Westminster refuses to budge over election date clashes

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The new Westminster coalition has refused to consider changing the dates of either the electoral reform referendum or the 2015 general election in order to avoid clashes with the Scottish elections.

The date of the referendum on electoral reform was leaked to the BBC last week before being officially announced by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg on Monday.


The new Westminster coalition has refused to consider changing the dates of either the electoral reform referendum or the 2015 general election in order to avoid clashes with the Scottish elections.

The date of the referendum on electoral reform was leaked to the BBC last week before being officially announced by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg on Monday.

The announcement of a date that clashed with the pre-arranged date for the Scottish elections caused outrage in Scotland and a furious Scottish government immediately accused London of showing a lack of respect to Scotland.  It further transpired that the London coalition hadn’t even officially informed the Scottish gvernment prior to the announcement.

The choosing of the 5th May for the referendum has led to protests from the leaders of the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Nick Clegg claims that holding of the referendum on the same day will save the UK treasury £17 million; Scotland’s pro-rata share of this saving is around £1.5 million.

However this argument is undermined when one considers that the Lib Dems appear to have ditched their pre-election policy of abolishing the Scotland Office – a government body that they previously argued does nothing and the removal of which would save Scotland over £10 million; money that is currently removed from the Scottish block grant.

On the 2015 general election date clash the coalition has contemptuously insisted that if Scotland is unhappy with the date clash then the Holyrood election date should be changed.

That the Holyrood election dates have been known since 1997 calls into question the respect that London has for Scotland’s democratic institutions, given that of the 261 days they could have chosen for a Westminster general election they chose the one already earmarked for Holyrood.

There are very real concerns that UK wide issues will dominate in the media and that devolved issues and campaigns will be diluted and marginalised as a result.  The last general election campaign demonstrated how the big London based parties completely overwhelmed the parties of the smaller nations and led to coverage that was almost exclusively based on English issues and views.

The leaders debates excluded the national parties of Scotland and Wales despite these parties forming the government in their respected nations.

There is also the prospect that having UK wide campaigns alongside Holyrood campaigns, coupled with the dual ballot papers, could cause voter confusion north of the border and result in chaos similar to that witnessed in the 2007 Holyrood elections.