TheLocal Government and Communities Committee, in a stage 1 report published today, has backed the Local Electoral Administration (Scotland) Bill.
The committee supports the general principles of the Bill and its two main proposals. These are: the establishment of an Electoral Management Board on a statutory basis for work in relation to local government elections in Scotland; and the extension of the Electoral Commission’s remit to include local government elections in Scotland.
Committee Convener Duncan McNeil MSP said:
“The Local Government and Communities Committee recognises the importance of the Bill in improving electoral administration in Scotland. The committee supports the general principles of the Bill and recommends to the Parliament that the Bill be approved.
The committee has agreed to recommend the establishment of an Electoral Management Board for Scotland (EMB), with the role of co-ordinating the administration of local government elections in Scotland. The committee also supports the Electoral Commission being given an extended remit to include local government elections in Scotland. We are confident these are steps in the right direction and will improve electoral administration in Scotland.”
The committee report also:
- Welcomed the provision to allow both returning officers and depute returning officers to be eligible for membership of the EMB. It recognises the experience of administering elections that depute returning officers will bring to the EMB;
- Welcomed the Scottish Government’s indication that it was considering how the EMB’s remit can be expanded to cover elections to the Scottish Parliament
- Recommended that the UK Government should consider further extensions to the EMB’s remit which would allow it to cover elections to the House of Commons, European Parliament elections and referenda.
Since problems encountered with the ballot in the 2007 local government and Scottish Parliament elections, which were held jointly using two different voting systems, a number of measures have been introduced to improve electoral administration in Scotland.
These measures have implemented some recommendations made by Mr Ron Gould, an international expert in electoral administration, who was asked by the Electoral Commission to undertake an independent review of the 2007 elections due to a range of issues during the election, including the higher-than-normal level of rejected ballots.
The Bill takes forward the Gould recommendations to establish a Chief Returning Officer for Scotland and rationalise the role of the Electoral Commission and other stakeholders, in relation to the proposed Chief Returning Officer.