Monday, 12 July 2010

Several(?) dates with destiny

I wrote at the tail end of last week about Nick Clegg's decision (well, okay, Nick Clegg's announcement of the decision) to hold the referendum to decide whether to adopt the AV vote on May 5th, the same day as the Scottish Parliament election next year.  Cue expected stushie, with Alex Salmond writing to David Cameron complaining that this hardly fits with his "respect" agenda, and suggesting that the referendum would "undermine and overshadow" the Scottish Parliament election.  I outlined some of the reasons for this in my previous post.

In theory, the Scottish Parliament can change the date of its election - up to one month either side of the 5th May date.  Well, actually, no, that's not strictly true.  The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament can request that the Secretary of State move the election, and they must sign off on it.  This is something, as Brian Taylor points out, which is being considered as a means of settling the other problem of the date - namely Westminster's change to fixed term parliaments, where the election dates would clash every 20 years starting on May 7th 2015.  He wonders whether the PO might make such a request for next year - probably in the full knowledge that if he UK government has made its decision then such a request is likely to be politely declined.

Interestingly (and, I guess, obviously, since they follow the same electoral cycle as Scotland) the problem is the same in Wales - they face having their Assembly election conjoined with the AV vote on 5 May as well.  There has been a similar reaction among elected politicians there as here, except for one, fairly notable exception.  The Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, Dafydd Elis Thomas, who has no "constitutional objection" to holding both on the same day on the grounds that it would benefit turnout for both.  However, what is really interesting is that he recommends holding Wales' other referendum - that which seeks to move the Schedule 4 of the Government of Wales Act 2006, bestowing in one move legislative powers to the National Assembly - on the same day.  So you'd have the devolved election, the AV referendum and the powers referendum on 5 May.

Dafydd Elis Thomas has previously made clear his objection to holding the powers referendum in Wales until such a time as the result is not really in doubt, and is sceptical of holding it in March (as is currently rumoured to be the intention of Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan).  So this seems a bold move - shifting the referendum to a date where there are a couple of other things going on would likely drive up turnout but at the expense of giving a clear campaign solely on the issue of the Assembly powers.  So that is interesting.

Of more interest in Scotland, I guess, is the impact of such a scheduling.  If this did go ahead - and the Welsh had all three votes on the one day - would the First Minister be able to argue that Scots are too stupid to be able to vote on two different issues (the Scottish Parliamentary election and the AV referendum) on the same day?  I guess time will tell on that one, but if Wales did go ahead on that score, it may start to make things more difficult to decouple the votes here.


Bill 12 July 2010 at 21:08  

I wrote on this general topic a few days ago, but that is not why I'm commenting here.

I got the link to your article from your Tweet which mentioned it and embedded a link to it. I notice that you do not use an URL-shortener. Perhaps this is deliberate, but in case you are unaware of it there are websites that can compress links into much fewer characters, so allowing better use to be made of the 140 characters that Twitter limits a tweet to.

I use:
but there are others, for example:
- and they are extremely simple and quick to use.

I hope this may possibly be of some help to you, unless as I mentioned earlier your non-use of such link-compression utilities is deliberate.


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