Friday, 11 April 2014

Tory and Labour unite to ban referendum posters

In a move that overturns a decades-long tradition, election posters fixed to lampposts are to be banned in North Ayrshire.

The decision was taken at last week’s meeting of North Ayrshire Council where an amendment from the district’s only Tory, Cllr Tom Marshall of Largs, was supported by Labour councillors and Independents. The amendment, calling for a ban on posters, defeated a motion from the SNP administration, which had backed the position of Council officials that posters should continue to be allowed on lampposts at this year’s European Election and the Independence Referendum.

The united Tory-Labour position on banning posters is believed to have been motivated by the fact that the anti-independence group Better Together has so few activists it would have struggled to put up posters during the referendum campaign. It is understood that Labour and Tory members in North Ayrshire feared the pro-independence ‘YES’ campaign would have overwhelmingly won the ‘battle of the posters’ that, until now, has been part of every election campaign for many years.

Seen by many as a ‘spoiling tactic’ on the part of the Tory-Labour grouping of North Ayrshire councillors, the ban on posters comes as opinion polls show support for independence continuing to grow. The British Unionist campaign has also been accused of failing to put up candidates for debates across Scotland, and then demanding public meetings are called-off because only the ‘YES’ side would have been represented.

Reacting to the decision to ban election posters in North Ayrshire, Ardrossan SNP councillor Tony Gurney told the3towns, “When I was young democracy belonged to everyone. At every election posters were everywhere. This allowed people to understand the issues and make decisions. For the ‘No’ campaign, facts are dangerous as they point to one clear conclusion - the only chance we have to make better lives for ourselves and our children is to vote ‘YES’ on September the 18th.”

Cllr Gurney was scathing in his criticism of the Tory-Labour-Lib Dem coalition in the ‘No’ campaign, saying, “They ask the same questions over and over when they have already been answered, not realising that in doing so they insult the intelligence of the electorate.

"This process has reached its sad but inevitable conclusion with Tories and Labour on North Ayrshire Council holding hands and voting through an amendment that will make it an offence for any side to display posters during the referendum.

“The excuse you will hear from the Tory and Labour councillors is that their joint position has nothing to do with politics. They’ll argue it is to keep the area tidy, which is nonsense. In a year’s time you will see a motion from Labour to allow political posters again as we approach the Scottish Parliament elections. My hope is that their tactic backfires and those elections are the first for our own, independent parliament.”

In 2008 when two Liberal Democrat councillors moved a motion to ban election posters in North Ayrshire, the then Labour-run Executive of the Council threw-out the idea, arguing, “The display of posters by political parties has been an accepted part of election campaigns in North Ayrshire for a considerable period of time,” and that the policy allowing them “introduces an element of control and ensures that local political parties, candidates and agents are aware of their responsibilities in terms of when and where they can erect posters and when posters must be removed.”

The then Labour administration’s position concluded, “Overall, the policy has worked satisfactorily over the years and goodwill between the Returning Officer and local political parties has ensured that the policy is adhered to. Any change in policy would have implications for political parties and independent candidates during election periods. Moreover, changing the existing policy...could prove counter-productive by leading to avoidable ‘policing’ problems for the Returning Officer during the busy period in the run up to the date of poll.”

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