Scottish Labour MSP “sympathetic” to Scottish electoral reform

By Richard Wood

Scottish Labour MSP Paul Sweeney has said he is “sympathetic” to the idea of electoral system change for the Scottish Parliament.

The Glasgow MSP made the remark while sitting as a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee discussing the petition for electoral reform submitted to the Scottish Parliament (17 November 2021).

I am sympathetic, because it is an on-going and worthwhile discussion. In the 1990s, the Scottish Constitutional Convention established the additional member system as the preferred electoral system, but perhaps there is an on-going need to consider alternatives. Obviously, the single transferable vote for local government elections was introduced in the mid-2000s. There have been observations of concerning practices in the most recent Scottish Parliament elections; most notably, the Greens were perhaps stymied in some instances by a decoy green party, which was higher up the list and seduced votes away from the Greens. I certainly noticed that at the Glasgow count, so there are flaws with the current list structure of two ballots, which are worth further investigation.

Paul Sweeney MSP (Glasgow)

The Petitions Committee agreed to write to both the Electoral Commission and the Electoral Reform Society on the matter. You can read more about my petition, the actions taken by the committee – and the responses – here.

Scottish Labour currently have no official position on which voting system to use at Holyrood. The UK-wide party currently supports First Past the Post for Westminster elections (although progress is being made to change this view).

The Scottish Liberal Democrats support changing AMS to STV and campaigned on this at the 2021 election. The SNP also generally favour STV while the Scottish Greens have moved towards supporting Open List Proportional Representation.

The Scottish Conservatives are resistant to any positive electoral reforms. Indeed, the Conservative UK Government recently passed one of the most regressive bills relating to elections.

READ MORE: Scotland’s STV council elections show England a better way of doing local democracy

READ MORE: Petitions Committee respond to Scottish Parliament voting reform petition

READ MORE: What do Scotland’s parties say about Holyrood’s voting system? The route to electoral reform

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