As we near the May 6 elections we reflect on the importance of devolved elections and ask for your help to spread the word once more…
What is it with that Senedd thing? Holy-what?
Ahh the Scottish and Welsh National elections are approaching. The national elections that sit quietly behind the noise. The George Harrison of elections you might say- and that would suggest most people know they even exist. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have a place in British democracy, and ‘How do you even say ‘dd’ isn’t becoming a thing of the past.
It would be wrong to say that Scotland and Wales have been on equal footing for the last few years with Scotland having more powers than Wales, and having a ruling party outside of the main 3 in the SNP arguably puts Scotland more prominently on the map. That’s without even mentioning #IndyRef.
The lines have appeared blurred for those living in Wales, no clear line in the sand for who deals with what- which isn’t an issue of legislative clarity, more of a clash of misinformation and lack of political education. The Welsh Parliament, however, must be applauded for its many ‘World 1st’ accolades including having the first equal gender split in a Parliament in 2003, and the only ‘Well-being of Future Generations Act’. Accolades such as these are being praised globally, but potentially fall on deaf ears at home.
Wales, amidst the pandemic, seems to be waking up to the powers of the Senedd, as everyone gets their head around not being able to blame Boris for the pubs not being open. It seems about time that citizens realise the Welsh Parliament really does have power- just in time for a National Election!
What seems a harder task is persuading the electorate to have a say in that power, in the form of a vote, in National elections. With turnout consistently low in the last couple of elections (~55% in Scotland 2016 & ~45% in Wales 2016) it appears an uphill battle.
Yet Scotland and Wales hold power over their health systems, education and the environment; All issues that come in the top 5 ‘key election topics’ for Britain. So if these are issues that people across the 4 nations deeply care about, why don’t people turn out at the ballot box?
My answer would be that turnout is low because it simply isn’t clear. It isn’t clear that when Gavin Williamson announces new provisions for schools that it doesn’t always apply to Wales or Scotland. It isn’t clear that the free prescription you pick up in the devolved nations has nothing to do with Westminster. It isn’t clear that Boris’ pledges to the ‘nation’ cease to have the same meaning as pre-devolution times. This issue makes devolved parliaments appear obsolete yet they have become the bread and butter of British democracy, and to extend the unnecessary George analogy, the music doesn’t quite happen without them.
This year we at Democracy Club aim to change the voting trajectory by ensuring more people in Wales and Scotland than ever before are aware of when they can vote, where they can vote, and who they can vote for.
Unfortunately, our success in gathering polling station data for Wales and Scotland for past elections have been patchy. In 2019, we achieved 73% coverage for Scotland and 50% coverage for Wales- and this was only achieved in a last minute soiree as our volunteers scoured for data using statements of polling places.
|Nation||Coverage (% Voting Age Population)|
This year, however, our goal was to reach 100% coverage across the two nations. We are delighted to say we have met this target and voters across the Nations will be able to access tailored voter information for the upcoming elections.
But we still need your help. Our new goal is to make sure as many people as possible know we exist, and know how to use our resources. This year we’ll be tackling COVID restrictions and a plethora of first time voters to reach, with the new extension of the franchise to 16 in Wales, making our role in signposting voters to our accurate and accessible voter information even more important.
How can you help?
Spread the word! Share with your networks!
Democracy Club offers two embeddable widgets for your website:
● Our polling place finder displays the allocated polling location for each postcode.
● Our elections widget displays elections and candidates, as well and the polling location, for each postcode.