Make voting compulsory (From HeraldScotland)


LEAVING aside the results of the General Election – and the way in which calling it may have backfired on the Prime Minister – the main thing that strikes me about this (and every other) election is just how few voters actually bother to exercise the democratic right that their ancestors fought so hard to win for them.

The turnout in my own constituency of Inverclyde was 66.4 per cent – around two-thirds of those eligible to do so. Those responsible for organising the vote go out of their way to ensure that everyone is able to have their say by providing proxy votes, postal votes and making sure that polling stations are wheelchair accessible, yet there is still a “hard core” who, it seems, just find it all too much to bother with. They may make feeble excuses like “it doesn’t matter who you vote for – one’s as bad as the next”, but they can never give any evidence to back up such a stupid assertion.

Perhaps if a law was enacted that made voting compulsory (as I understand it is in Australia), then attitudes would change. A suitable fine would, no doubt, go a long way toward changing this lazy mind-set.

Barry Lees,

12 Denholm Street, Greenock.

IN David J Crawford’s critique on our form of democracy (letters, June 12) he suggests that in a multi-party system “fellow travellers” have to co-operate if “popular opinion” is to prevail. This argument seems to assume that popular opinion is well informed and consistently represents the right thing for this country. I expect many recent voters will have simply put their cross against the candidate they least disliked and we call it democracy. I consider that votes are almost always based on cosmetic opinion rather than weighing proven facts. What percentage of the electorate actually read a party manifesto within a comparative study? I expect that popular political opinion in many communities in the UK is largely devoid of thoughtful magnanimity on the good of the UK.I anticipate that since universal suffrage was established, voting remains founded on the relative merits of the modern equivalent of bread and circuses.

It has been said that the public in this country have never been so politically engaged. However if the Prime Minister can be so mistaken in her own political judgment by chancing an unnecessary election, what chance have the public got in absorbing the nuances of political influence and leadership when they vote?

Bill Brown,

46 Breadie Drive, Milngavie

IN taking Rebecca McQuillan (“A voting system that is past is sell-by date”, The Herald, June 10) to task for pointing out the deficiencies of the first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system, Allan C Steele (Letters, June 12) shows he does not understand the purpose of an election. We operate a system of representative democracy. The first requirement is, therefore, that the elected assembly (in this case, the UK Parliament) should be properly representative of those who voted.

The results of the most recent General Election show, yet again, that the FPTP voting system failed the UK voters. Only 56 per cent of those who voted are represented in the Parliament by an MP of their choice. The votes of the other 44 per cent who voted were discarded by the defective voting system – those 14 million voters have no representatives in the Parliament.

For Scotland the situation is significantly worse. Only 41 per cent of those who voted are represented at Westminster.

First-past-the-post discarded the votes of the other 59 per cent who voted – they have no representation. And those who obsess about single-member constituencies should note that only two of the MPs elected in Scotland had the support of half of those who voted in their constituencies. The other 57 MPs are minority members.

First-past-the-post may be simple but it clearly fails to deliver a properly representative Parliament. Enough is enough – it is time for change.

James Gilmour,

24/12 East Parkside, Edinburgh.

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