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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
Wallace urges Holyrood vote change
Scottish Lib Dem leader Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace called for the voting system to be changed
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace has called for a change in the way the Scottish Parliament is elected.

He told his party's UK conference in Brighton that replacing the current system with elections under Single Transferrable Vote (STV) would be fairer.

Mr Wallace, who is deputy first minister at Holyrood, said the new system would also help counter voter apathy.

He said that politicians everywhere should be concerned about falling turnouts in elections.


STV is a system of proportional representation (PR) which allows people to vote for individual candidates in order of preference.

It would involve the creation of bigger constituencies - with three or four members for each.

The Lib Dems are in favour of this system because they believe it allows the number of members gained by each party to more closely resemble the number of votes cast.

It would also avoid party lists as each individual candidate would have their name on the ballot.

In his speech, Mr Wallace said this method should be used to elect MSPs at Holyrood and MPs at Westminster.

STV could replace the traditional first-past-the-post voting method in time for the next Scottish council elections.

But Mr Wallace said that was just the "first step" towards STV being used on a national level.

He said: "We need to reform the voting systems for Westminster and local government in England.

In Scotland we have an ideal opportunity to simplify the voting system
Jim Wallace

"And let me be very clear - STV for the Scottish Parliament has always been the preferred option of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

"In Scotland we have an ideal opportunity to simplify the voting system.

"As things stand we are facing different boundaries for Scottish and Westminster elections and four different voting systems.

"The solution is to introduce STV for the Scottish Parliament, which would help build up momentum for the introduction of STV at Westminster."

Mr Wallace's comments come a month after the Scottish Parliament's former presiding officer and one-time Liberal leader Lord Steel branded the Holyrood voting system an expensive mistake.

Democratic deficit

MSPs are elected to the Scottish Parliament under the list system, through which 56 MSPs are elected regionally by a form of PR.

The remaining 73 members are elected by the first-past-the-post system.

Lord Steel said: "The list system exacerbates a wider problem and creates in my view an unacceptable democratic deficit."

He said STV should be introduced instead and said the forthcoming reduction of Westminster constituencies in Scotland from 72 to 56 made voting reform necessary.

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