Scottish Affairs Committee Press Notice

No 24 Session 2007-08

18 May 2008


The Scotland Office must work to restore the integrity of the voting system following the problems encountered during the Scottish elections on 3 May 2007, says a report out today (18 May 2008) by the Scottish Affairs Committee.

High numbers of spoilt ballot papers and problems with electronic counting machines and postal voting occurred during the elections. The Committee asked Mr Ron Gould, author of the independent review of the Scottish elections, whether he was comfortable that everybody who now serves in the Scottish Parliament deserves to be there. He responded that he was not.

The Committee found that serious failings led to the problems of 3 May. There were failings on the part of the Scotland Office, where lengthy delays disrupted planning, and the Electoral Commission, which did not adequately warn of potential ballot problems. However, the report considers that the focus must be on moving forward and strengthening electoral procedures for the future.

Transferring overall responsibility for the Scottish Parliament elections to the Scottish Executive is not necessary for elections to proceed smoothly in the future, says the report. However, consideration should be given to reforming structures of accountability, for example establishing a Chief Returning Officer for Scotland as a single point of accountability, or strengthening and realigning existing bodies.

In relation to the problems caused by e-counting, the Committee recommends that any future proposals must place the needs of the voter and the interests of transparency above the limitations of any given technology. The Committee does not support the use of e-counting until the current problems are resolved.

The Chairman of the Committee, Mr Mohammad Sarwar MP, said:

"This is an opportunity for the Scotland Office to make lasting changes to restore confidence in the voting process and we would like to see them coordinating their actions with other government departments, as the 3 May problems are unlikely to be unique to Scotland.

"We also wish to see more effective working practices established with the Electoral Commission, who we think failed to give voters enough warning about the potential ballot problems.

"This is not the time for a quick fix solution, but a chance to use the independent review to move forward and ensure that the disastrous situation of 3 May is not repeated."


Notes for editors:

Committee Membership is as follows:

Mr Mohammad Sarwar MP (Lab, Glasgow Central) (Chairman), Alistair Carmichael MP (Lib Dem, Orkney and Shetland), Ms Katy Clark MP (Lab, North Ayrshire and Arran), Mr Ian Davidson MP (Lab/Co-operative, Glasgow South West), Mr Jim Devine MP (Lab, Livingston), Mr Jim McGovern MP (Lab, Dundee West), Mr John MacDougall MP (Lab, Glenrothes), Mr Angus MacNeil MP (SNP, Na h-Eileanan An Iar), David Mundell MP (Con, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale), Mr Charles Walker MP (Con, Broxbourne) and Mr Ben Wallace MP (Con, Lancaster and Wyre)

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