A return to four-year parliamentary terms

The Scottish Parliament was founded with fixed-term four-year parliamentary terms as shown by the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections. Regular fixed elections ensure frequent accountability and democratic input from the voters. And four year terms ensure a balance between accountability and time to govern, something which Better Holyrood supports. Five-year terms, on the other hand, mean less accountability, “zombie parliaments” and elections just twice a decade.

Upgrade Holyrood position in brief

Four-year fixed term parliaments will improve democratic accountability and ensure more regular input into the democratic process. Holyrood should return to having four-year parliamentary terms.

Recent changes in Scotland

The Scottish Parliament has since switched to five year terms to avoid clashes with fixed five-year parliamentary terms at the UK level. This change occurred under the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act. The Act meant there would be a clash in 2015 which led to the Scottish Parliament shifting the 2015 election to 2016. The 2020 election was changed to 2021 following a similar expected clash (which never materialised due to the 2017 UK General Election) and the “normalisation” of five-year terms was formalised under the Scottish Elections (Reform) Act 2020.

Bringing Scotland (and the UK) into line with most democracies

Most European parliamentary democracies have four-year terms. Returning to four-year terms will bring us into line with much of the rest of Europe.

The need to bring back four-year terms

A return to four-year parliamentary terms in Scotland will improve accountability at Holyrood and bring us into line with most of Europe. However, this should likely be done in line with a change to four-year terms at Westminster as well to avoid regularly scheduled clashes.