The leaders of the UK’s devolved administrations have written to David Cameron to express their “extreme anger” over the UK coalition’s plans to hold a referendum on changing the electoral system on the same day as next year’s elections to local councils and to the devolved bodies.
The leaders of the UK’s devolved administrations have written to David Cameron to express their “extreme anger” over the UK Government’s plans to hold a referendum on changing the electoral system on the same day as next year’s elections to local councils and to the devolved bodies.
They did so with two key concerns:
• Firstly, Scottish external affairs minister, Fiona Hyslop, has confirmed that the Westminster Government had failed to consult the devolved bodies over the ramifications of holding a vote on the same day as their own elections.
In Scotland, a spokesman for Alex Salmond sought to demonstrate the majority within the Scottish Parliament against holding a referendum on the same day as the Scottish elections, saying:
“The reported proposal of the UK Government to hold a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) – an electoral system that no party actually supports – on the same day as the elections for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies cannot possibly stand. For this to emerge in the media without a single word of consultation with the devolved administrations is an act of extraordinary disrespect by the Tory/Lib Dem government at Westminster.”
Across Wales, speculation had already been growing that a request would be made to Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, to postpone the Assembly elections until June so that it did not either clash or come too soon after a referendum on further law making powers. The Western Mail has reported that the Secretary of State will discuss further the first minister’s request to change the date of elections to the Assembly this week.
However, following the news that a vote on electoral change could be held on the same day as the Welsh Assembly election, a Welsh Government spokesman said:
“There should be no distraction from the national assembly election. The first minister therefore intends to make clear to both the prime minister and the secretary of state for Wales at the earliest opportunity that we are strongly opposed to the AV referendum being held on the same day as the Assembly elections.”
What is more, the coalition Assembly Government’s concerns about having so many votes on one day are shared by both the Conservatives and Lib Dems.
A spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives commented that Opposition leader Nick Bourne had earlier this week written:
“To Carwyn Jones, [Plaid leader] Ieuan Wyn Jones and [Welsh Lib Dem leader] Kirsty Williams seeking their support for the Assembly election to be delayed for a month because of the likely Assembly powers referendum campaign next spring.”
Similarly, whilst the Welsh Lib Dems have vowed to remain tight lipped until an official announcement on the AV vote, they have previously opposed the principle of multiple elections on the same day.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, there are suggestions next May’s local council elections could be brought forward to March in order avoid confusion over the polls. With such substantial confusion about what will take place and when, it remains beholden on all sides to clearly set out the plans for the plethora of elections and votes that are to come as swiftly as possible.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.