Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Westminster Vote Down Overnight Counts for Scotland
On Monday Westminster MPs voted, by 298 to 206, against overnight Scottish election counts. Labour had put forward an amendment to the Scotland Bill to protect traditional overnight counts, which always start as soon as possible after polling stations close, at Holyrood elections. The amendment would not have applied to this year's Scottish elections.
This paves the way in the future for returning officers to refuse to start the count until the following day. Election officers have been highly vocal on this subject and their excuse concerning this year's count is that staff would be too tired on 5 May to count the AV Referendum votes after the Parliament ballot papers. That doesn't hold water, because returning officers know full well all they have to do is employ two teams of staff; one for the Holyrood elections and one for the referendum. There would be no extra costs and certainly there would be no lack of applicants.
Last month it was reported the UK government were willing to put an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill to ensure that counting takes place as soon as voting closes on 5 May. I've scanned the Bill and find nothing of relevance.
Scotland ought to be able to make its own legislation covering the timing of our election counts, not Westminster and the Scotland Office should be facilitating the correction of this inconsistency. It would appear our tradition of overnight counting will continue this May, but to ensure it is so in future years, our politicians need to address the matter now. We're adult enough to make our own decisions with regard to our own elections, aren't we?
All is not lost though as far as our masters are concerned. They're sure we'll be delighted with the ballot papers' tasteful colours; lilac for the constituency vote and peach for the regional list vote, while the AV paper will be light grey. For non-Scots readers our constituency vote is cast on the FPTP system while the regional list is the AV system, so Scots (possibly) have a slightly better understanding of AV than most.
The first results are expected much later this year at around 5am because papers for all three elections have to be verified before the counting can begin and the calculations for the regional lists can't start until all the constituency winners in a particular region are known.
Not much fun to be had for political pundits unless they enjoy watching highly paid television presenters mumble and stumble their way through the night making nonsensical small talk with hopefuls. For me it will be bed at the usual time.