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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2007, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Alexander makes election apology
Douglas Alexander
Mr Alexander apologised over the Scottish elections fiasco
Former Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander has apologised for his role in the May elections fiasco.

Mr Alexander, now international development secretary, had faced calls for his resignation after a critical report into the ballots.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has accepted the recommendations of the Gould report into the problems.

However, he told Holyrood that he had now ruled out a judicial inquiry on the matter, which he had earlier supported.

The first minister was criticised by Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats over the use of the phrase "Alex Salmond for first minister" on the ballot papers.

The mood is nostra, not mea, culpa
Brian Taylor
Political Editor

This, the Gould report pointed out, enabled the SNP to appear at the top of all but one regional list in the elections, which saw a new ballot paper design and a new voting system for the council seats.

Mr Salmond said he agreed with the report's findings, including that control over the Holyrood elections could be transferred from the UK Government to ministers in Edinburgh, after the May polls resulted in more than 140,000 spoilt votes.

He told parliament: "What happened on 3 May is totally unacceptable in a democratic society. It must never be allowed to happen again. This government will do everything in our power to make sure that it does not."

International expert Ron Gould's report claimed that Scottish ministers - in Edinburgh and London - had focused on partisan political interests and voters were treated as an "afterthought".

At the time of the May election there was a Labour administration at Westminster and a Labour/Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive coalition.

Mr Alexander, meanwhile, made his apology ahead of Prime Minister's Questions, where Tory leader David Cameron described the mishandling of the Scottish elections as a "scandal".

However, Gordon Brown told the Commons the Gould report made clear that no one individual or organisation was to blame and accused the Conservatives of misleading people over its contents.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
A chief returning officer for Scotland
Separate days for parliament and local elections
Separate ballot papers to stop confusion
Responsibility for both council and Scottish Parliament elections should be assigned to one entity - logically the Scottish Government
No overnight counting if polls continue to close at 10pm
Return to folded ballot papers to increase secrecy
Electronic counting to be incorporated properly
Party names to appear first on the ballot paper

Mr Alexander said: "I, of course, apologise for any actions or omissions on my part which contributed to the problems encountered in the Scottish elections."

He said the Scotland Office consulted widely upon the proposal for a single ballot paper, commended by the independent Arbuthnott Commission, adding: "That consultation produced an overwhelming consensus amongst Scotland's political parties for a single ballot paper.

"I therefore reject any interpretation of the Gould report that seeks to imply any other motivation."

Mr Cameron said the report had found the Labour government put party interest before voters' interest in conducting the elections.

He told Mr Brown: "You promised us a new type of politics. You said you would be more open and honest. You said you would be frank about problems. You said you would be candid about the dilemmas.

"That was in your leadership speech 100 days ago. After your performance today doesn't that feel like 100 years ago?"

However, the prime minister said all parties must share responsibility because they all agreed the system adopted for the 3 May poll, adding: "What the Gould report said was that there were decisions made about the elections that could have been better made.

"These decisions were supported by the Conservative Party."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
David Cameron and Gordon Brown debate poll failings



SEE ALSO
Blog: Blether with Brian
24 Oct 07 |  Scotland
Probe says May poll failed voters
23 Oct 07 |  Scotland
Reliving the election night chaos
23 Oct 07 |  Scotland
May elections review at-a-glance
23 Oct 07 |  Scotland
Ballots 'rejected automatically'
03 Sep 07 |  Scotland
Scotland Office ballot response
03 Sep 07 |  Scotland

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