SNP & Plaid MPs in bid to stop election date clash

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POLITICS…
The SNP and Plaid Cymru at Westminster have called on Labour MPs to get behind their joint bid to ensure that elections to parliaments in Scotland and Wales are held separately from those for the UK Parliament.

As a consequence of the Con Dem Coalition’s decision to fix the term of the Westminster parliament, the next UK-wide election is scheduled to take place on May 7th 2015 – the same date as had already been fixed for the Scottish and Welsh elections.

This goes against the advice of the Gould Report into the Scottish Parliament Elections in 2007 which recommended that elections to different levels of government should not take place on the same day, as it can lead to confusion amongst voters and a lack of full scrutiny and debate.

The Welsh and Scottish Governments have already called for UK parliaments to be set at four years – rather than every five years as proposed by this Bill.

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards and SNP MP Angus MacNeil aim to break this cycle through tabling amendments which would firstly bring the General Election forward a year to 2014, and then hold UK general elections once every four years, not five as proposed.

This would be in keeping with every other electoral cycle determined in the UK, including elections to the National Assembly for Wales, Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly, London Assembly, London mayoral elections and local authority elections throughout the UK.

Commenting, SNP MP for Na h-Elieanan an Iar and Spokesman on Electoral Reform, Angus MacNeil said:

“The ConDem Coalition have already ridden roughshod over the wishes of the Scottish and Welsh Governments by scheduling an AV vote on the same day as upcoming Scottish Parliament election. Unless we pass this amendment, we’re on course for another date clash in 2015.

“The Gould report made it clear that to avoid the difficulties of the 2007 elections, each election and tier of government must be given proper respect for the sake of the electorate, which is why the Scots Parliament approved the decoupling of the local authority and Holyrood elections in Scotland.

“I hope that in when it comes to the vote, Labour Members will vote in favour of this amendment and show the devolved legislatures the respect they have been denied by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.”

Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, who will be speaking on the amendments said:

“Our amendment to the Fixed Term Parliament Bill will mean that elections for Westminster will take place at the same point in the electoral cycle every time, rather than clashing with other elections.

“Holding these two votes on the same day would be very damaging for democracy in the devolved nations and the UK Government is showing a huge lack of respect to Wales and Scotland by ramming through this Bill.

“When they take place, the Welsh Assembly elections, which determine priorities for Welsh public services such as health, education, transport and other issues, must be the most important and only priority for voters in Wales  – and in elections of such significance in the future.

“The Tories and Lib Dems are again showing a worrying level of arrogance by ignoring the wishes of the Welsh and Scottish governments.

“It is now time to rise above the partisan party politics that we witnessed when Labour MPs failed to support our amendment to remove the VAT rise. Labour MPs have voiced their support for keeping these separate but it is now time for action to speak louder than words.”