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Caithness News Bulletins August 2003
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|Highland Council||Scottish Parliament||Scottish Executive|
Elections Expert To Brief Councillors On Proposals
For Election Reforms
The Highland Council will, this week, begin its debate on the implications of the Scottish Executive’s plans to create larger ‘multi-member’ Local Authority wards, with members elected by a proportional representation system (single transferable vote) rather than the present ‘first past the post’ method.
The Council has already expressed particular concern at the effects of the proposal on the representation of sparsely populated areas of the Highlands.
John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, will outline the implications of the new system at a meeting of the Council’s Renewing Democracy & Community Planning Select Committee.
Professor Curtice is a well-known commentator on Scottish elections, who has undertaken a wide range of research both into the operation of different electoral systems and public attitudes towards different systems.
The Highland Council's Renewing Democracy and Community Planning Select Committee Chairman, David Alston, said: “The Executive’s proposals will create much larger wards, each returning either three or four members. The Council’s policy is to support retention of the present system but it is clear that a new electoral system for local government is a key policy of the Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition.
“We must campaign to make sure that the system is properly adapted to the needs of rural, sparsely populated areas. The smallest ward being proposed by the Scottish Executive is a three-member ward. Wards of this size would be, for example, all of north and west Sutherland or all of Wester Ross. I can see no reason for this ‘two sizes fits all’ approach. A system adapted to the variety of communities we have in Scotland, and in the Highlands, could range from single member wards in sparsely populated areas to four member wards - or even larger - in cities.
“I know that councillors hold different views on the principles of proportional representation and I expect that this will lead to lively debate. There is also much to welcome in the Executive’s proposals on opening up the role of councillor to a wider range of people in the community.”
The Renewing Democracy and Community Planning Select Committee will take place in the Chamber, Council Headquarters, Inverness on Wednesday, 6th August, 2003 at 10.00 a.m.
The Lead Up To Electoral
Reform For Local Councils
The Executive then established the Renewing Local Democracy Working Group, chaired by Richard Kerley. Part of its remit was to recommend which alternative voting system, if any, should be used to elect councillors. It concluded that the voting system that best met the requirements of its remit was the Single Transferable Vote.
In its Programme for Government, the Scottish Executive has stated that it is "...committed to continuing to make progress on electoral reform...". Successive First Ministers have made it clear that the Kerley principles will be at the heart of local government modernisation.
On 27th March 2002, the Scottish Executive published a White Paper on proportional representation for local government in Scotland - 'Renewing Local Democracy: The Next Steps'.
The White Paper was the basis of a 4-month consultation, in which the Executive sought the views of the people of Scotland on whether the Single Transferable Vote is the most appropriate voting system for Scottish local elections.
Labour Could Lose 7 Councils Under PR