ELECTORAL SYSTEMS IN DEVOLUTION IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
In the 1997 referendum, the Welsh and the Scots voted in favour of the creation of devolved institutions. Thus, in 1998, The Government of Wales Act and The Scotland Act were introduced by the Labour Government and Parliament. These two separate acts, reiterating most of the 1978 proposals which had been written hastily under politicalpressure, were to shape devolution in the late 1990s. To put it in a nutshell, devolution in Scotland offered primary legislation, i.e. the legislative power of drafting laws, whereas its Welsh counterpart enjoyed secondary legislation, i.e. only powers of law enforcement, that is to say executive powers. In this paper, we shall investigate what distinguishes the electoral system relative to theelections in the devolved bodies from that used in general elections in Britain. To do so, we shall first examine proportional representation, henceforth referred to as PR, and more precisely the Additional Member System, or AMS, that has been in operation in the elections to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament since 1999. After paying attention to the composition of the regionalinstitutions created, we shall look in detail at what happens, under AMS, on polling day. After highlighting the aspects in which AMS differs from other PR systems in the world, we shall finally try and sum up the advantages and potential flaws of this electoral system.
First of all, proportional representation was unanimously recommended by the Kilbrandon Commission on the Constitution, which hadreleased its report in late October 1973. Indeed, it had found out that PR would be the best system for the elections to take place in the devolved bodies. Moreover, the importance of the electoral system is not to be underestimated since, it has to be kept in mind, one of the reasons why the 1979 referendum failed is that people feared that the First Past The Post system, or FPTP, would result innon-representative governments. So, with some proportional representation, the regional territories were ready to trust the devolution proposals. As a consequence, they voted ‘yes’ in the 1997 referendum (Scotlland: 74.3% of the votes for a Scottish Parliament, 63.5% in favour of a Scottish Parliament that has tax-varying powers.in Scotland. Wales: 50.1% for a Welsh Assembly => narrow victory, lessthan 7000 votes out of a million cast! It was all the narrower since it had been influenced by the positive result of the referendum in Scotland one week before, on September 11th ) .Thus, two brand new institutions were born.
We shall first start with the one that has more powers, that is to say the Scottish Parliament. It is made up of 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), among whom 73are elected under FPTP. These 73 MSPs correspond to the 72 Westminster constituencies plus 1, because the Orkneys and the Shetlands were split, creating a 73rd constituency. The other 56 members are elected by PR, and more precisely under AMS, with seven MSPs elected under a regional list system, in each of the eight European constituencies.
In Wales, the same hybrid system applies. The WelshAssembly is made up of 60 members (WAMs), 40 of them are elected on the basis of the Westminster constituencies and the remaining 20 are elected according to the same regional party-list system: four members are elected in each of the five European regions.
Both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly are elected for a four-year term. Yet, these two bodies are different in the sense that theScottish Parliament, unlike the Welsh Assembly, may be dissolved: an interim election is then held if two thirds of the MSPs vote to do so or if it fails to nominate a First Minister (usually the leader of one of the main parties) after a 28-day period. We shall note that dissolution is possible within the Scottish Parliament because it is a fully-fledged Parliament, it is not an Assembly, so...
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