2 MINUTE GUIDE TO THE BIG ELECTION
It's so easy and quick to vote next Thursday .. and have you say in how our country is run
1 ON May 3, there will be two elections in Scotland - one to elect MSPs to the Scottish Parliament and another to elect councillors for Scotland 's 32 councils.
Here we give you all the information you need to make sure you can make your vote count.
2 POLL cards are usually sent out one to two weeks before an election and provide information on where you should vote. You can take it with you when you go to vote, but you can vote without it.
If you have not received your poll card and you are certain that you are registered to vote, you should contact the Returning Officer at your council.
3 POLLING places are usually a school or hall near where you live and will be open from 7am to 10pm. You may bring your child with you when you go to vote. In many polling places, there will be an information officer who can help you if you are unsure of what to do. If there is no information officer, the polling staff will be able to assist you. The votes will be counted after the close of polls at 10pm.
4 IT roughly takes only a couple of minutes to vote, from entering the polling station to leaving it. The same amount of time as it takes to boil the kettle or watch the adverts break on TV.
5 IN next week's elections, you will get two ballot papers, one to vote in the Holyrood elections and another to elect your local council.
6 UNLIKE previous elections, there will only be one ballot paper for the Scottish Parliament election, although you will still have two votes to cast, one for your preference for a political party or individual candidate, and one for your constituency candidate to represent your region. In both votes, mark your ballot paper with an "X". Once you have completed your ballot paper, you should place it unfolded into the black ballot box.
When the votes are counted, your constituency vote helps to decide who represents you locally using a "first past the post" system where the candidate with most votes is elected.
Your regional vote helps decide how many seats each party, or individual, gets in the Scottish Parliament. They are allocated so the total share of seats each party has reflects as closely as possible the votes cast.
7 IN the 2007 council elections, the voting system will change. The new one is called Single Transferable Vote or STV.
Existing council wards will be replaced by much bigger, multimember wards which will elect three or four councillors.
Instead of putting a cross at the candidates you want to vote for, with STV you number the candidates in order of your preference - a "1" beside the candidate you like best, "2" beside your second choice, "3" by your third, "4" by your fourth and so on. You can vote for as many or as few candidates as you like.
Information on how to vote will be displayed at polling stations and there will be information officers who can answer any questions.
Once you have completed your ballot paper, you should put it unfolded into the white ballot box.
When the votes are counted, if your first choice has already won enough votes to be elected, or is eliminated as a result of having the least number of votes, your vote is transferred to your second choice and potentially on to your third choice and so on, until either three or four candidates have been elected, depending on the size of the ward. Source Daily Record
Businessmen join the battle over Scottish independence
SINCE companies do not vote, businesses are often overlooked at election time. This is especially true in Scotland , where voters are traditionally more left-wing than in the rest of Britain . But in the campaign for the Scottish Parliament elections on May 3rd, business is being courted as though it had the critical casting ballot.
Small firms are the big winners. All the main parties are promising to cut local business taxes. The Scottish National Party ( SNP ), which favours eventual independence, is the most generous. It promises to spend £150m a year to exempt 120,000 of the smallest enterprises from local taxes. If Scotland becomes independent, the SNP says, it would slash corporation tax from the current 30% rate to 20%.
The context of this largesse became clear on April 23rd, when newspapers published SNP advertisements listing 100 business supporters. They included some heavyweight names, among them Sir George Mathewson, former chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Brian Souter, chairman of Stagecoach, a big bus and rail company, and a newer recruit to the cause, Sir Tom Farmer, founder of Kwik-Fit, a well-known car-repair firm.
The Labour Party hit back on April 25th with its own list of 150 heavier-weight businessmen opposed to breaking up the United Kingdom . Prominent among them were Sir Peter Burt, a former chairman of the Bank of Scotland, and Peter Balfour, once head of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries. At a business breakfast in Edinburgh that day, Gordon Brown, Britain 's chancellor and MP for a Scottish constituency, thundered that independence would mean �conflict and turmoil for Scottish businesses from day one�.
Most businessmen in Scotland do want to stay in the United Kingdom , it seems. A Scottish Chambers of Commerce survey in March found that 30% of its members thought independence would bring advantages but 55% preferred things as they were. Alan Mitchell, the assistant director of CBI Scotland, says most of that business group's members are not yet persuaded of the merits of independence.
Behind the roll-calling lies a long-rumbling debate about whether an independent Scotland could go it alone economically. Its performance to date has not been brilliant: the Scottish economy grew by only 17% between 1997 and 2005, whereas England 's expanded by 25%. Yet government spending in Scotland was higher per person than in Britain as a whole. Would an independent Scotland be broke?
Oil on troubled waters
The figures are murky. Labour uses Scottish Executive statistics to show that in 2004-2005 the government spent £11.2 billion more north of the border than it raised in taxes there. Labour claims that this deficit�equal to 12% of Scottish output excluding oil � proves that an independent Scotland would have to cut spending or raise taxes sharply.
Propaganda, retorts the SNP . Crucially, Labour's figures do not include North Sea oil revenues, which have been booming along with higher oil prices. In 2006-2007, the SNP claims, if oil revenues are counted in the equation and loads of other adjustments made, Scotland produced a surplus of £600m.
Both sets of figures include debatable estimates. Most economists think the executive's figures are closer to the mark on Scotland 's basic fiscal situation. According to Iain McLean, a professor of politics at Oxford University , �Even if you include oil, Scotland has a structural deficit.�
But the size of that deficit is fiercely disputed. It depends mostly on what share of Britain 's oil and gas revenues Scotland can claim. Working this out is anything but simple, for official statistics do not break out the taxes geographically.
Where exactly the line is drawn between Scotland 's part of the North Sea and England 's matters, and so do relative costs of production. Sterling 's exchange rate against the dollar affects the split, and divergences in the prices of oil and gas play a role as well. Estimates of Scotland 's true share since 1979 range from 60% to more than 90%, depending on the year and the person estimating. The Scottish Executive reckons that even if all North Sea revenues were attributed to Scotland in 2004-05, it still had a fiscal deficit equal to almost 5% of output. That should be different now. England produces mostly gas and Scotland 's output is mainly oil, so the low gas and high oil prices that currently prevail would give Scotland the lion's share by far.
The SNP has some reason to argue that Scotland is not quite the subsidy junkie that many call it. But oil prices are notoriously volatile, and anyway North Sea production is now well past its peak. The birth of an independent Scotland , it is clear, would still be painful. Source Economist.com
Women get election guide
WOMEN'S groups have banded together to produce a pocket guide to help women get the most from their vote and put pressure on candidates for this May's elections to make Scotland a fairer, safer place for women.
The guide - What Women Want from Politicians 2007 - covers three main policy areas which have a direct impact on women's lives: violence against women; political representation; and equal pay.
The guide was produced by Engender, Zero Tolerance, Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland . source Scotsman
What do people think about this? Do women need a guide or is it sexist? Please let us know your opinions.