Let’s end this abuse of the Holyrood list system

By James Cassidy

In the early hours of the 6th May 2016 I watched as the Holyrood election results began to come in for the election of MSPs to the Scottish Parliament. The North Lanarkshire results were of interest to me, particularly Airdrie and Coatbridge.

In Airdrie Alex Neil was defending his seat on the back of some criticism over a number of local issues, Plains railway station being one close to home. He was however expected to win comfortably, indeed the SNP were expected to romp home, at least in the early stages.

Reports of internal fighting had reached the media though and there was reportedly much tension within the local party as candidates jockeyed for position on the regional list. In neighbouring Coatbridge Labour’s Elaine Smith was the incumbent and had been the constituency MSP there for many years, but locally Labour were in free fall. It was shaping up to be a very interesting election.

As the results came in it became apparent that while Alex Neil had retained his seat the SNP overall had done rather badly, and that some of the list candidates who had expected to merely turn up for the coronation would not actually be going to the party at all. In Coatbridge Fulton McGregor took the seat from Elaine Smith.

Ms Smith had other ideas however and had secured a high placing on the party list; in effect her salary was assured either way. To me something was clearly rotten with the system when it could be played this way. The people had spoken and they had been ignored.

We, the Scottish people, are told that we have a democratic government/parliament. We are told that if we do not like the government or our elected representative we can vote them out. Clearly that is not the case. It is entirely undemocratic that 45 MSPs across all parties became MSPs after having been rejected by the voters in their respective constituencies.

In some cases those rejected were the incumbents. The latter circumstances are of course the most insulting to the electorate, for no matter how poorly performing a sitting MSP may be, how out of touch they are with the local area, if they are valued by their respective parties, or know how to work the system, they cannot be got rid of by the voters.

In my view, to prevent this from occurring constituency candidates should not be allowed to be placed on the regional list and should gain office on merit; the electorate must have the right to reject a candidate and for that rejection to mean something. Furthermore, to prevent manipulation of the list, I’d like to see the ranking system removed.

If a party gains for example three list places, those three posts should be drawn at random from the list submitted by each party, and not a from an order selected in advance by the party themselves; it should be a pool rather than a determined list. This would in my opinion encourage all parties to make sure that they submitted only the very brightest and best to represent their parties, and by extension, the electorate.

In addition to the above, the actual system of regionally allocating members fails to truly represent the percentages of votes cast nationally, creating an imbalance to the detriment of the smaller parties, and this needs to be reviewed to reflect the national balance. For example in the May 2016 election the Scottish Green Party gained 6.6% of the vote share which equates to around 8 MSPs, and for which they only gained 6 seats. Similarly in the 2011 election they received 4.4% of the vote which should mean 5 MSPs, and for which they actually gained 2.

I feel that in the years since 1999 when the first elections to the reconvened Scottish Parliament took place there has been no examination of the system itself to ensure that it is delivering a fair and representative system which reflects the will of the Scottish people, and that such a review is long overdue. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas though, and it’s unlikely that any MSP will support such reforms. It’s not in their personal interest to do so, which is why any pressure to reform the system must come from us, the electorate.

To this end I have submitted a petition through the Scottish Parliament petitions system which is now live, and will remain so until the 28th August 2017. I hope that it stimulates a debate on how our electoral system works, its strengths and weaknesses, and above all what it needs to improve it.

If you agree that our Scottish electoral system is in need of reform then I would urge you to please sign the petition which can be found at the link below where you can also add your own comments and suggestions, all of which are welcome.

http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/reformthescottishelectoralsystem

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15 thoughts on “Let’s end this abuse of the Holyrood list system

  1. twathater

    James so so true , my wife and I both signed the petition I also submitted a comment , this to me has to be a priority of politicos , we might even get rid of the TRASH and false hinger oans that don’t believe in the SP but are quite willing to take their unearned wages.

    I would also like to see a radical recall law where politicians who are not representing their constituents properly are forced to answer to their constituents , I know that’s what elections are for but these twats can hang on for 5 years before they can be voted out , also their parties just put them on the list.

    I contacted my MP Jim Sheridan at the time of the waste monster vote re fraudulent expenses to complain that he had voted for the toothless recall law , his response was that they were worried that people would submit spurious complaints. In other words carry on doing nothing

    The electorate have a right to expect the best representation from their public servants not the current bench warming self serving parasites that were discarded by the voters

  2. Bill McDermott

    In addition to your comments about restricting ranking and double positioning on the constituency and list vote, I would go further and use the STV system for the regional vote.

    There should always be a direct link between voter choice and the election of a candidate.

  3. H Scott

    A possible remedy is to move from the present ‘closed list’ system where the party ranks a party’s candidates to an ‘open list’ where the voters do the ranking.

  4. H Gray

    In the interests of encouraging newcomers to the political arena, I would suggest that previously unelected candidates should be allowed to stand for both constituency and list.

    However existing incumbents should only be allowed to stand for constituencies, as they will have had the chance to show their worth to the electorate and should stand or fall on the basis of their performance.

    This would have the added bonus of eliminating the self serving “hingers oan” mentioned above.

  5. Ayrshirelass

    I agree a person should not be able to stand on the constituency and in the list vote.

    Anyone rejected by the electorate ( Scottish or otherwise) should also not be appointed to office through the back door via the House of Lords. That is blatant cronyism and bad for politics.

    I would also like the list vote to be a straight PR vote which would be much simpler and tranparent in my view.At the moment it still favours the larger parties

  6. Terence callachan

    Why is it that most people in Scotland are not informed of this cronyism in our voting system the Scottish government needs to educate the population on the voting system as a matter of urgency

  7. Morag

    I can’t support that as it stands. It’s far too restrictive and in practice it simply means that the grandees will swan in on the list without even troubling to contest a constituency.

    If you had worded the petition so that SITTING CONSTITUENCY MSPs were not allowed also to stand for both a constituency and the list I would probably have supported it.

  8. Jim Cassidy

    Thank you all for your comments, there’s so may ways of improving the system, many I’d never even considered. If it’s not too much trouble could you please add them to the petition so that they can be seen by the Petitions Committee?

    I understand your concerns Morag. The petition itself is intended to raise awareness of the issues, spark a debate (which hopefully will be taken up by the parliament itself) and to lead to reforms. I’m sure that your comments would be a useful addition to the debate, indeed I agree that your suggestion would be a reasonable compromise).

  9. Peter A Bell

    The petition seems too detailed. Too much there for people to disagree with. Better to keep the proposition as simple as possible. Just asking for a review of the electoral system would probably win a lot of support.

    It’s also necessary to consider what the Scottish Parliament is empowered to do. I’m not saying this is relevant. But we must be very cautious about allowing the UK Government an opportunity to tinker with Scotland’s electoral system citing public demand for reform as their justification. We all know what they mean by ‘reform’.

    1. Jim Cassidy

      Thanks Peter. I am hoping it will spark some debate and maybe reveal some ways in which the system can be improved. It’s by no means the polished article and I’ve seen some really good suggestions come forward, in particular that the List itself should be open and that the electorate should be able to rank the candidates- not the party.

      It’s up to the petitions committee whether to allow it to proceed, so if rejected I’ll bear all that in mind and bring it back again.

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