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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 17:46 GMT
Mixed views on voting reform plan
Counting votes
Parties were split on the merits of the report's recommendations
Political opinion has been divided over recommendations on how to improve Scotland's voting system.

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said there was much to welcome in the Arbuthnott Commission's report.

The Scottish Greens applauded the report for stressing the need to offer voters a wide range of choices.

But the Scottish Lib Dems labelled it "a wasted opportunity", the Scottish Tories said the system was in a mess and Labour raised seat concerns.

The report, Putting Citizens First: Boundaries, Voting and Representation in Scotland, contains 24 recommendations including the introduction of electronic voting by 2011.

It also said the single transferable vote system for council elections should also be introduced for European Parliament elections.

SNP leader Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond welcomed a "powerful defence" of the PR system

Mr Salmond welcomed the report and warned against future "Labour gerrymandering".

"From our initial reading there is much to welcome in this report, although we will of course be examining the detail of the proposals," he said.

"I particularly welcome the powerful defence of Scotland's system of PR against attempts by London-based Labour MPs to fiddle the system.

"Labour attempts to foist new barriers on the democratic process have been totally rejected, in very strong terms. Labour gerrymandering is not on."

Mr Salmond also reacted to Labour MP Jim Devine's motion, urging the House of Commons to prevent Holyrood candidates standing in constituencies and regions.

The SNP leader said: "The plaintive cries from Westminster Labour MPs today confirm just how out of touch they are with modern Scotland."

'Tinker at the edges'

Mr Devine tabled a motion in the House of Commons, signed by more than 60 Labour MPs, urging it to prevent candidates for the Holyrood elections standing for constituency seats and appearing on the list system.

He highlighted the case of Mr Salmond, who was running for election to Holyrood in the Gordon constituency and on the regional list.

Mr Devine said: "My constituents are asking: is it fair that he should have two bites at the electoral cherry?"

Scottish Green co-convener Robin Harper said the report set out sensible steps to improve democracy north of the border.

However, he added: "It is vital to maintain proportionality so that voters have the choice of voting for a party that they most identify with, rather than having to go for the least worst option - which is what happens in first-past-the-post contests."

Annabel Goldie
I'm certain that the general public does not have a clue how this system works
Annabel Goldie
Scottish Tory leader

Scottish Lib Dem MSP Iain Smith accused the commission of failing to propose radical change for the voting system.

"Rather than make the radical change to STV that Scotland needs, the commission has chosen to tinker at the edges of the present system," he said.

"These changes will not solve the problems that the commission was originally set up to examine.

"Indeed, some of the proposals will add additional unfairness to the system, particularly the proposal that will result in different-sized regional lists - which means not all votes will be equal."

'Complex system'

The proposal to open lists would allow voters to decide who should be elected to represent the parties in each region, Mr Smith added.

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said she welcomed Professor Sir John Arbuthnott "raising the nonsense" of having Holyrood and local authority elections on the same day.

She said: "Indeed, my colleague David Mundell, when a member of this parliament here in Edinburgh, was instrumental in highlighting that difficulty - a difficulty which has been made worse by the Scottish Executive's insistence on introducing an extremely complex system of voting for local authority elections next year.

"I'm certain that the general public does not have a clue how this system works.

"A very extensive education programme is needed and my call to the executive is to confirm that this unsatisfactory state of affairs will be resolved, and to hold local authority elections on a different date."

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