Ballot Box Scotland is Non-Partisan. This means BBS will not show any particular favour – or disfavour – to any particular political party. Nor will BBS ever take a position on either of the major constitutional issues.
BBS will never;
- Advise which party to vote for
- State whether any party’s polling or electoral results are a good or bad thing for Scotland
- Advise which way to vote in an Independence Referendum
- Advise which way to vote in an EU Referendum
This does not mean that BBS will not make objectively accurate statements about results. A poll which shows one party losing seats compared to the last election can fairly be described as being “bad” for that party, and vice versa. That does not entail a value judgement on whether such a result would be bad for the country as a whole.
But Not Short of Opinions
Ballot Box Scotland is not completely politically impartial. There are some areas of politics which are not fundamentally issues of partisan conflict, particularly those which relate to the basic functioning of our democracy. BBS will therefore occasionally take a position on some of these issues.
Ballot Box Scotland supports Proportional Representation. The UK’s First Past the Post System is democratically indefensible, as it completely fails to give appropriate voice to the majority of voters. BBS therefore supports electoral reform at UK level, which is now the only level of Scottish governance which does not have a proportional element.
As a consequence, BBS strongly defends Scotland’s existing proportional systems. None of these are absolutely perfect and BBS advocates further reform, in the form of Scandinavian-style Open List PR, but they are far better than FPTP. This means that BBS categorically rejects ill-informed agitation against, or spurious critiques of the fairness of, the proportionally elected List portion of the Scottish Parliament electoral system.
Party and Election Administration
Beyond the most obvious issue with our barely democratic voting system, Scotland and the UK maintain antiquated approaches to administering political parties and elections themselves. BBS therefore advocates for a range of reforms to bring the country more in line with our European neighbours.
Political parties should receive a degree of public funding, commensurate to their support at elections, which enables them to carry out their basic duties without undue reliance on wealthy donors. This is investigated in more detail in this briefing, and would make parties more accountable to the public and lessen the chances of policy “capture” by small numbers of wealthy figures.
Additionally, rather than requiring parties and candidates to lodge deposits to stand for election, a uniform system of subscriptions and entitlements should apply. Again, this has a more detailed briefing outlining how it might work, but effectively hinges the ability to stand for election on demonstrating past or possible electoral support rather than on wealth. This would put more power in the hands of voters.
Local Government Reform
Scotland has some of the largest and least local councils anywhere in Europe, home to an average of 170,000 people. Outside of the UK and Ireland the next largest local councils are found in Denmark, where the average population is around 59,000 – one third of the size of ours. This has an enormous impact not just on the delivery of vital public services, but also on our democratic systems.
Ballot Box Scotland therefore supports wholesale reorganisation of local government, towards something more in line with the European norm. Regionally sized councils like Fife and Highland need to be abolished in favour of councils for cities and larger towns alongside district councils for more rural areas.
This topic is explored in more depth in the BBS-aligned New Municipalism project.
Non-Standard Independence Polling
This particular Ballot Box Scotland policy may apply to other situations, but for now this section will describe its most prominent application. Scotland in Union, an organisation which as its name implies supports Scotland staying part of the UK, has taken to conducting polling of such poor quality that BBS will no longer provide coverage of it. When a “second-strike” for this was noted in a Tweet, it provoked one of the strongest storms of fury this project has yet experienced.
Rather than ask either the same question as was asked in the 2014 referendum, or a close equivalent which offers similar “Yes” or “No” choices, Scotland in Union ask an independence question pitched in terms of “Remain” or “Leave”. Given the prominence of Brexit, it is clear this is nothing more than a leading attempt to conflate issues and confuse respondents.
Contrary to some partisan claims, the 2016 EU Referendum no more “set a precedent” that a future Independence referendum must use such a question than the 2014 Scottish Referendum set a precedent that the 2016 EU Ref would be “Yes/No”. Until such a time as the question for a future referendum is set, BBS will not cover polling which uses questions deviating substantially from the norm.
BBS emphasises that it is not partisan to deny coverage to polling commissioned and specifically designed by an explicitly partisan body to advance their own cause. Should the need arise to treat any organisation which supports Independence (such as Progress Scotland) in a similar manner, BBS will not hesitate to do so.
I'm Not Obliged to Be Your Punchbag
As a result of adhering to the policies above, I often find myself being accused of being biased. My experience is the overwhelming majority of people who follow BBS are perfectly sensible, reasonable folk who are capable of discerning objective fact from beliefs they would prefer to be true for partisan reasons, and understanding that when I’m sharing my own beliefs on democratic structures it’s rooted in principle not partisanship. The support I have received throughout this project has been fantastic, and I’m very grateful for it.
That said, even a small number of people being needlessly unpleasant can become completely unbearable very quickly. I am one person, running this project in good faith, and I don’t deserve to be treated with scorn just because you don’t like something I’ve said. In the past, I have had too much of a tendency to push back against people being nasty, which just made me feel even more miserable. Going forward, I intend on being much more liberal with my mute and block buttons.
Nobody on the internet, regardless of what they are doing or what position they hold, is obliged to leave open avenues for strangers to be horrible to them. I therefore have a zero tolerance policy for nasty comments – you will quite simply be blocked. If you don’t agree with a BBS statement, that’s fine! You can argue your case! We may even have a robust exchange depending on how feisty I’m feeling that day. But when folk with usernames like NatBasher2014_55 or SaorAlba1320 pop up to give me personal grief, I don’t have to accept that as part of the role, and you will be blocked.