The Arbuthnott Commission published its final report on the electoral system today. I’ve only read the summary, but it’s got some promising recommendations. These report dudes always seem so much more sensible on this issue than politicians. I wonder why?
Still, I don’t quite agree with everything the report has to say. Most importantly, the report suggests waiting for a bit before introducing STV for the Scottish Parliament. They seem to want to give the mixed member system time to “bed down” first. This is despite the fact that, as Paul Davies points out, they seem to think that changing to STV for European elections is perfectly fine.
Having said that, they have some good (albeit mostly cosmetic) ideas for papering over the cracks of MMS / AMS. I like the idea of changing the name of the second vote to minimise confusion (which undoubtedly exists, and will only increase with the introduction of STV for local elections). Giving constituency and regional MSPs clearer roles (ie. regional MSPs look over areas that concern an area wider than a constituency) should minimise the tensions created by the mixed system.
But this idea of the open list — while undoubtedly better than the current closed list which rewards arse-lickers and punishes voters — sends shivers down my spine. If I understand the idea correctly, a voter would have to choose which party they’re going to vote for, and then rank the candidates put forward by that party. Scary stuff! And this is meant to be simplifying things? They also say that having different boundaries for Holyrood and Westminster doesn’t matter much, which is a surprise to me.
Meanwhile, the Commission is not keen on having two different voting systems used on the same day. So its answer — instead of the obvious, which is to have the same voting system (STV) for each election — is to hold the elections on separate days. This is surely a recipe for low turnout, especially for the local elections.
Make My Vote Count also has good news on possible Westminster implications.
It will be interesting to see if Labour actually do anything with this report, or if they just chuck it in the bin as usual.