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Last Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
SNP says Gould response 'bizarre'
Ron Gould
Ron Gould has moved to clarify his findings
A move by election expert Ron Gould to "clarify" his findings into the May poll fiasco has been described as "bizarre" by an SNP minister.

Nicola Sturgeon said the report could not have been clearer when it said ministers acted in a partisan fashion.

In a letter to the Electoral Commission, Mr Gould said that "all political parties were concerned with the potential political advantage".

The current Scottish Secretary Des Browne welcomed the clarification.

His predecessor, Douglas Alexander, had come under fire at Holyrood and Westminster for his role in overseeing the changes to the voting and counting system.

Mr Gould's report, published earlier this week, said voters were treated as an "afterthought" in election planning and organisation.

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The former assistant chief electoral officer of Canada was appointed to lead the inquiry into why the election resulted in 140,000 spoiled ballots and a counting process which ended in a debacle.

Deputy First Minister Ms Sturgeon, in an interview on Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday, insisted that the Nationalists played no part in what went wrong.

She added that her party had nothing to apologise for.

"The most important thing the SNP has done, and I wish other political parties would do likewise, is accept all of the recommendations in the Gould report so that we can learn the lessons of what went wrong and move forward," said Ms Sturgeon.

The health secretary denied the use of the party's leader's name in the regional list section of the ballot paper was controversial.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP had nothing to apologise for

She added: "I don't accept that caused confusion and neither do I accept that Alex Salmond was called Alex in order to get him up a ballot paper.

"It's a ridiculous point to make. The key point in the Gould report is that ministers acting in a ministerial capacity were behaving in a partisan fashion."

All political parties were to blame for the Scottish election voting fiasco in May, according to the author of the critical report.

In his clarification letter to the Electoral Commission, Mr Gould said: "It was clear to me from the start of my work that key legislative decisions which impacted on how the elections in Scotland were run were taken too late.

"I did not suggest in the report that specific actions were taken by ministers to advance their own party's interests but that all political parties were concerned with the potential political advantage that could be gained by certain decisions, such as on the question of ballot paper design, and this delayed key decisions."

He continued: "When I examined the reasons for this I concluded that, while responsibility for taking these decisions lay with the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive, all political parties in Scotland were involved in the long-running debates, contributed to the final decisions and shared in the failure to prioritise the interests of the voter."

Mr Browne said the letter brought clarity to the speculation surrounding Mr Gould's report.

He said: "It is now clear that he did not suggest 'specific actions were taken by ministers to advance their own party's interests', but that all political parties were concerned with the potential political advantage that could be gained by certain decisions."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Political reaction to the Gould report



SEE ALSO
Alexander makes election apology
24 Oct 07 |  Scotland
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

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