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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 30 November 2021

UK voters reject voting reform as Scottish nationalists win huge majority

The local and assembly elections as well as the referendum produced misery for the junior coalition party, the Liberal Democrats, whilst the main opposition Labour party enjoyed a resurgence.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond had a good night in the elections.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond had a good night in the elections.
Image: Press Association

VOTERS IN THE UK have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to change their voting system to the alternative vote method in a nationwide referendum, the results of which emerged this evening.

The referendum to switch from the first-past-the-post system, where voters choose one candidate they want to elect, to the alternative vote system where candidates are ranked in order of preference was rejected, reports the BBC this evening.

Turnout for the election was better than had been expected at around 41 per cent after some 18.6 million votes were cast, reports The Guardian, but over 10 million of them rejected the proposal to switch to AV.

The result is a crushing blow to the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg whose Liberal Democrats party had fought for a referendum on voting reform to be included in the coalition government’s manifesto and had hoped for a yes vote.

The campaign has seen both parties argue bitterly over the merits of changing the electoral system with Clegg and his Conservative counterpart David Cameron trading barbs, despite having both promised before the campaign to maintain a low profile.

Prime Minister Cameron was today accused by former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown of betraying the office of prime minister and destroying the goodwill of the coalition in an interview with The Times (subscription required).

The result came as the Scottish Nationalist Party enjoyed massive electoral success that will see the party form Scotland’s first overall majority government in what the BBC called a “stunning election victory”.

The result means that the SNP and its leader, Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond would appear to have a mandate to hold a referendum on Scotland gaining full independence from the UK, a key plank of their manifesto.

The party won 69 of the 129 seats in the Scottish parliament taking key seats in Labour heartlands on what was a bad night for the UK opposition party in the country. Their leader, Iain Gray announced he would stand down later this year.

In Northern Ireland, the turnout is the main talking point with the Belfast Telegraph reporting that it would be the lowest yet putting smaller parties under pressure from the expected dominance of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin.

The final make-up of the Northern assembly will not be known until on Saturday evening but turnout is predicted at just 55 per cent.

The expectation is that the first minister Peter Robinson (DUP) and deputy minister Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) will retain their positions in a coalition.

In England, local elections produced more misery for Nick Clegg whose Liberal Democrats lost control of nine councils across the country including Sheffield and Hull.

Elsewhere in Liverpool, the Liberal Democrats, who until last year had controlled the city council for over a decade, were all but wiped out with the former council leader, lord mayor and current peer Lord Mike Storey losing his seat to a Labour party candidate who is just 18, reports the Liverpool Echo.

The Labour party made the most gains taking control of 25 councils, including in Bury where the party had the length of a straw to thank for taking overall control of the council there.

In Wales, The Telegraph reports that Labour missed out on an overall majority in the Welsh Assembly despite increasing their numbers, winning half of the Senedd’s seats.

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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