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Call for Wales to adopt STV after evidence Scotland has ’embraced’ the more proportionate voting system

26 Apr 2022 5 minute read
Voting in Wales

The Electoral Reform Society has called for Wales to adopt STV voting after a new report by a leading pollster offered evidence that Scotland has “embraced” the system.

Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said that people in Scotland were making increased use of the system which allowed them to rank candidates in order of preference and that the outcomes were less disproportionate than first past the post as a result.

Councils in Wales are now able to switch to STV after this year’s elections should they wish. The Senedd is also mulling a switch to STV as part of wider electoral reforms that would include a larger Senedd.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “With local authorities in Wales now also able to make the change to STV, the results in Scotland offer a powerful example of the benefits of adopting a fairer system.

“In Scotland, we see an electorate that has embraced this new form of voting, ranking their preferences instead of being forced by a winner takes all system to take a gamble on one option, which they often view as the least worst.

“Where local councils north of the border have led the way it’s time for the rest of the UK to follow and embrace the power of preferences, so making proportional representation the norm.”

‘Preferences’

His comments followed the research by Sir John Curtice that found that voters in Scotland have increasingly adapted to the preferential Single Transferable Voting (STV) system since it was introduced in 2007.

But Prof Curtice said the way in which they had did do had marked differences at the last vote in 2017.

“On the one hand, voters were more likely to cast multiple preferences than previously, and in so doing to rank candidates from more than one party,” he said.

“Moreover, lower preferences influenced the outcome in seats to a greater extent than before,” he said as his Power of Preferences report was published on Tuesday.

“On the other hand, voters were less likely than previously to express preferences across the constitutional fault line that divides Scottish politics.”

STV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, letting them back more than one party, and next month’s election will be the fourth time voters have headed to the polls using the system.

The research found in 2017 almost 86% of valid ballot papers had at least two preferences, similar to the figure in 2012 and well up on the 78% that did so in 2007.

The analysis found the constitutional question was shaping the way voters rank candidates.

Some 46% of SNP voters gave their next preference, after all SNP candidates had been eliminated from the count, to a party other than the Conservatives, Labour, or Liberal Democrats.

This was well up on the 18% that did so in 2012.

Just 24% of SNP supporters gave their next preference to one of the three main unionist parties, well down on the 38% who did in 2012.

And Labour backers in 2017 were much more likely than they had been in 2012 to give their next preference to a candidate from another unionist party, either a Liberal Democrat, at 26%, or Conservative, 12%. This, in both cases, was around double than in 2012.

‘Encourage’

Professor Curtice said: “Independence supporters were less likely to give a lower preference to a unionist candidate, while backers of the Union were less likely to give a lower preference to a pro-independence candidate.

“Meanwhile, the pattern of voting behaviour in last year’s Holyrood election suggests that this polarisation of Yes and No supporters may well be even more marked in this year’s local ballot.

“Consequently, the outcome in May is unlikely just to turn on the distribution of first preferences.

“It will also depend on how Yes and No voters use the opportunity afforded by the STV ballot paper to express more than one choice – and on what the parties do or do not do to encourage them to do so.”

Transfers had played a greater role in deciding the eventual winner than before with only 38.5% of candidates elected on first preferences alone in 2017, five points down on the equivalent figure in 2012, and slightly below the 40% who were elected that way in 2007.

In the last local election as many as 101 seats, 8% of the total, were won by candidates who were not initially in a winning position, well up on the 68 seats in 2012 and 73 in 2007.

In 2017 around seven in ten Conservative, Labour, and SNP supporters gave preferences to other parties or independents when there were no more candidates of their first-choice party to rank.

On average, across all of Scotland’s local councils, the level of disproportionality in 2017 stood at 9.6, the report found.

This was far below the average figure of 34.5 for the outcome in Scotland of the last three Westminster elections held using first past the post.


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Llinos
Llinos
5 months ago

Do we need to follow Scotland in this? Yes it is more representative, but it makes it easier for truly vile extremist people to slither in under the radar. Just in ones and twos, but we all remember from our school days how attention seeking clowns could disrupt whole lessons

Richard 1
Richard 1
5 months ago
Reply to  Llinos

We do need it. There have been clowns in the Senedd already. They aren’t a problem. Systemic unfairness IS a problem as it turns people away from electoral politics.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard 1

Not sure we need it but we need to try it. The reluctance to change is what gets us into all sorts of trouble with those in Westminster still stuck in a feudal mindset. If too many loonies of the Hamilton variety gain power we can always change back.
Llinos, you now need to explain why FPTP gets you concentration camp fans like Patel and completely brainless twerps like Fabricant and Cash and why STV could possibly be worse than the Asghar dynasty of Plaid/Labour/Tory turncoats in Newport

Llinos
Llinos
5 months ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

I’m not sure I do need to explain FPTP you know? I’m satisfied with the partial PR that y Senedd currently uses and I’m not too inclined to respond to you when you have laid out some of your pre-concluded opinions in advance of anything I might say.

CJPh
CJPh
5 months ago

For a nation of our size, this system makes perfect sense. It allows for coalition building and a full airing of ideas to be heard. There’s no way the Greens shouldn’t have representation here, no way the alternative voices for indy should have zero chance either. With this sort of voting system, the entrenched positions of the major parties can be shifted to comport more with the public preference by viewing second choices.

Paul
Paul
5 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

You say you’re happy for the Greens and other Pro Indi parties to join the Senedd under STV.

Presumably you wouldn’t be against (albeit it not enthusiastic) parties like Reform and TUSC also joining?

Adrian Meagher
Adrian Meagher
5 months ago

STV is a fine system but using it means that gender balance is hard to achieve, unless you have separate contests for men and women.

Richard 1
Richard 1
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Meagher

Pls can you explain the mechanism that you think makes it hard to get gender balance?

cathayslien
cathayslien
5 months ago

yes, definitely. we need more democracy and less party politics.

R W
R W
5 months ago

Some people seem to be confusing STV with PR on here. They are very different things. STV is merely tinkering with the current system and would have minimal effect on the final result compared with FPTP. We should be looking at something far more radical than either of these systems to ensue fairness and to stop people from feeling that they are ‘wasting their vote’ when voting for an opposing party in a safe seat.

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