Westminster referendum may hit Scots poll, says Tory
HOLDING a referendum to change Westminster voting rules on the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections risks undermining the integrity of the poll north of the Border, a Conservative MP warned yesterday.
Eleanor Laing, a shadow justice minister before the general election, even suggested the devolution settlement might be put in danger if elections to Holyrood were not "free and fair".
But Scotland Secretary Michael Moore defended the coalition's plans for a referendum on the alternative vote (AV) on 5 May, 2011, saying it was "entirely sensible" to hold the plebiscite on the same day as voters in Scotland and Wales elected members of their devolved assemblies.
The referendum, which was a key concession for the Liberal Democrats entering into coalition with the Tories, will propose replacing Westminster's first-past-the-post system with AV. Under AV, candidates are ranked by number, with second choices of losing candidates taken into account until one person gets the backing of 50 per cent of voters.
But concerns have been raised that holding the referendum on the same day as elections in Scotland and Wales would artificially boost turnout in parts of the UK that already had different voting systems. During Commons question time, Ms Laing asked Mr Moore: "Do you not see that the integrity of those elections is in danger of being undermined by the government deciding to hold a referendum on AV on the same day as elections to the Scottish Parliament?"
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