Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson face new clash over UK voter identification plan
NICOLA Sturgeon and Boris Johnson are heading for a new constitutional showdown which could see legislation changing the general election voting rules imposed on Scotland – without Holyrood’s agreement.
The potential clash involves the UK government’s Elections Bill, which includes controversial proposals requiring people to bring identity documents to polling stations to vote in the Westminster elections.
There are potential parallels to the disputes over Brexit law which saw the Withdrawal from the EU Act and Home Market Act come into force in Scotland, despite Holyrood’s refusal.
READ MORE: ‘Total bullshit’: Watch SNP MP separate Boris Johnson’s voter ID plans
Critics have condemned the voting rule reforms, unveiled by the Prime Minister in the Queen’s Speech in May, arguing that they will deter marginalized communities from going to the polls and that its official rationale – to deter electoral fraud – is extremely rare.
They believe that rather than introducing new rules that risk reducing voter turnout – which was 67% in the last general election in 2019 – voting modernization measures should be introduced to increase turnout.
The British government recently sought Holyrood’s consent for electoral reforms to be introduced in the Westminster elections in Scotland.
But the Scottish government opposes voter identification and has said it will not introduce it as a requirement for Scottish parliament or council elections.
Edinburgh ministers fear this could create confusion among those intending to vote, as well as unnecessary additional work and expense for election administrators who will have to check the validity of identity documents at polling stations. vote.
They also oppose the bill’s measures requiring those who use a postal vote for UK parliamentary elections to reapply every three years, rather than every five years, as will continue to be the case. for the Holyrood and Council elections.
Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney (above) has tabled a memorandum of approval of the legislation in the Scottish Parliament which recommends Holyrood not to give his consent to the legislation.
“Although this measure is fully reserved and will not apply to decentralized elections, various stakeholders have expressed concern about the impact of this provision on voters and electoral administrators in Scotland in relation to the elections. British parliamentarians, “he said.
“The Scottish Government considers that there is no evidence of significant electoral fraud to justify voter identification measures in Scotland. There seems to be a large margin of confusion in the event that a British poll is held on the same day as a Scottish poll (for example, when a by-election for a Parliament is held on the same day as a general election for the ‘other Parliament). In such a case, ID would only be required for a single ballot, which is likely to confuse voters and will place a great responsibility on the chairman of each polling station in controlling the ballot. identity requirement.
George Adam (above), Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, told the Sunday National: “We are confident that the proposed changes to voter identification and postal votes for the reserved elections will risk confusing voters. Scottish and will result in additional work for Scottish Election Administrators.
‘There is no significant evidence of voter fraud to justify voter identification measures in Scotland and there appears to be a considerable risk of confusion with the voter identification required for general elections in the UK. United here, but not for the Scottish Parliament elections. This will be especially confusing in the event that a UK poll, such as a by-election, takes place here on the same day as a Scottish election.
“We are also concerned about the changes regarding postal voting. These measures will force those who use a postal vote for UK parliamentary elections to reapply every three years, deviating from the current norm for all UK elections by five years.
READ MORE: Tory voter identification plans marked by SNP as ‘Trump-style voter suppression’
“The provisions of the bill which seek to bring about changes within the remit of the Scottish Parliament are also mixed at best. I am particularly concerned about the proposals which give UK ministers the power to set the policy of the electoral commission – including in decentralized elections – which I believe risk hampering its independence.
“While there are other measures in the bill which are potentially beneficial, I intend to examine them further with a view to presenting proposals to the Scottish Parliament in a Scottish bill.”
No date has yet been set for Holyrood to vote on a consent motion. However, SNP, Green, Labor and LibDem PSMs are likely to refuse consent, with only conservative PSMs consenting.
If, as expected, Holyrood refuses his consent, the UK government could decide not to introduce voter identification in Scotland for the general election.
However, if they did decide to go ahead despite Holyrood’s refusal, a new clash between London and Edinburgh would erupt, with the former seen as imposing its will on the Scots against the will of their parliament.
Dr Nick McKerrell, senior lecturer in law at Glasgow Caledonian University, told the Sunday National he believes the UK government is not thinking about how the legislation will affect Scotland. “It is a constitutional conflict that could be easily avoided,” he said, adding that the ID vote agenda was worrying. “I think the agenda is to make voting more complicated,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Welsh Labor government called on the Senedd to vote against the UK bill. British Labor said the plans amounted to changing the rules to ‘rig our democracy’. Voter identity checks are already used in Northern Ireland as a legacy of the Troubles.