Today the Electoral Reform Society launches a report on the initial impact of the switch away from First-Past-the-Post to the proportional representation for electing Scotlands Councillors.
The research, led by Dr Martin Steven of Glasgow University, saw large numbers of Scottish councillors interviewed, and is revealing a picture of a more engaged, challenged and citizen led democracy.
The advent of the Single Transferable Vote has led to parties used to holding power sharpening their pencils, as one senior council official puts it either by virtue of leaving office or staying in power with a much reduced majority. There are numerous examples of staff, elected members and others raising their game since May 2007 and examples of refreshed and more strategic local government policy-making.
The Society has offered four recommendations to the parties, calling on them to catch up with the new politics, and drop the old rule book of FPTP.
Willie Sullivan, Director of ERS Scotland said
Whenasked what he thought of the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai famously said "It's too early to tell." Well in 2007 the Single Transferable Vote began a revolution in Scottish Local Government, and its impact is only just coming into focus.
This extensive work led by Dr Martin Steven of ERS and Glasgow Universityis an important first look at how councils are operating under the new system. Most councillors agree that STV has changed the way they engage with voters. One Party states such as Glasgow andMid Lothian have been swept away, and new opposition is now finding its voice, with real debates and real scrutiny now a fact of life in council chambers.
The old certainties are now old news. The public have always hated Punch and Judy politics, but politicians in Scotland now need to play catch up. Reform demands that parties work togetheron behalf of the public instead of against each other in theinterest power.Inthe council chamber and at ward levelcouncillors from different parties need to cooperate if they are to maintain the support and respect of the voters.
Gone are the safe seats. Gone are the one party states. And gone forever is a system that allows those elected to take their voters for granted. Officials and councillors we interviewed acknowledge that STV means better local governance. But this is the beginning. Democracyis never a finished job, but thanks to the way it we elect our councillors Scottish local government is now a beacon for the rest of the UK.
The report makes 4 key recommendations, and has called on parties to rethink how they view their opponents, and the task of government.
1. The process of forming coalitions requires to be based more clearly on the principle of power-sharing;
2. Policy requires strategic planning not a protection of short-term interests;
3. Establishing a more constructive relationship between executive and opposition is vital;
4. Considerably more effort is required in relation to operating collaboratively in the new multi-member wards.
Read Working with STV: A Report for Parties and Councillors. http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/downloads/Working_with_STV.pdf
For more information contact Willie Sullivan on 07940 523842 firstname.lastname@example.org