Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 14:34 UK

Holyrood 'should not run ballots'

Polling place signs and ballot boxes
More than 140,000 ballots were spoiled at last year's elections.

Future Scottish elections should not be run by the Scottish Government, a committee of MPs has said.

The Commons Scottish affairs committee said transferring responsibility for the ballots was not necessary.

But it also hit out at the role of the Scotland Office in last year's local and Holyrood elections, when more than 140,000 ballots were spoiled.

The Scottish Government said Westminster had yet to take any responsibility for the fiasco.

But committee convener, Labour MP Mohammed Sarwar, told BBC Scotland's Politics Show the main problem stemmed from the combined first-past-the-post and list ballot paper.

The Holyrood administration has demanded control over Scottish elections be devolved to Holyrood - but Mr Sarwar said it was more important to learn lessons from the election night debacle, rather than debate who controlled them.

We've taken responsibility. Unfortunately at Westminster, the ministers responsible for this haven't taken responsibility
Bruce Crawford
Minister for the Scottish parliament

The Scottish affairs committee, which also said there had been a loss of confidence in electronic voting, found devolving the running of elections was not "necessary in order for elections to proceed smoothly in future".

But MPs said there may be a case for organisational changes on the ground in Scotland and found the Electoral Commission's VoteScotland information unsatisfactory, as well as its failure to flag up "warning signs" about the impending ballot paper changes.

Mr Sarwar said the Scotland Office had to take its share of the blame because of decision-making delays, but he added: "The main cause for the problem was the combined ballot for the constituency members of the Scottish Parliament and list members.

"This was something which was endorsed by all the political parties in Scotland."

The Scottish Government's minister for parliament, Bruce Crawford, said the Westminster committee had dealt with the symptoms of the problem and not the cause, and branded the system a "fragmented mess".

He told the Politics Show: "We've taken responsibility. Unfortunately at Westminster, the ministers responsible for this haven't taken responsibility and the parliament in Scotland believes that the powers should be transferred."

The Scotland Office will shortly make its full response to the Gould investigation into what went wrong at last May's Scottish polls, but pointed out that the UK Government had already accepted several of the probe's main recommendations.

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