Election 2021: Scotland's next vote should be brought forward one year

Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland’s next election was originally due in 2020, but was moved to 2021 to avoid a clash. Let’s change it back.

Scottish parliamentary elections are meant to be held once every four years. The one after the 2011 election was pushed back a year to 2016 to avoid a clash with the Westminster election of 2015.

MSPs later voted to push back the 2020 election to 2021 so as to avoid the clash with the 2020 UK election, as reported by the BBC at the time.

Then in April, Theresa May called for a snap election, disrupting the entire timetable. The next Westminster election is now due to take place in 2022.

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As a result, the sixth Scottish parliamentary election was moved for no reason at all, so let’s move it back.

There are two clear reasons why this should be done. The first is that Scottish elections are meant to take place every four years. The next one was moved to avoid a clash, but with the clash no longer existing, things should go back to how they were meant to be.

Simple.

The second is that five years - half a decade - is far too long for a parliamentary term. This applies to Westminster, Holyrood and all other electoral bodies out there. Elections must take place infrequently enough so not create and enhance existing voter fatigue, as well as to allow the government of the day to get to work and not focus too much on re-election. Just look at America, where House Representatives face re-election every two years; the Economist recently argued for four-year congressional terms instead, saying that, "It makes for a fund-raising-obsessed, distracted, ideologically driven mass of elected officials who care more about protecting their seats than legislating."

Ruth Davidson MSP

And from Australia, where terms are usually three years, an ABC article suggested that four-year terms could be crucial for “political stability”.

However, infrequency can only go so far. Elections must also take place frequently enough to give citizens real voice in shaping the direction of their country. Without frequent trips to the ballot box, democracy struggles to breathe. On top of that governments can run out of legislation to pass if parliamentary terms are too long, with the BBC's David Cornock highlighting this "zombie parliament" aspect of the UK's five-year terms - ahead of the 2015 general election.

On top of this, the majority of European lower chambers and unicameral parliaments have four-year parliamentary terms (33) compared to just fifteen with five-year terms, according to IPU data.

Five-year terms result in just twenty elections in one hundred years while four-year terms mean twenty-five elections in a century. On top of that, elections in Canada and presidential votes in America take place every four years.

Four years hits the sweet spot.

It's time to bring forward the next Scottish parliamentary election.