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Exercising the politicos

Brian Taylor | 18:10 UK time, Monday, 5 July 2010

Nick Clegg appears to have a certain regard for the way Parliamentary matters are handled in Scotland.

For example, his revised plans on how to force a dissolution within the proposed new fixed terms at Westminster seem to be modelled on the Holyrood system.

Indeed, he drew the comparison himself when making his statement on upcoming reforms in the Commons.

But that regard, it seems to critics, goes only so far.

Unwarranted complication

Mr Clegg is intent on holding a referendum on changing the way MPs are elected. He intends that referendum to be held on 5 May next year.

Ring any bells for you? It happens to be my mother's birthday - but it is another clash of dates which is exercising the politicos.

The fifth of May is, of course, the scheduled date for the next elections to the Scottish Parliament.

There are those who say this clash is an unwarranted complication. There are those who say it is an insult to Holyrood. For respect, read contempt, they argue.

Mr Clegg acknowledged these concerns but argued that the public wouldn't wear umpteen trips to the polling stations, that a conjoined ballot would save money and that the good people of Scotland and elsewhere were perfectly capable of handling multiple electoral choices.

Electoral attention

This issue has produced a remarkable concatenation of views. SNP Ministers and their Labour counterparts at Holyrood both resent the Clegg timetable - and have said so.

They point out that the Holyrood elections had to be uncoupled from local elections following evident problems which emerged at the counts.

Further, they argue that changing the voting system for the Commons requires the complete and sole attention of the electorate.

It would be transformational, they argue, and should not be subsumed within another big electoral choice.

Intriguing prospect

Actually, there is a potential clash with the next Holyrood elections too; those scheduled for 2015. (I know, I know, one thing at a time but bear with me.)

If there is to be a fixed Parliament at Westminster, then the next UK election would be on 7 May 2015, the date laid down for the next.......you're ahead of me.

UK Government sources are indicating that they would be amenable to that one being sorted through the Holyrood Presiding Officer using his powers under Section 2 (5) of the Scotland Act to request that the Holyrood poll be moved by one month either way in 2015 (and every second decade when such a clash arises.)

Which, for the astute, instantly generates an intriguing prospect.

If the row at Holyrood is sufficiently intense, would the PO come under pressure to make such a request for next year as well in order to avoid clashing with the referendum?

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