[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 May 2007, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Parties backed single ballot plan
Ballot paper - generic
There were an estimated 100,000 spoiled papers in the election
The House of Commons has been told that the decision to use a single ballot for the Holyrood election was supported by the SNP, the Lib Dems and Labour.

Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander made the statement on Tuesday regarding the debacle that surrounded the counts.

About 100,000 votes were discounted because they were classed as spoiled.

Mr Alexander informed the Commons that the Electoral Commission, which is investigating the matter, would report in the summer.

In his statement, Mr Alexander told the Commons: "A great deal of wholly legitimate public concern has been expressed over certain aspects of last Thursday's election. I entirely share these concerns."

Scottish Labour Party - In favour
Scottish National Party - In favour
Scottish Lib Dems - In favour
Scottish Conservative Party - No response
Electoral Reform Society - In favour
Society of local authority lawyers - In favour
SSCUP - Against
The Liberal Party of Scotland - Against
Enable Scotland - Against
Capability Scotland - Against

When it became apparent that "difficulties were emerging" in the early hours of Friday, he contacted the Scottish Electoral Commissioner, Sir Neil McIntosh, to raise his concerns.

He said the focus of public concern was holding the elections on the same day and using a single ballot paper.

The poll for the Scottish Parliament elections was set in the Scotland Act under a pre-determined cycle.

But he said that the decision to hold the local government elections on the same day was "entirely a decision for Scottish Executive ministers".

The Labour politician said the Arbuthnott Commission had examined voting systems and the suggestion of using one ballot paper was put out to wider consultation last year.

Mr Alexander explained that the SNP, Labour and the Lib Dems all favoured the single ballot, the Conservatives did not respond to the consultation and the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party (SSCUP) and Capability Scotland were among those against.

The Green Party responded to the survey by saying: "Our preference was for a single clear paper that had the constituency vote on the left."

Mr Alexander told the Commons: "There was a significant level of support for a single ballot paper. The major political parties, who expressed a view, were largely in favour.

Despite repeated warnings of the pitfalls of introducing a new voting system ... the approach of the Scottish Executive and the Scotland Office was to carry on regardless
David Mundell
Shadow Scottish Secretary

"Only after this extensive consultation involving the widest possible range of stakeholders, the support of the main political parties who expressed a preference, and the research received indicating the best interest of the voter being served by a single ballot paper, and clear official advice, was a decision taken to proceed with a single ballot paper."

After Mr Alexander's statement to MPs, David Mundell of the Conservatives called for a public apology for the problems encountered over the elections.

The Shadow Scottish Secretary accused the government of adopting a "cavalier approach" to the issue.

He said: "Despite repeated warnings of the pitfalls of introducing a new voting system, new ballot papers and a new method of counting all on the same day, the approach of the Scottish Executive and the Scotland Office was to carry on regardless".

Douglas Alexander
Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander made his statement to MPs

Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Jo Swinson welcomed the review, and said she would not pre-judge its outcome.

But she pointed to previous reviews of electoral processes and warned the government should be taking notice of them.

Ms Swinson added: "It smacks of incompetence if you keep on making the same mistakes again and again."

SNP deputy Westminster leader Angus Robertson said Mr Alexander should consider his position in the wake of the "debacle".

He said: "The chaos of the counting of the postal votes, of the spoilt ballots was a debacle.

"This statement has been completely inadequate. It doesn't include the necessary full independent judicial inquiry.

"You have not faced your responsibilities which frankly should include you considering your position."

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific