THE Scottish Conservatives are to trial an American-style “primary” election system to choose the Party’s candidate in West Aberdeenshire for the next General Election, it was revealed today.
All 66,110 men and woman in the constituency who are registered to vote are being given the chance to vote on the Tory candidate - not just constituency party members.
And the “open primary” election process could eventually be extended to other parts of Scotland.
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, announced plans for the innovative election process in Stonehaven today.
She said: “This is a unique opportunity for the public to have a bigger say in the democratic process. The Scottish Conservative Party is changing and we want candidates who have real resonance in the communities they serve.
“Parliamentary candidates are normally chosen by local party members, but we are opening up the selection process to thousands of people in the West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine constituency.
“We believe that by holding an open primary contest, candidates with a greater appeal will be selected to stand for election.”
She stressed: ““The party still decides who gets on the initial shortlist, but people in the constituency will then get the chance to give their verdict on who they want as their Scottish Conservative candidate at a special hustings event.
“We hope this new selection process will be embraced by voters, while making politics more transparent and helping to restore confidence in public life.”
A Party spokesman said: “Tens of thousands of people in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine will be given the opportunity for the first time to choose an election candidate for Westminster.
“The Scottish Conservatives will be holding an open primary in the constituency to select the party’s candidate for the 2015 General Election. All those registered to vote in the area can register to take part in the selection process, along with local party members. Some 66,110 people in the area were eligible to vote in the last election in 2010.”
The spokesman continued: “In all parties, parliamentary candidates are normally chosen by party members living in the constituency. But the Scottish Conservatives are opening up the process to the public to make the process more democratic.
“This means that thousands of people in the constituency will be given the chance to give their verdict on a shortlist of candidates put forward by the party to stand in the next General Election.Adverts will be placed in newspapers in the area inviting “electors” to pre-register for a hustings meeting to be held in the constituency at the beginning of next year.”
He added: “Those attending will be given a vote at the end of the event once the various applicants are quizzed on their suitability for selection as a candidate.