Scotland joins Wales in refusing consent for Westminster Bill which bans those without ID from voting
The Scottish Government has joined the Welsh Parliament in refusing legislative consent to the UK Elections Bill, in a major escalation of opposition to the controversial legislation.
The Senedd refused consent for the bill, which would ban those without ID from voting in General Elections and PCC elections in Wales, at the beginning of September.
Legislative consent is only very rarely refused, making the joint move by Scotland and Wales’ government’s highly significant. Out of more than 350 legislative consent motions, consent has been denied just 13 times, according to the Institute for Government.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Sweeney lodged a legislation consent memorandum in the Scottish Parliament this week which recommends that Holyrood does not give consent to the legislation noting: “The Scottish Government considers that there is no evidence of significant electoral fraud to justify voter ID measures in Scotland.”
He added that it would cause confusion, with voters in Scotland forced to show photo ID for General Elections but not Holyrood.
Willie Sullivan, Senior Director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland said: “The Elections Bill is not just a bad piece of legislation but a dangerous one – it’s a bill that makes sweeping changes to our democracy that could see thousands of Scots turned away from the ballot box.
“There is much to be done to improve our elections across the UK, but instead of tackling the real issues, this legislation would threaten free and fair elections in Scotland. The Holyrood Government is right to oppose it and should hold firm.
“At a cost of up to £180m per decade, forcing this through is a grotesque priority for UK ministers right now. Far from protecting the integrity of our elections, it’s a costly barrier to democracy instead.
“This Elections Bill will lead to a ‘two-tier franchise’ in Scotland, with some elections banning those without ID, and others remaining open and free. Now both Holyrood and the Welsh Parliament have refused to support it ministers at Westminster must go back to the drawing board and think again.”
Last month Wales’ Counsel General Mick Antoniw said today that the Welsh Government is pushing for amendments to the legislation.
“The Welsh Government does not support the introduction of voter ID, the placing of unnecessary constraints on postal and proxy voting, or the extension of the overseas franchise,” he said.
“We are content that the Bill does not apply these to Wales, but we are concerned about potential unintended consequences such as voter and candidate confusion and complexity for administrators.”
He added that he was concerned with changes to the Electoral Committee and its relationship with the Llywydd’s Committee which scrutinises it.
“I cannot, therefore, currently recommend consent to the Bill. We are working with the UK Government with a view to seeking amendments to the Bill to reflect our policy position,” he said.
However, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Constitution, Darren Millar MS has said: “This is nothing more than mischief-making from the Welsh Government and its allies.
“Voters in Wales have nothing to fear from these proposals. The only people who should be concerned are those who intend to commit election fraud.
“People are required to present ID to vote in many vibrant democracies around the world including Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Iceland and Italy so I see no reason why this shouldn’t be the norm here in Wales.”