Osborne’s cut to ‘short money’ is a risk to democracy, says Electoral Reform Society

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THE UK Government’s decision to cut public funding for opposition parties will undermine Scotland’s representation at Westminster, the Electoral Reform Society has said.

George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement that “short money” – funding that goes to opposition parties in order to level the playing field and ensure democratic scrutiny – will be cut by 19 per cent.

ERS Scotland has challenged the decision and said it was “highly worrying for democracy” in Scotland, given that 58 of the nation’s 59 MPs were not in Government.

Its director Willie Sullivan said: “The decision to cut funding for opposition parties is bad news for democracy in Scotland and across the UK.

“With 58 of Scotland’s 59 MPs not in Government, it is particularly bad for Scottish representation at Westminster, and can only undermine the ability of those MPs to ensure that Scotland’s voters are effectively represented in Parliament.

“Short money is designed to level the playing field and ensure that opposition parties can hold the Government of the day to account. The decision to slash short money disproportionately hits the ability of Scottish MPs to scrutinise the Government, and Scottish voters will lose out.”

Sullivan said recent upheavals in Scottish politics had partly been the result of a perception that political parties at Westminster were not properly representing Scotland’s voters.

“Removing public money from opposition parties makes them more likely to depend on big donors, something that is highly worrying for our democracy,” he added.

“The system of party funding across the UK is already a mess, and this risks being seen as a partisan effort to further reduce opposition parties’ capacity to hold the Government to account.

“The government’s plans represent a totally counter-productive approach to party funding, which should be reformed in a manner agreed on by all parties, so that they can be more accountable to voters rather than big donors.”

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