All quiet on the rural legislation front – for now
I August, the Electoral Re orm Society (ERS) published its analysis o the votes cast and political outcomes in June s general election. The report, not unexpectedly, highlighted the perceived shortcomings o the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system, and made a case or alternative approaches, such as the Additional Member System (AMS), Alternative ote (A ) system, or Single Trans erable ote (ST ) system.
sing ERS s criterion, the best voting method would result in the election o constituency MPs rom different political parties in proportions re ecting the aggregate total votes or those parties across the .
Disappointingly, the report did not look at the impact o increasing the si e o constituencies. Larger constituencies and ewer MPs has a populist ring that might find real support in the present political climate.
n Scotland, where AMS voting or the Sco sh parliament has led to multi-party politics rather than a bi-party situation, the ERS ound large numbers o voters have developed the skill o tactical voting gaming the FPTP system to make sure their vote has an impact.
This must dismay traditional politicians or whom party allegiance is the bedrock o politics. oters, it seems, are increasingly switch-voting to support pre erred policies, or to de eat the candidates they least wish to see elected.
n practice, this phenomenon has important implications since it has created greater political volatility than previously experienced in general elections in Scotland.
The act that 21 o 59 So sh constituencies changed hands in June made Scotland the most politically volatile region in the , in respect o Westminster elections.
A key uestion now is whether this switch-voting tendency will impact the Sco sh parliament elec-
Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee s plan to review fish arming early in 2018 will attract due industry interest
tions in May 2021 or the general election in May 2022.
The Sco sh parliament returned in September to find the political environment changed substantially since the start o the summer, and this is likely to affect proceedings.
Additionally, the recent overnment Expenditure and Review ( ERS) 2016-17 or Scotland does not make happy reading.
Even allowing or a geographic share o oil and gas revenues, the Sco sh budget deficit was 13.3 billion or 8.3 per cent o ross Domestic Product ( DP).
Some industry sectors, including armed salmon and Scotch whisky in the ood and drink category, had strong export per ormances.
However, no one can doubt that the national budget deficit is challenging, and the act that pro-rata it is our times that o the , relentlessly ocuses attention on the per ormance o the Sco sh government.
A er an intense period o elections and re erendums, there is a reported public weariness o party politics in Scotland, and a detectable wish or the government(s) (Holyrood and Westminster) to concentrate on the key priorities that affect people s lives the economy, jobs, education, public services and so on.
Public agitation on these issues will almost certainly intensi y as Brexit negotiations proceed, although there is little yet to suggest that kind o ocus in the current programme o 19 bills which are making their way through the Sco sh parliament.
There are two bills which touch on rural businesses. The first is the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill, which will provide ull devolution o control o Sco sh orestry to Sco sh ministers and see the Forestry Commission Scotland and Forest Enterprise Scotland absorbed as Divisions o the Sco sh government s Environment and Forestry Directorate.
The second is the slands (Scotland) Bill which covers a range o new measures to trans er powers and make new provisions or the Sco sh islands.
The orestry bill is unlikely to have any direct impact on fish armers. However, some o the longer term objectives o the legislation are designed to increase public use o orestry resources, and this might increase tourism in fish arming areas.
The islands bill appears potentially more important, because it contains new arrangements or planning and licensing marine developments.
However, fish arming is specifically excluded as a development activity in terms o the bill, as it is already under Local Authority Planning Control. There ore, in practice, the bill is unlikely to change much so ar as fish armers are concerned.
At the level o the parliamentary committees very little o the ongoing programmes o work are likely to stir the blood o those in the industry, although the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee s plan to review fish arming early in 2018 will attract due industry interest and attention.
Thus, overall, it looks as i there might be a Sco sh parliament period o relative calm. But with Brexit rolling orward, increasing public concern over the things that matter, and growing scepticism towards party politics, we may in act be acing the calm be ore a significant storm
“There is a wish or government to concentrate on the key priorities that affect people s lives”
BY PROFESSOR PHIL THOMAS