Memorandum submitted by the Scottish Liberal
This response welcomes the statement by the
former Secretary of State that the number of MSPs should remain
at 129 and that the Scotland Act should be amended accordingly.
It is pointed out that there are three options
for amending the Scotland Act:
Retain current Scottish Parliament
constituencies and regions;
Reduce the number of constituency
MSPs to 60 and increasing the number of list MSPs to 69; and
Introduce the single transferable
vote in multi-member constituencies for the Scottish Parliament
The main arguments in favour of STV are advanced
and in particular the positive implications this would have for
turnout and clarity for the electorate of voting systems.
The paper recommends the introduction of STV
for Scottish Parliament elections from 2007 as the best way of
achieving coterminosity of Westminster and Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Liberal Democrats welcomed the
statement made by Helen Liddell, when Secretary of State for Scotland,
that the number of MSPs should remain at 129, when the number
of Westminster constituencies are reduced to 59. We also welcomed
the Government's intention, as stated by her, that the necessary
legislation to amend the Scotland Act will be introduced at Westminster.
We trust that the Scottish Affairs Committee's deliberations will
be confined to how this decision will be implemented and that
the question of the number of MSPs will not be re-examined. We
also thank the Scottish Affairs Committee for this opportunity
to put forward our views.
2. OPTIONS FOR
We believe there are three options open to the
Government and parliament in amending the Scotland Act.
2.1 It could retain the current structure
of 73 constituency MSPs and 56 list MSPs. This would create problems
for political parties' organisational structure. The Scottish
Liberal Democrats have already decided to retain our current structure
based on Scottish Parliamentary constituency boundaries if this
option were to be selected, but organisational problems would
undoubtedly arise. Retention of the present structure might also
confuse those voters living in different Westminster and Scottish
This would also require a separate Scottish
parliament constituency and regional boundary review sometime
in the not-too-distant future.
2.2 It could reduce the number of constituency
MSPs to 60, bringing the Scottish parliamentary constituencies
into line with the new Westminster constituencies, (Orkney &
Shetland having separate MSPs). Consequently the number of list
MSPs would be increased to 69. This would allow for coterminosity
between the Westminster and Scottish Parliament constituencies,
reduce the likelihood of confusion among voters and also improve
the proportionality achieved by the Added Members System But it
would also require new boundaries to be drawn. Alternatively the
increase in list numbers could be achieved by increasing the number
This option is unlikely to be popular given
the criticisms of the list system as it stands. There is a growing
feeling that the system has created two types of MSP with constituency
MSPs having a heavier load. This option would increase that load
with larger constituencies and would also reduce the workload
of list MSPs, with their numbers increased by 13.
2.3 It could change the electoral system
for the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary elections and introduce the
single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. The 59
new Westminster constituencies would form the building blocks
for the multi-member constituencies. This would solve the co-terminosity
This is the option strongly favoured by the
Scottish Liberal Democrats and we commend it to the Committee.
3.1 All MSPs would be elected in the same
way and have the same responsibilities and workloads.
3.2 A link would be maintained for all MSPs
between themselves and constituencies, albeit larger multi-member
3.3 STV gives power to the voter rather
than the party. The voter can choose between different candidates
from the same party as well as from different parties. At the
moment in "safe" single-member constituencies and for
top of the regional list places, their parties effectively select
3.4 A large majority of the voters will
have voted for at least one of the successful candidates and will
therefore feel that their views are taken account of and that
their vote does count.
3.5 The voter is allowed to express a preference
both between parties and between candidates.
3.6 The letter from the Committee requesting
written evidence refers to "the implications for turnout
at elections and clarity for the electorate of there being four
separate voting systems in Scotland".
3.6.1 The partnership agreement between Scottish
Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats includes legislation
to introduce STV in multi-member wards for the next diet of council
elections scheduled for 2007. It would increase clarity for the
electorate if the same system were to be used for the Scottish
parliamentary and local elections, especially given that current
legislation determines that they be held on the same day.
3.6.2 We are firmly of the view that turnout
is likely to increase when voters are required to exercise a much
higher degree of choice than under the first past the post system.
They will also see that their votes countin many "safe"
first past the post constituencies it is a foregone conclusion,
which party will win and votes for any other party are "wasted".
Many voters therefore take the attitude "why bother?"
For the above reasons, the Scottish Liberal
Democrats believe that the Scottish Affairs Committee should recommend
as a result of its inquiry the introduction of STV in multi-member
constituencies, based on the 59 new Westminster constituencies.