Proportional Representation: House of Commons — [Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:30 pm on 23rd April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces) 5:30 pm, 23rd April 2019

I will give two examples of proportional representation working and helping democracy in this country. As my hon. Friend Christine Jardine pointed out, I served in the Scottish Parliament. Both before and after I was a Member of the Scottish Parliament, I was a highland councillor. When I was first a highland councillor, I was a single member for a ward, and I had the ward discretionary fund—a pot of £40k or £50k—which I could dish out to good causes in my ward without really checking with anyone at all. It was like having the power of a medieval prince.

When I became a councillor again after having been in the Scottish Parliament, there was this thing called the single transferable vote, and I had to share the ward with two other members. Oh, horror! How difficult! My favourite charities did not necessarily get the money I wanted to give them; I had to argue it out with the other two members of the ward. To me, that is an improvement in democracy and in the representation of the people. I was more accountable under the wider PR system than before. That was my experience of local government.

In between those times, I was an MSP. I was an additional Member, elected under PR. I will give two slightly off-the-wall reasons why that system is good. First, anyone who knows about Scotland, and anyone who was in this place long enough ago, will remember one Margo MacDonald. She graced Westminster and Holyrood. She was a member of the Scottish National party, and also went independent. She was elected in Edinburgh through her own merits and her own character. Holyrood would have been a much poorer place without Margo. I have waited a long time to put that on the record. She was a splendid lady, and I feel greatly enriched to have known her.

Secondly—I will shut up in a second, to make it easier for you, Mr Evans—the 1997 election had a result that I am sure gratified many people, including people like me in Scotland, but did not gratify others: the Conservative party got precisely no seats north of the border. It was wiped out. That was bad news for those now on the Government Benches. However, in 1999, under PR, the Conservatives came back with 18 seats in Holyrood, which was a bit of a shock to me and others.

I will continue to argue to my dying day that although I do not approve of the good fortunes of the Conservative party—no offence to the Minister—PR rescued the Tories in Scotland, and that, for those who believe in plural democracy and the right of different sections of society to be heard, was a good thing. At the end of the day, that will be one of my concluding and strongest arguments as to why PR worked: I did not like the result, but it was good for democracy in Scotland that the Tories came back.