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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Voting system change mooted
Ballot papers
Voters cast two ballots at the last Holyrood election
An overhaul of the voting system for the Scottish Parliament is being considered by senior Labour Party figures.

BBC Scotland has learned that they are looking at a change which would scrap the present two-tier list set-up.

It would be replaced by a form of proportional voting which would match the system planned for local councils.

BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor said the impetus for change had grown since Sir David Steel warned that the top-up list system had created two classes of MSP.

The current voting system was devised by Labour.

However, it is understood that senior party figures are fed up seeing defeated opponents being elected through lists and opening local offices in Labour territory.

Rank candidates

The party is believed to be looking at the introduction of the single transferable vote (STV) system.

That would involve the creation of bigger constituencies - with three or four members.

Voters would rank candidates in order of preference.

The system is being considered for Scotland's councils - and some MSPs say it would be sensible for Holyrood to follow suit.

Sir David Steel
Sir David said it is time for change
Changing Holyrood's voting system would require Westminster legislation, but the Scotland Act is already scheduled for revision.

Mr Taylor said he thought that voting reform was "fairly likely" to go ahead.

He said Labour would be motivated by its hatred of the two-tier set-up and the opportunity to simplify the system in line with that proposed for council elections.

He said the party could also have a "less noble" motivation - the feeling that STV could make it harder for smaller parties like the Greens and the Socialists.

Mr Taylor said Labour's coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, had argued for STV in the Constitutional Convention.

The system is also a long-standing Scottish National Party policy, although the Tories are opposed to all forms of proportional representation.

List voting

During a lecture at the Edinburgh Book Festival last week, Sir David said the parliament needed root and branch change in order to improve its performance.

The former presiding officer said the list voting system - by which 56 MSPs are elected regionally through a form of proportional representation - had not been a success.

He said parliament would be better served if MSPs were elected via the single transferable vote.

Sir David said the list system was a mistake and led to MSPs being elected "by less than truly democratic means".

He said tensions between constituency and list MSPs also led to a "confusing and expensive" amount of parliamentary offices.

Andrew Burns, Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform
"I'm getting a strong sense there is a desire to have a frank debate about this."

Sir David calls for change
18 Aug 03  |  Scotland
Voting reform takes centre stage
11 May 03  |  Scotland
Electoral system: How it works
02 Apr 03  |  Scotland

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