Nelson’s Column

Ok, let me declare my interest straight off the bat – on May 5th, along with my Holyrood parliamentary votes, I will be voting YES in the referendum on the Alternative Vote. Yes, I know that’s the part of the vote that nobody cares about or thinks is too complicated to understand. Well that would suit the NO campaign just fine. They are very happy for you to be so confused and scared that you just stick with the status quo rather than take the time to consider your vote.

We are being told that the first past the post system is fairer because the one with the most votes wins. Well, consider this – the one with the most votes isn’t necessarily the one with the most voters. Let me clarify. Let’s say you have one hundred people voting for four candidates. The results are Candidiate A=30; Cadidate B=25; Cadidate C= 23; Candidate D=22. That means Candidate A wins. But they won on less than  one third of the vote. That means that 70 per cent of the people are being represented by someone they didn’t vote for. Would you say that was fair?

Fair or not it is happening all of the time. Just Google the results of any Glasgow council election over the past few years. So under AV the second votes on Candidate D’s pile are distributed into their appropriate pile. Keep going till there are only two piles left and the biggest pile wins. Simple.

On this note, the NO campaign are currently putting out literature with misleading imagery. The latest one has four athletes crossing a line with an arrow drawn pointing at the guy coming last saying “winner under AV”. That’s not actually true is it? The one who comes last will always be dropped. And in any case an election is not a race. The electorate is not a bookie. You do not vote for the person or party you think is going to win. You vote for the one that best represents your views, principles and values and that you feel are capable of successfully working on them (or at least the one you think is least corrupt and incompetent.)

A ballot paper is not a racing form, it is more like a menu. You pick the one you fancy the most. Under the current system you pick a dish then sit and hope the rest of the restaurant picks the same one and everyone gets the dish that is picked most. Under AV you say “If you don’t have the chicken I’ll take the fish,” then the waiter will bring you either chicken or fish. But please note that whatever you get you only get one dish.  Don’t let the NO campaign tell you your vote counts twice.

Think too of the way boundaries are drawn. Lets say there are 97 people in the square constituency, 2 people in the round constituency and 1 person in the triangle one. If the square elects party A, and both the round and triangle constituencies elect Party B then 97 per cent of the people have a government they didn’t vote for? “Wait!” I hear you cry, “a government we didn’t vote for? How could that happen?” Yes, how, indeed. Even the Tories of middle England didn’t get the government they wanted at the last Westminster election what with all full of those pesky Lib Dems (very adaptable Lib Dems, mind you).

My favourite piece of NO campaign nonsense is that under AV extreme parties like the BNP will get elected through their second and third nominations on ballots. Well let me say this: if people are voting for the BNP at all we already have a bigger problem. In fact at the last European elections the BNP had two MEPs elected under the current system, so if people are disillusioned enough to be voting for parties like that then we have to discuss a little bit more than the voting system we use.

All in all, for my entire adult life we have basically had the same government implementing the same policies from the same offices whether it was Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown or the current two headed monster. So a little shake up can only do us good.

So what about the Holyrood elections? Well, let’s face it, Tavish is a nice guy and we all like him, but his party have decided that power and fame are more important than policies and integrity. Secondly, in a Westminster election it doesn’t matter how we in Scotland vote as the South of England can always vote in a Tory government if the fancy takes them. In an independent Scotland we will never ever have a Tory government again. So how do we go about doing that?

Sandy Nelson


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