Majority improbable but not impossible

Where did the authors of the report on the Scottish Parliament election 2011 get the idea that the founding principles of the legislature would be that no party would ever have an overall majority (your report, 16 November)?

I can accept that in the 1990s the Constitutional Convention, making the case for devolution, wanted to see a number of things happen.

They included more co-operative working among the parties, more accessibility for pressure groups and ordinary members of the public, more civilised working hours and an end to the more arcane procedures that governed Westminster.

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Some members of the convention may have hoped that, along with this, no party would be in overall charge at Holyrood. But that is quite a different thing to making it a principle that there would always be either a coalition or a minority government.

In the end, the additional member system for elections that was adopted was a compromise.

It tried to bridge the gap between Labour hard-liners arguing for a continuation of first-past-the-post, and most of the other parties in the convention which wanted a more proportional system. Most pundits knew that achieving an overall majority might be difficult but not impossible.

The SNP achieved it last May for two reasons: a near collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, particularly in the Highlands, and a realisation among voters that the Nationalists could be better trusted with government than its main, Labour, opponents.

Voters determined this outcome using the existing system. Few would ever argue that it cannot be improved as Professor John Curtice and his colleagues have suggested. But it should be improved in a way that helps determine what the electorate actually wants, not with a view to getting a pre-determined outcome like no overall control.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court


Your editorial raised two issues arising from the report by Prof John Curtice on voting systems and democracy.

There is possibly a more important question. If majority rule is anti-democratic in Holyrood, it surely follows that it is equally anti-democratic at Westminster where a majority is the rule rather than the exception.

It will be interesting to see how Labour and the Tories try to make political capital out of this report and still defend to the death first-past-the-post at Westminster. If majorities are bad, first-past-the-post is surely the ultimate evil.

(Cllr) Jim Wardhaugh

Clamps Wood

East Kilbride