March 25, 2004

PR for Scottish councils

Yes, many Scottish councils are in desperate need of good PR, but this probably isn't what they had in mind; as of 2007, local government elections in Scotland will be held using a single transerable vote (STV) system. The Lib-Dems made this reform a condition of their coalition with Labour.

Not surprisingly, almost all the local councils were opposed to the move. But the only MSPs to vote against the STV bill were the Tories (who never pass up a chance to impede progress) and two Labourites (six others abstained). Opponents still hope to kill the measure, and local Labour big-fish-in-a-microscopic-pond types are threatening deselction for the Labour MSPs who voted for it. MSPs already have a B-List reputation of sorts (undeservedly imo), so it'd be interesting to see who these would-be kingmakers would get to replace them.

But the most interesting aspect of this move is that it puts Holyrood itself in a rather hypocritical position, since only 56 of its 129 MSPs are elected by PR. That equation was carefully calibrated by New Labour to ensure that the SNP would never form a majority, since Labour easily dominates the 1st-past-the-post seats. So now the Scottish Executive and its zookeepers in London will have to explain why pure PR is good for the councils but bad for Edinburgh.