Scottish Greens to back AV vote while campaigning for PR

For immediate release 7 November 2010

The Scottish Green Party will support a Yes vote in the referendum on the Alternative Vote, expected to be held next May, but heavily criticised Lib Dem Ministers for setting a date which clashes with the Holyrood election. The party's Conference also condemned the decision by Lib Dem MPs last month to vote unanimously against an amendment by Green MP Caroline Lucas which would have given the public a chance to vote for proportional representation, specifically the Single Transferrable Vote, which was also Lib Dem policy. (1)

Mark Ruskell said:

"Not one party went into the last election backing the Alternative Vote, and it would bring us no nearer to a proportional voting system where everyone's vote would be counted fairly. By legislating for what Nick Clegg called "a miserable little compromise", they will have stunned their voters and activists alike. By ensuring media reporting of the the Scottish elections is overwhelmed by the referendum, they have also displayed an extraordinary disregard for the principles and practice of devolution.

"However, there is now no chance to improve the question being asked, nor the timing, and if the referendum fails the biggest cheers would come from the Tory right and Labour's dinosaurs. They fear change, they fear public opinion, and they're desperate to cling to the current system where the rotten boroughs outweigh the marginals. A vote cast under AV at least allows people to express their real political preferences, even if those votes would not then deliver a Parliament which accurately reflects those preferences. A change to AV would ensure the public were more familiar with preferential voting, and hopefully end the need for people to choose between their principles and a tactical vote.

"We will therefore campaign for a yes vote in May, but at the same time, we will continue to press as hard as we can for a truly fair and democratic voting system, one where the politicians are finally properly accountable to the public as well as representating their true views."

The motion passed by Conference reads as follows:
Conference condemns the decision by Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against an amendment moved by Caroline Lucas MP to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, which would have offered a genuine choice of voting systems, including Single Transferable Vote and the Additional Member System, alongside the Alternative Vote, in a referendum.

Conference agrees that for electoral reform to be meaningful the public should be given a free choice between systems, which must include forms of proportional representation.

Conference notes current SGP policy in favour of the Single Transferable Vote for all elections.

Conference recognises that while a handful of Labour and Conservative MPs backed the amendments, all Liberal Democrat MPs voted against, despite their paper commitment to PR.

Conference believes that the cause of meaningful electoral reform has been set back by the Liberal Democrats, but that it would be set back even further by a ‘No’ vote in the referendum.

Conference agrees that the Scottish Green Party will endorse a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum, but that we will also use the opportunity offered by the referendum to continue to put the case for wider reform including the adoption of proportional representation by Single Transferable Vote.