Plans to increase to five years the terms between Scottish Parliament and local authority elections have been supported in a Holyrood committee report issued today.

The Standards, Procedures & Public Appointments Committee has backed the general principles of the Scottish Elections (Reform) Bill in its stage 1 report.

The bill proposes a number of changes to electoral practice and administration in Scotland, including that elections to the Scottish Parliament and local councils should routinely take place every five years, instead of four. The committee is satisfied that the balance of evidence supports this move, which will make clashes between elections less frequent and give more time for policy development and the delivery of an administration's programme.

Flexibility on the size of council wards, to include two and five member wards, is also provided for. While accepting this proposal, the committee calls for caution about how this flexibility is used, due to concerns over the representation and proportionality of votes cast.

The bill further introduces measures to allow 14 year olds to be added to the electoral register ahead of attaining the right to vote at 16. The committee calls on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that young people have the opportunity to be informed about the electoral process.

On provisions to facilitate electronic voting, potentially increasing accessibility, the committee wants the Government to ensure it hears the views of groups representing disabled people on how these changes could be best achieved.

It also believes further work should be undertaken into the so called "list order effect", the suggestion that candidates nearer the top of the ballot paper are more likely to be selected. Whilst not included in the bill, it calls for more research to be undertaken into alternatives to alphabetical ordering on the ballot paper.

Convener Bill Kidd MSP commented: “How our elections are run in Scotland has a direct impact on the engagement and participation. Everybody should feel that they are represented and can have a say in how local and national policies are running.

“The changes in this bill are clearly to be welcomed to make sure that this happens across Scotland. However, the Scottish Government must make sure that where there is flexibility on issues such as the size of council wards, the impact on representation is considered.”

Click here to view the committee's report.