The Scottish election debacle report debacle

Not only were the Scottish elections shambolic, now the rigmarole around the report into the shambles has descended into a shambles.

The story so far:

The report said the following,

“What is characteristic of 2007 was a notable level of party self interest evident in Ministerial decision-making (especially in regard to the timing and method of counts and the design of ballot papers). The timing and impact of policy decisions taken by Ministers also seem to be a critical factor. SOLAR, in particular, has emphasised that the work of the legislation sub-group was undermined by late policy decisions taken by Ministers on a variety oflegislative issues.” (p 17)  This seems to say ministers tried to promote their own party interests in the design of the ballot.  The ministers were those in the Scotland Office.  Seems clear enough.

and

“During our consultations with stakeholders, it became clear that both the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive were frequently focused on partisan political interests in carrying out their responsibilities,  overlooking voter interests and operational realities within the electoral administration timetable. At worst, the Ministers disregarded the highly negative and disruptive influence on the elections caused by their  delays in arriving at key decisions. At best, they either overlooked or were poorly advised with regard to the serious operational consequences that could and did result.” (page 30) which seems to blame ministers in both systems for focusing on partisan political interests (presumably pro-Labour and pro-Lib Dem).

The report could not be clearer.  Indeed, as I suggested the other day the natural conclusion is that Douglas Alexander, the man in charge of the Scotland Office which had control of the Holyrood election ballot paper, although not named seemed to be the man responsible.  He had operational responsibility for the relevant actions, it was on his watch and he should carry the can.

However, enter, stage left, Ron Gould – the man who wrote the report, who has taken the extraordinary step this evening of repudiating various things he said in HIS report.  Gould has written to the electoral commission and denied everything.

He writes,

“I said in reflecting on the uncoordinated decision-making related to legislation : “What is characteristic of 2007 was a notable level of party self-interest evident in Ministerial decision-making (especially in regard to the timing and method of counts and the design of ballot papers. The timing and impact of policy decisions taken by Ministers also seem to be a critical factor.” I went on to say: “During our consultations with stakeholders, it became clear that both the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive were frequently focused on partisan political interests in carrying out their responsibilities, overlooking voter interests and operational realities within the electoral administration timetable. At worst, Ministers disregarded the highly negative and disruptive influence on the elections caused by their delays in arriving at key decisions. At best, they either overlooked or were poorly advised with regard to the serious operational consequences that could and did result.” [yep, we got that bit – the ministers were at it]

I concluded: “While prescribing all elements of electoral legislation remains a legislative function, ministers will always need to take some decisions on elements of electoral administration. However, as in other areas of public life, these can and should be taken with the voters’ interests as the primary objective, supported by publicly available professional and expert advice. This appears not to have been the case in 2007.” 

“It was clear to me from the start of my work that key legislative decisions which impacted on how the elections in Scotland were run were taken too late. I did not suggest in the report that specific actions were taken by Ministers to advance their own party’s interests [ ED: but what you say on pp 17 and 30 says that they did…] but that all political parties were concerned with the potential political advantage that could be gained by certain decisions, such as on the question of ballot paper design, and this delayed key decisions. 
“When I examined the reasons for this I concluded that, while responsibility for taking these decisions lay with the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive, all political parties in Scotland were involved in the long-running debates, contributed to the final decisions and shared in the failure to prioritise the interests of the voter. “

So, that’s clear then.

When Big Ron said that the Scotland Office was at it, he meant that all political parties (no doubt including the alphabet soup of left wing politics and John Swinburne’s senior citizen pigeon fanciers for a better tomorrow) were at it.  

Well, I’m glad he’s cleared that up.

But, Douglas Alexander should resign – for the reasons given the other day, and for his inability to organise a fair and free election on his own website.

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About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
This entry was posted in douglas alexander, scottish politics, Uncategorized, we can't even organise a critical report. Bookmark the permalink.

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