Smith Commission : Electoral Powers


The Smith Commission has proposed that Scotland should have full control over the electoral system, allowing Holyrood to change the voting system and alter the length of parliament.

The Scottish parliament will be made permanent in UK legislation, be given powers over how it is elected and run, and will also have the power to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds. Changes to the franchise or electoral system will require a two-thirds majority.

Holyrood was set up in 1999 with four-year, fixed-term parliaments. However, it was the coalition government in Westminster that decided to delay the 2015 vote by a year so that Scottish elections did not clash with the general election. Under Smith’s proposals, this could not happen again.

What else?

The powers over the electoral system will also allow the Scottish parliament to change the voting system in the future. Conceivably, future Scottish governments could ditch the semi-proportional added member system currently used and choose a different system, such as the single transferable vote (STV).

The power to vary the voting age will be particularly welcome after over 100,000 16 and 17 year olds took part in the independence referendum, the first time that age group had participated in the Scottish voting system (1).

However, there is uncertainty as to whether the Scotland Bill transferring more powers from Westminster to Holyrood can be enacted in time for the May 2016 Scottish parliament elections.

If it cannot, then the Commission could recommend a special parliamentary procedure – a Section 30 Order, which was used to allow the Scots parliament to organise the independence referendum – be passed by MPs to enable 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the next Holyrood election.

What have people said?

“There is not a shred of evidence for arguing now that 16 and 17-year-olds should not be allowed to vote.” Alex Salmond

“The referendum has proved young people take the right to vote seriously. Over 80 per cent of young people registered to vote, and we have earned an extension of the voting age to all elections.” Louise Cameron, chair, Scottish Youth Parliament

Picture courtesy of Lawrence OP