then the Liberal Democrats would find it "very difficult" to do deals with Labour to prevent the Nationalists from taking power.

Mr Stephen said that if the SNP emerged as the biggest party he would try to do a deal with the Nationalists. But if that foundered because of divisions over an independence referendum, then it was likely he would take his party to the "opposition benches" without trying to form a coalition with Labour. -- The Scotsman - Politics - Lib Dem leader insists largest party has authority

And the Herald reported: Annabel Goldie yesterday launched a vehement defence of the Union but refused to commit her party's support for an anti-Nationalist coalition to defeat the SNP's plans for independence.

In a keynote speech in Edinburgh, the Scottish Conservatives leader said Scotland was currently able to "shape the world" through the UK's membership of Nato, the G8 and the UN Security Council - all of which independence would put under threat.

She predicted that there would be "a clear Unionist majority" in the Scottish Parliament after May 3, with the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats taking most of the seats. But she stopped short of pledging to join forces with Labour and the LibDems to secure an anti-independence majority at Holyrood. -- Goldie defends Union, but won’t join coalition

April 24, 2007

Scotland: postal votes being delayed

The Scotsman reports: SCOTLAND'S postal voting system has been thrown into chaos days before polling.

Electoral Reform Services, the company employed to administer postal ballot papers for councils across Scotland, has had to delay the process.

The hold-up has been blamed on a failure to inform city officials about changes to the design of the voting slips and extra checks to ensure that the papers would be suitable for electronic counting. -- The Scotsman - Politics - Delays over postal votes

A more detailed story appears in the Edinburgh Evening News,

April 15, 2007

Scotland: SNP and LibDems promoting a local income tax

The Scotsman reports: NICOL Stephen and Alex Salmond joined forces yesterday to promote their plans for a local income tax - the latest in a series of moves which narrow the gap between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP ahead of the election.

Mr Salmond, the SNP leader, and Mr Stephen, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, combined during a televised leaders' debate to attack Jack McConnell and his Labour Party's plans to retain the council tax.

Several times Mr Salmond not only said he agreed with Mr Stephen but once even shouted "hear, hear" during one of the Lib Dem leader's answers.

Mr Stephen then publicly praised Mr Salmond for his answers, making it clear that there was very little between the parties on this issue. Both leaders denied there had been any behind-the-scenes talks designed to facilitate a coalition after the election, but it was clear from yesterday's performance that neither has any problem, at least in principle, with working with the other on policies like council tax. -- The Scotsman - Politics - SNP and Lib Dems in old pals' act over tax

Scotland: new poll shows Labour ahead

The Herald reports: Either the electorate's mood is unusually volatile, or some pollsters are in trouble. The same researcher which last week trumpeted a 12-point poll lead for the SNP found, over the past week, that Labour is three points ahead.

As these polls, carried out by Scottish Opinion, are the two most recent published, it leaves the election campaign further open than anyone had thought.

On constituency vote intentions, Labour had 35% support, the SNP 32%, LibDems 15%, the Tories 13% and others 5%. On the regional vote, Labour had 34% support, with the SNP on 31%, LibDems 13%, Tories on 12%, Greens 5% and others scoring 5%.

Part of the reasoning may be that polls continue to find high numbers of undecided Scots. An mruk research survey carried out for The Herald at the end of March found 50% of voters were undecided, and of them two-thirds were either certain or very likely to vote. That poll was the only other one to put Labour ahead, but it was not alone in finding voters unwilling to commit. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

April 14, 2007

Scotland: LibDems threaten suit over Labour election pamphlet

Edinburgh Evening News reports about the local council elections also to be held on 3 May: LIBERAL Democrats are threatening Labour with legal action over claims made in a council election leaflet.

A newsletter circulated by Cameron Day, Labour's candidate in Drum Brae/Gyle ward, quotes council Lib Dem leader Jenny Dawe - who is standing in the same ward - saying: "We want local income tax so we can get more money from local people." ...

The letter, signed by David Watson, election agent for West Edinburgh Liberal Democrats, said if Labour did not halt distribution of the newsletter "I shall have to instruct that legal action be taken by our solicitor".

Mr Watson also complained about a claim in the leaflet that Lib Dem councillors voted against Labour's plans to fund 84 extra police officers directly from the council's budget. ...

But Mr Day today insisted the quote from Cllr Dawe and the statement about the vote on police officers were accurate and he would carry on using them. -- Edinburgh Evening News - Politics - Lib Dems threaten Labour over election leaflet's claims

Scotland: the agreements and differences in the party platforms

The Herald reports: The manifestos published, the battle lines are clear at last. Now to push the range of campaign pledges through direct mail and phone banks, the media and advertising on an unprecedented scale.

One striking aspect of the major party manifestos is their similarity, clustered around key themes. They want improvements in health and education, with a similar range of promises of reduced waiting times, local clinical provision and smaller school classes, but with slightly different means of getting there. There is a row yet to erupt about student finance. ...

Lacking the major taxation, economic and welfare powers retained at Westminster, the areas of dispute at this election are focussed around a narrow range of issues, and that means they can get blown out of proportion. Four years ago, Labour and the Liberal Democrats disagreed most on whether parents could be jailed for failing to control their children. This time, the disputed issues remain small, but the significance is bigger.

Independence has featured in Labour's campaign for months, and LibDem and Tory readiness to embrace more devolved powers has left Labour isolated.

The other big issue confirmed over the past week is the future of council tax. Labour argues for modest tinkering, Tories for a pensioner discount, while their opponents argue for a change to income-based tax. All of them face problems with their plans, as the current tax is unpopular but reform could be impractical and would mean some losing out and complaining loudly. That is certain to remain a theme for remaining weeks. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

April 9, 2007

Scotland: Who wants to rule have at one seat in the country? -- Christian parties

BBC News reports: No sex before marriage, tackling divorce rates and cutting drug abuse and obesity.

These are just some of the issues being highlighted by Christian parties hoping to return MSPs to Holyrood in the May election. ...

The Christian Peoples Alliance, has already made an early attack on religious policy - branding the Scottish Greens "eco-fascists" over their plans to integrate state religious schools into non-denominational education. ...

The party, which has also made reference to the so-called "erosion of marriage", has decided to field eight Scottish Parliament list candidates and one council candidate, with the aim of having at least one MSP after the election. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Christian parties in Holyrood bid

BBC links to these websites for the The Scottish Christian Party and Christian Peoples Alliance - Scotland.

April 8, 2007

Scotland: latest poll shows SNP 12 points ahead

The Scotsman reports: LABOUR was facing a series of negative polls yesterday, 24 days before the election.

The latest poll on the Holyrood elections gives the SNP their biggest lead of 12 per cent, six points more than previous polls. If the results of the Scottish Opinion poll are replicated on 3 May, the number of SNP MSPs would more than double and give the party 16 more than Labour. -- The Scotsman - Politics - Big boost for SNP as poll puts party 12 points clear

April 7, 2007

Scotland: roundup of politicians' blogs

Scottish Roundup reports: In many ways, the blog is the perfect method of campaigning for a politician. For one thing, it is free and easy to set up a blog, giving politicians the opportunity to campaign from the comfort of their own home. There is no need to print out expensive leaflets or spend time going around doors. Blogs also act really well as a discussion forum. Voters can voice their opinion in the comments section of a blog, where debates can thrive.

Blogs have the additional benefit of not being as intrusive as other methods of campaigning. While some voters may not like to be disturbed by a politician knocking on their door and others may see campaign literature as junk mail, blogs do not force themselves down anybody’s throat. People can choose to read a blog or not.

The flexible format of a blog means that you can write about whatever you like in whatever style you want. Although undoubtedly the traditional methods of campaigning will still be evident, blogs are being used increasingly by candidates as an easy and cheap way to reach voters.

However, some blogging candidates — most notably Jody Dunn — have found themselves in hot water over what they have written. If you write anything that could incriminate you, other bloggers will pile on the criticism. -- Scottish Roundup » Blog Archive » Special #1: A modern form of campaigning - a look at politicians' blogs

April 5, 2007

Scotland: Who wants to run the country? -- Green

Let's take a look at the Scottish Greens. According to their website: The Scottish Green Party is campaigning in four major areas:

* Transport - for investment in fast, clean public transport, not more unsustainable road projects and airport expansion
* Energy - yes to renewable energy, no to nuclear power
* Food - for a food revolution
* Zero Waste - Read the Zero Waste Manifesto

Greens are also campaigning

* For peace
* For the preservation of the high street and small local businesses
* Against ID cards and the proposed identity database
* Against Tetra masts
* Against ship-to-ship oil transfer in the Forth
-- Scottish Green Party :: Campaigns Overview

To get more details on these bullet points, go to the Green site.

Scotland: new poll shows Labour slightly ahead

The Herald reports: Labour has edged ahead of the Scottish National Party in the race to control Holyrood, according to an exclusive poll for The Herald.

However, with the race seeming even tighter than before, the survey has also blown it wide open by showing the unusually high proportion of people who are undecided.

Among those saying how they will vote, Labour came in ahead of the SNP by four points on the constituency vote, and two points ahead on the regional choice.

Even with that good news for Labour, the survey showed Jack McConnell trailing behind Alex Salmond by 10 points on who would make the better First Minister. Public opinion on independence remains sceptical, with opposition outweighing support by 56% to 44%.

Today's findings run counter to repeated poll leads for the SNP over recent weeks, which put the Nationalists as much as 10 points ahead. They show the race between the two front runners is getting tighter as voters focus on their options. -- The Herald : News: HEADLINE NEWS

Scotland: comment on SNP's advertising

Matthew Shugart emails (because the comments are not working): Practically speaking, the SNP is right. The party that wins the most party-list votes will have the most seats in the elected parliament, and it would be highly unlikely that the party with the most seats would not get to pick the premier.

Of course, technically and legally, the SNP is incorrect, because they are implying that the vote is a direct election of PM.

April 4, 2007

Scotland: computer count of regional vote may be nixed if there are too many candidates

The Edinburgh Evening News reports: ELECTION chiefs today admitted they could be forced to abandon plans for electronic counting of next month's Holyrood vote in the Lothians if more candidates come forward.

The counting machines, being used for the first time, are only programmed to cope with up to 21 names on the Scottish Parliament regional list - and with a week still to go until nominations close, there are already 19 candidates in Lothian.

If just three more come forward, the electronic count - in preparation for two years - would have to be abandoned in favour of the traditional count by hand.

But that would almost certainly mean a last-minute dash to recruit extra counting staff and could lead to a delay in the results of the city council elections being held on the same day. -- Edinburgh Evening News - Politics - Electronic counting faces axe if candidate numbers increase

Scotland: controversy over SNP ads saying regional (proportional) vote is for First Minister

The Herald reports: Opponents have cried foul over the SNP's tactic of telling voters that their first choice on the ballot paper in May is about who should be First Minister of Scotland.

The Electoral Commission said the SNP was wrong but said it had no plans to launch an investigation into the claim, made in a television broadcast and in mailshots by the party. ...

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said: "It is incorrect to say the regional vote is for the First Minister. The way the system works is the regional vote elects seven MSPs for the region and the constituency vote elects one MSP for the constituency." ...

An SNP spokesman said: "The first vote will decide the balance of MSPs in the new Parliament and this will determine who becomes First Minister. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

Scotland: Greens willing to be in coalition

The Herald reports: Scots have a last chance to change the world, with next month's election giving them the opportunity to influence policy before the tipping point is reached on global warming, Greens claimed yesterday.

Campaign director Mark Ruskell said a vote for the Scottish Greens should be for "progress not protest". He said the only "red line" issue that would prevent them from even discussing possible deals with other parties was new nuclear power stations.

On other issues, he said they would seek to drive a hard bargain, whether as formal coalition partners in government, or as part of a more limited "confidence and supply" deal to allow a bigger party to form a stable minority administration.

But while the Greens will feel the tide is with them in terms of sentiment about global warming and the need to curb carbon emissions, some of their mechanisms for achieving this could dent their hopes across the country. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

April 2, 2007

Scotland: "Election website fights voter apathy and brings power to the people"

The Edinburgh Evening News reports: A NEW website has been launched to try to tackle voter apathy ahead of Scottish elections by providing information and debate about candidates.

Academics from Edinburgh University have designed, which goes live this week.

Voters can use it to find out background about people standing in their areas or discuss issues of the day. Among other things there will be a 100-second video of every candidate.

All visitors to the site have to do is enter their postcode and they will be able to view all those standing in their constituency. -- Edinburgh Evening News - Politics - Election website fights voter apathy and brings power to the people

April 1, 2007

Scotland: will SNP be able to run a coalition government if its partner is against independence?

The Scotsman - Politics - Lib Dems offer SNP way out of independence impasse
The Scotsman reports: SCOTTISH Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen offered a possible compromise deal to the SNP yesterday in the impasse over an independence referendum, when he suggested that the whole constitutional issue could be handed to a new cross-party convention.

Mr Stephen said the creation of a new Scottish constitutional convention to review the position of the Scottish Parliament and find a consensus for a way forward would be a way of "shelving" the constitutional argument. ...

The Liberal Democrats are fiercely opposed to a referendum on independence and the SNP is equally adamant that there has to be a referendum within the next four-year term of the Scottish Parliament.

The seemingly intractable positions have made it difficult for either party to contemplate any sort of post-election coalition deal if the SNP becomes the largest party in Holyrood next month.

Scotland: another poll shows SNP ahead of Labour

The Sunday Herald reports: SCOTTISH LABOUR'S grip on power seemed to be slipping away last night after another opinion poll confirmed the SNP was on course for a historic victory in the Holyrood election.

The new TNS System 3 snapshot,which was conducted for Scottish Television,gave the Nationalists a surprise five-point lead in constituencies and an astonishing 11 point lead on the regional vote. ...

The poll, which was commissioned late last month and based on a sample of around 1000 adults, found the SNP on 39% of the constituency vote, five ahead of Labour on 34%. The Conservatives trailed in third on 13%, with the LibDems fourth on 11%.

The regional vote was even better for the SNP, as the poll found the Nationalists on 36%, a record 11% ahead of Labour. The LibDems came third on 13%, the Tories fourth on 11%, with the Scottish Greens trailing on 6%. The SSP, which had broken through four years ago, languished on 3% A seat projection by Professor Bill Miller at Glasgow University placed the SNP at 51, up by around 24 since the 2003 Holyrood election, while Labour dropped back to 44, a loss of six seats compared with four years ago. -- The Sunday Herald - Scotland's award-winning independent newspaper

March 31, 2007

Scotland: Electoral Reform Society

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland's website has details about the two election systems to be used in Scotland's local and parliamentary elections. Go to Electoral Reform Society - Voting Systems.

March 28, 2007

Scotland: SNP pulls further ahead in latest poll

The Edinburgh Evening News reports: SCOTTISH Nationalists have increased their lead over Labour and are on course to become the biggest party at Holyrood, a new opinion poll showed today.

The Populus survey put the SNP ten points ahead on the constituency vote and seven points ahead on the regional vote.

This would give the Nationalists 50 of the Scottish Parliament's 129 seats, Labour 43, the Liberal Democrats 18, the Tories 17 and the Greens one.

But the poll also showed support for independence, the SNP's core policy, was just 27 per cent, well down on other recent polls. -- Edinburgh Evening News - Politics - SNP stretch lead over Labour but support for independence is falling

March 25, 2007

Scotland: party policies preview

The ScotlandVotes website (produced by Weber Shandwick Public Affairs agency) describes the four principal parties' policies on several issues. Click on the "Party Policies" tab at the top of the page.

Scotland: SNP reveals details of its independence proposal

The Sunday Herald reports: SNP LEADER Alex Salmond would give Scots a vote on independence in 2010 should he replace Labour's Jack McConnell as first minister.

The Banff and Buchan MP has today confirmed, for the first time, the timing of the referendum, its cost, and the exact wording of the question, following talks with the civil service.

His plans, which have so far been kept secret, are revealed in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Herald, in which he sketches out the details of his referendum plan.

Salmond, whom opinion polls claim is in line to be the next first minister, has made a referendum on independence the number one priority of an SNP-led Scottish Executive. ...

Salmond also addressed the process by which he intends to deliver a referendum. A white paper, setting out the details of independence, would be laid within the first 100 days of the next parliament. An SNP-led Executive, he hopes, would then pass an enabling bill to give Scots the choice of independence in a referendum held in 2010.

However, in recent talks with the SNP, civil service officials expressed concern that the wording of the referendum question might not be covered by the powers of the parliament. ...

"Any talks with the civil service are private, but the wording on the ballot will be, The Scottish parliament should negotiate a new settlement with the British government, based on the proposals set out in the white paper, so that Scotland becomes a sovereign and independent state'. The responses would be Yes I agree' or No I disagree'."

In other words, a "Yes" vote would give Holyrood the right to negotiate an independence settlement, rather than a straight endorsement of a separate state.

As for the definition of independence in an SNP-led Executive's white paper, Salmond is keen to stress a separate state would involve ending the 1707 Treaty of Union, not the 1603 Union of the Crowns. -- The Sunday Herald - Scotland's award-winning independent newspaper

Scotland: who wants to run the country? -- Labour

Labour is the principal partner in the coalition government that leads Scotland now (the Liberal Democrats being the small, junior partner). Labour's leader, Jack McConnell is the First Minister (equivalent to the Prime Minister).

What does Labour want to do in the next term? Hard to tell right now from its website. The header across the top says, "More teachers More nurses More police," but there is no link from that to anything else. The headlines below that give the flavor of Labour's position now:

  • Labour budget lowers taxes while SNP propose increase
  • A budget for Scotland's families
  • Budget shows SNP oil gamble risky and expensive
  • The SNP’s first 100 days - it’s time to look forward to tax and turmoil
  • Breaking up Britain will leave Scottish families broke

    Translation: the Scottish Nationalists' program will leave you nasty, brutish, and broke.

    Maybe we will learn more when the party releases its "manifesto" -- the party platform.

  • March 23, 2007

    Scotland: who wants to run the country? -- SNP

    In the years before the Scottish Parliament was established, I always thought of the Scottish National Party as a party working for the independence of Scotland. Perhaps I was wrong. Let's look at what they are campaigning on now.

    The SNP still talks about independence (and it is linked from the home page), but the three main issues mentioned on its home page are:

  • It's time to dump student debt.
  • It's time to keep healthcare local.
  • It's time for a government Scotland can trust.
  • Will the SNP push independence if it wins the election? The Sunday Herald reports:

    A NATIONALIST-LED Executive at Holyrood [*] would stage an independence referendum in its first term, according to SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon.

    In a keynote speech to her party's conference in Glasgow yesterday, Sturgeon denied reports last week that the SNP would "park" their principal policy.

    Where does the SNP get its campaign funds? I will have to track that down, but a big donation just came from a controversial source. Again, as reported in the Sunday Herald:

    SNP LEADER Alex Salmond was last night accused of pandering to "homophobia" by accepting a £500,000 donation from an anti-gay businessman.

    The SNP yesterday confirmed that Brian Souter, who financed a high-profile campaign to keep Section 28, which banned "promoting" homo-sexuality in schools, was bankrolling their election hopes with a cheque for £500,000.

    Can the SNP win? In early March, Angus Reid Global Monitor, a polling organization reported:

    The Scottish National Party (SNP) remains the top political organization in Scotland, according to a poll by ICM Research published in The Scotsman. 34 per cent of respondents would give their local vote to the SNP in this year’s Scottish Parliament ballot.

    The figures for all the parties were as follows (the first figure is for the local constituency vote, the second for the regional vote):

    Scottish National Party ........34% 32%
    Scottish Labour ...................29% 28%
    Scottish Conservatives .......16% 15%
    Scottish Liberal Democrats ..16% 17%
    Scottish Green ........................ -- 5%

    [*] "Holyrood" is the location of the Scottish Parliament.

    Scotland: prison inmate loses in quest for release to vote

    BBC News reports: A judge has refused to free a prisoner who wanted to register to vote in the Scottish Parliament elections.

    However Donald Birrell - who complained that his human rights had been breached - may still be able to win damages.

    Birrell was let out on licence in May last year but is now back in jail after the licence was revoked last month. ...

    Under current laws - the 1983 Representation of the People Act - a ban on voting is imposed on all prisoners being held under a sentence.

    Remand prisoners and those freed on licence are allowed to cast their vote. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Judge denies inmate's voting bid

    March 22, 2007

    Scotland: Who's in Parliament now

    The Scottish Parliament has 129 members -- some elected from constituencies and some elected on a proportional basis from party lists in regions. Here are the numbers for the biggest parties:

  • Scottish Labour, 46 from constituencies, 4 from regions, total 50 (38.7%)
  • Scottish National Party, 8 from constituencies, 17 from regions, total 25 (19.4%)
  • Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, 3 from constituencies, 14 from regions, total 17 (13.2%)
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats, 13 from constituencies, 4 from regions, total 17 (13.2%)
  • The regional seats are used to provide overall proportionality to the allocation of seats in the Scottish Parliament. Note that the Conservatives and LibDems have the same number of seats, but got them in very different ways.

    Finally, the Labour and LibDem parties are in the governing coalition.

    March 21, 2007

    Scotland: the upcoming election

    I will be traveling to Scotland in a little over 5 weeks to observe the 3 May parliamentary and local elections. As a part of my self-study course in preparation for the trip, I thought I would post on what I learn. Over the next several weeks, I will be posting what I learn here.

    Let's begin with Wikipedia: The Scottish Parliament election, 2007, will be the third general election[1] to the devolved Scottish Parliament since it was created in 1999. Polling will take place on Thursday May 3 unless two-thirds of MSPs vote to dissolve Parliament before then. The election falls two days after the tricentenary of the political union of Scotland and England.

    Jack McConnell, as First Minister, will go into the election commanding a small majority consisting of a Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition. The coalition has been in power, with three different First Ministers, since the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999. Opinion polls suggest its majority could be lost in 2007, due to falling support for the Labour Party and rising support for other parties. No single party is likely to acquire an overall majority. Nor is there an obvious alternative coalition ready to form a new Executive. -- Scottish Parliament election, 2007 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (go to Wilipedia for the links)

    Unfortunately, Wikipedia does not have much an explanation of the method of election (note to self: correct that omission), but you can find it on the site. After you read the technical explanation, go to this page of the site to vote in fun practice session.