On Thursday those of us eligible to vote who have not done so by post will be confronted with ballot papers for the constituency and list elements of the Scottish Parliamentary election and for the referendum on electoral reform for Westminster elections.
After a feisty campaign locally it will be most interesting to see who is returned to represent Shetland at Holyrood. Let’s hope the greater interest in the campaign transfers into a higher turnout than the 59 per cent who voted in 2007. It is a cliche, but nonetheless true, that many of our forebears gave up their lives to ensure we could continue to live in a democracy. That it is a flawed one is beyond doubt, but in the privacy of the ballot box we can, among other things, seek to improve it.
One way in which the political system nationally would be improved is through reform to the voting system. The alternative vote (AV), as we have heard repeatedly, would be a marginal improvement on first past the post and certainly would not ensure representation at Westminster in direct proportion to votes. However, it would at least broaden the geographical focus of elections out from the core of marginal seats which hold the key to Downing Street. Most MPs, including our own, work very hard, but some in ultra-safe seats can afford, at present, not to.
Furthermore, a Yes vote in the AV referendum would demonstrate that the country is capable of desperately-needed, substantive reform in the face of desperate scaremongering. At a time when the political elite is widely regarded as being out of touch with the general population, it would serve to bring representatives closer to people and improve representation markedly.
Please, do vote.