If you’re in Scotland, when you cast your vote on Thursday (or before if you have a postal vote), be aware that the voting system used gives you more say in the way your Council is run and that’s all down to the Liberal Democrats.
Way back in 2003, the Liberal Democrats secured the Single Transferable Vote system. This means that Councils are now more balanced in terms of the proportions of the votes cast. Gone are the days where Labour could win majority control in Councils across Scotland on a minority of the vote.
The 2007 election swept away many of these stale old Labour fiefdoms where Labour spent decades taking voters for granted because they knew the system worked in their favour. They could enjoy all the privileges of power and neglect the area and its people.
There are all sorts of systems of proportional representation but the reason STV is favoured by the Lib Dems is because it allows you to choose who you vote for. The system we use for the second vote at Holyrood, for example, or for Europe, allows you to choose a party but the individual candidates are on a party list. STV allows you to order the individual candidates in order of preference.
Such a system gives people the Councils they asked for. It’s meant that many Councils are run by Coalitions. Thirteen of these across Scotland involve the Liberal Democrats. The good thing is that the balance of these coalitions is a much truer reflection of how people voted, unlike at Westminster. The House of Commons is made up of 8% Liberal Democrats – even though 23.7% of people voted Liberal Democrat at the General Election. Our true representation would be around 140 MPs and that would give us much more strength within the Coalition. Even on 8% and just 57 MPs we are managing to implement around 3/4 of our manifesto. If there were more of us, then we would have been able to do even more. Contrast with the overall figures for Scottish Councils elected in 2007 – we got 12.6% of first preference and 13.7% of councillors, a much fairer balance. It was the same for the other parties as this briefing drawn up for the Scottish Parliament by Dr David Denver shows.
Labour had to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept STV – and in fact, the Liberal Democrats would have preferred 5 and 6 member wards which would have encouraged even greater diversity and pluralism, with more seats for the Greens, for example, and other smaller parties or independents. Liberal Democrats made it happen, though. It’s revolutionised local government in Scotland and, I think, pulled up the standard of our local authorities by some margin. It’s also provided stable Government in most local authorities, except those where the SNP decided they couldn’t be bothered making difficult decisions, like the Highlands and Argyll and Bute.
The introduction of STV is just one example that shows what you get when you elect Liberal Democrats – we will always try to give power away, not hoard it for ourselves. When you write your 1 in a box on Thursday, put it next to a Liberal Democrat.