MPs raise eyebrows at Scottish elections

MPs have said they are “deeply concerned” by the 2007 Scottish elections.

A report by the Commons’ Scottish affairs committee questions the resolution, adopted by the Commons, that the Scottish government should be given control of elections north of the border in future.

That had been the recommendation of a review of the May 3rd 2007 elections, which were blighted by an unusually high number of spoilt ballots and difficulties with electronic counting machines.

Its head, Ron Gould, told the committee he was “not comfortable” with the idea that all those elected to the Scottish parliament deserved to be there.

“We were deeply concerned by the events of May 3rd. Scotland has a long democratic tradition that must not be undermined,” the report says.

“We do not believe that ‘no one was to blame’ for the problems. Rather, lines of accountability were so fragmented and confused that no one person could be held solely responsible.”

One example given by the report is that of Glasgow, where MPs found a “shocking” lack of accountability about the decision to make changes to the ballot paper based on an unexpectedly high number of candidates.

The Electoral Commission comes under attack for the quality of its VoteScotland information campaign while the Scotland Office in Whitehall is also criticised.

“It is clear to us that there were significant delays in ministerial decisionmaking in the run up to the 2007 Scottish parliament election,” the report adds.

It recommends a “decoupling” of Scottish parliamentary and local elections, preferably so they are held apart every two years.

Support for responsibility being transferred to the Scottish executive should be reversed, with a chief returning officer for Scotland raised as a potential alternative.