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Monday, 22 January, 2001, 17:15 GMT
Calls for council voting change
Scottish council chamber
The way Scottish councillors are elected could change
Lobbyists have urged Scottish ministers to ditch the current voting system for council elections and replace it with proportional representation.

Fairshare, a new cross-party campaign group, has warned that the present first past the post system leaves at least a million voters without representation.

It is not the first time PR has been mooted for north of the Border.

The McIntosh Commission produced a report in June 1999 recommending such a system.

Electors would have more incentive to vote because people would have the choice to vote for individuals, not just parties

Councillor Andrew Burns, Fairshare chairman
On Monday, at a news conference in Edinburgh, Canon Kenyon Wright insisted the time had come for a change in how local elections are run.

He said: "Many who oppose fairer voting systems agree more or less by the saying that if it isn't broke don't fix it. Well, as far as I am concerned it is broke.

"The present system is working less and less. It's not fair in that it doesn't produce a result that reflects the wishes of the voters. It overlooks the votes of many, many people, often millions of people."

Cannon Wright, one of the founding fathers of the Scottish Parliament, added: "It leads to the kind of cynicism and disillusion with politics which is one of the most dangerous things in our democracy."

Consultation exercise

The campaign is calling for implementation of the Renewing Local Democracy Working Party's recommendation that Scottish councillors should be elected by the single transferable voting (STV) method of proportional representation.

The group, set up by the Scottish Executive and chaired by Richard Kerley, included representatives of all the major political parties.

The executive is on the brink of launching a consultation exercise on local government elections based on the working group.

Councillor Andrew Burns, chairman of Fairshare, said: "At the moment, just about a million votes don't count in Scotland.

'Widespread support'

"Under STV, there would be more choice for people. They could rank their choices between the parties.

"Electors would have more incentive to vote because people would have the choice to vote for individuals, not just parties - and independent parties would not be disadvantaged as they are at the moment."

Councillor Burns said the organisation would be lobbying ministers for a change over the coming months.

He brushed off suggestions that senior Labour figures would oppose a change because they benefited most under the current system.

Councillor Burns claimed a number of recent polls had shown widespread support for a change in Scotland.

A System Three poll in February last year showed 70% of respondents agreeing that local councils would be more representative if parties won a share of seats more aligned with their share of the votes.

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See also:

14 Jul 99 | UK Politics
Blair 'must keep PR debate alive'
23 Jun 99 | UK Politics
PR for Scottish council elections
21 Jun 99 | UK Politics
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24 Mar 99 | UK Politics
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18 Jan 99 | UK Politics
Jenkins' designs on democracy
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