Combining AV Referendum and Holyrood poll breaks rules

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The proposal to hold a referendum on electoral reform on the same day as the Scottish parliamentary elections breaks Scottish election rules according to a Scottish newspaper.

An article in The Scotsman claims that UK Ministers have been alerted to the rule that prevents the authorities from holding a combined vote, where two polls are joined together.


The proposal to hold a referendum on electoral reform on the same day as the Scottish parliamentary elections breaks Scottish election rules according to a Scottish newspaper.

An article in The Scotsman claims that UK Ministers have been alerted to the rule that prevents the authorities from holding a combined vote, where two polls are joined together.

The newspaper points out that an exception is allowed for local government elections but that the proposed referendum on electoral reform is not exempt.

The body responsible for overseeing elections in Scotland has written to the Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore informing him of the situation.  It is believed that should the new coalition government wish to press ahead with the plans then the law would have to be changed.

The decision to hold the referendum on May 5th,  the same date as the Scottish elections, has caused fury in Scotland with both the SNP and Labour voicing protests.

First Minister Alex Salmond has written to David Cameron and Nick Clegg urging them to reconsider and arguing that the integrity of Scottish elections could be undermined.  It has also been claimed that media focus on the referendum could eclipse Scottish election issues and that voters could be confused by having two campaigns running side by side.

Coalition Ministers have dismissed claims that voters could be confused and Michael Moore has claimed that holding the two polls would save £17 million across the UK.

However Tom Aitcheson, convener of the Election board and chief executive of Edinburgh City Council has claimed that only by combining the polls, thereby combining poll cards, polling stations and postal voting materials, can the savings be made – and that this will break the Scottish election rules.

The 2007 Holyrood election ended in chaos with 180,000 votes being discared.  The resultant Gould report advised that two different polls should never again be held on the same day.

A spokesman for the SNP said:
“The Tory/Lib Dem UK government bounced this on Scotland without a word of consultation, and no thought as to the consequences.

“They have to think again, because either holding the two votes on the same day would carry double the bureaucracy and costs — the opposite of what Michael Moore says — or Westminster would force through a combined poll by unilaterally changing a piece of Scottish Parliament legislation, against the wishes of three-quarters of MSPs.

“It is not tenable and cannot stand.”

A Scotland Office spokesman acknowledged the letter saying: “We will consider the proposals put forward by the board in their recent letter.”