1. Introduction and background
1.1 In late 2017, the Scottish Government launched a public consultation to explore options for reforming and modernising electoral processes in Scotland. The consultation ran from 19 December 2017 to 29 March 2018. This report presents the analysis of the responses received.
1.2 The Scottish Government is committed to increasing access to democratic participation in Scotland, and reforming and modernising electoral procedures, and has already taken action in this area. In particular, in 2015 Scotland introduced legislation to lower the voting age (from 18 to 16) for both Scottish Parliament and local government elections; and in 2017 Scotland introduced the Access to Elected Office Fund for disabled people standing as candidates in the local government elections held that year.
1.3 The Scotland Act 2016 gave the Scottish Government new powers in relation to Scottish Parliamentary elections, complementing its existing powers and responsibilities in relation to Scottish local government elections. These new powers provide an opportunity to introduce further reforms to Scottish electoral procedures and increase participation in political life in Scotland.
1.4 As a first step towards further modernisation, reform, and enhancement of electoral processes and procedures, the Scottish Government published its Consultation Paper on Electoral Reform. The paper set out the background, the arguments and evidence, and some proposals on a range of issues related to electoral reform. The views gathered in the consultation will help inform the development of policy and possible future legislation.
1.5 The consultation paper contained 25 questions grouped in four main sections covering:
- How often elections should be held (Questions 1–2) focusing on term lengths for the Scottish Parliament and local councils
- Who runs elections and how they are run (Questions 3–16) covering the role of the Electoral Management Board and returning officers, polling day procedures (including ballot paper design and options for electronic voting), and the work of the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland
- Who can register and vote (Questions 17–22) covering issues related to the franchise, anonymous voter registration, and registering (and voting) in more than one local authority area
- Improving the accessibility of voting and elected office (Questions 23–25).
1.6 The questions comprised a mix of closed (tick-box) questions with follow-up questions inviting further comments, and open questions asking for comments only. In all there were 22 closed questions and 16 questions asking for comments.
1.7 The consultation was launched on 19 December 2017 and closed on 29 March 2018. The consultation paper and online questionnaire could be accessed on the Scottish Government consultation hub and could also be downloaded from the Scottish Government website. In addition, the Scottish Government promoted the consultation in a variety of ways, including through Ministerial letters to stakeholders, notices on social media, and Ministerial roundtable discussions with a range of equalities organisations (including those with a focus on gender, disability, young people and race). The consultation was also mentioned in a Scottish Parliament debate, after which the consultation period was extended.
About the analysis
1.8 This report presents the analysis of the responses to the consultation. The findings are based on both quantitative and qualitative analysis, with an emphasis on the latter. The analysis explores the views of respondents on each of the issues and options considered in the consultation paper.
1.9 Frequency analysis was undertaken in relation to all the closed questions in the consultation questionnaire and the results are shown in tables throughout this report. As there were relatively few organisational responses to any of the closed questions, no breakdown of these responses is shown for different types of organisation. (See Chapter 2 for information about the way in which different types of organisation were categorised.)
1.10 Comments made in response to each question were analysed qualitatively. The aim was to identify the main themes and the full range of views expressed in relation to each question or group of questions, and to draw out areas of agreement and disagreement.
1.11 Not all respondents answered all questions, and some made comments in relation to a question without ticking a box at the relevant closed question. If the respondent’s reply to the closed question could be inferred from their written comments (for example, if their comments began with the words ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or if their comments clearly indicated that they agreed or disagreed with a certain proposal), then the appropriate answer to the closed question was added – i.e. the response was imputed. Irrespective of whether it was possible to impute a response to the closed question, all comments received were included in the qualitative analysis.
1.12 As with all consultations, the views submitted and presented in this report are not necessarily representative of the views of the wider public. Respondents to consultations are self-selecting, and individuals (and organisations) who have a keen interest in a topic – and the capacity to respond – are more likely to participate in a consultation than those who do not. Additionally, respondents are likely to focus on individual consultation questions in which they have a particular interest or have particular concerns about. For these reasons, the views of consultation participants cannot be generalised to the wider population.
Structure of this report
1.13 This report contains nine chapters. Chapter 2 presents information on the respondents to the consultation and the responses submitted. Chapters 3 to 9 present the results of the analysis of the responses to the consultation questions. Findings are presented for individual questions or for groups of questions as appropriate. Annexes to the report contain a full list of organisational respondents (Annex 1), details of the number of respondents answering each question (Annex 2), and a summary of comments on electoral issues which did not directly address the consultation questions (Annex 3).