Parliament set for a five-year term to avoid clash with Westminster election


The main parties in the Scottish Parliament are expected to support rescheduling the next election to 2016 giving the winners of this years Holyrood election a five year term instead of four.  The reason for the change is that the due date of 2015 will clash with the next Westminster election.

In Scotland there is a consensus that the date change is for the best.  First Minister Alex Salmond is backing the change, along with the principal opposition parties at Holyrood.  Parliament’s Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson has also welcomed the fact a clash will be avoided.

New legislation, the Fixed-Term Parliaments Bill, which will usher in fixed five-year terms at Westminster, means the Holyrood Parliament’s four-year fixed term here in Scotland will see both elections clash in 2015.

Although there exists unanimity among Scotland’s parties for the move, the First Minister was angry that Holyrood had been placed in a position of having to alter Scotland’s fixed four-year term timetable to accomodate Westminster changes: “Most of us in Scotland are absolutely furious that our pre-arranged election date for the time after next is to be crowded in, almost without thought, by the coalition’s plan for a five-year term in London.”

The Scottish electoral cycle appears not to have been considered when London made the changes leaving many Scots claiming it is an affront to the dignity of Scotland.  However with elections looming Mr Salmond is perhaps keen to err on the side of diplomacy and avoid his Government being portrayed as picking fights with London.  The First Minister said: “It’s clearly not acceptable to have the elections on the same day.  We’ve got the temptation of saying ‘look we were here first, you change’.

“But in terms of actually getting something that satisfactorily allows the Scottish elections to have their own space and political timetable, then I think it’s probably the best we can do.”

Scotland’s opposition Labour party are also angry at the ConDem government’s steam-rolling of Scotland’s predetermined election schedule.  Labour’s Scottish constitutional affairs spokeswoman Pauline McNeill registered her indignation: “This is a problem that the Tories have caused and it is regrettable that they failed to respect the fact that the Scottish elections were already in place for 2015.”

The Fixed-Term Parliaments Bill will receive its second reading on 1 March.  MSPs at Holyrood are expected to hurry through a vote before Parliament dissolves at the end of March in order to receive MSPs’ endorsement for the 2016 vote and the required change in legislation.

The extention of the next parliamentary term to five years means that May’s Scottish election will result in even more being at stake for the principal parties as they seek to win the keys to Bute House.