Scottish Daily Mail


Scots flock to polls despite pandemic and bad weather

- By Rachel Watson and John Abiona

SCOTLAND is on track for a record-breaking Holyrood election turnout after millions went to the polls.

Despite the coronaviru­s pandemic and treacherou­s weather conditions on Thursday, some key areas boasted a turnout of more than 75 per cent.

The flood of voters heading to polling stations came on top of more than a million Scots voting by post – a record high.

At 7pm last night, turnout across the country was at 64.1 per cent, with the highest engagement in Eastwood, Renfrewshi­re, at 76.4 per cent.

While the ongoing health crisis may have led to fears people would opt not to vote, experts last night said it likely had the opposite impact.

It is thought a sense this election would have an enormous impact on the country’s future encouraged many to vote.

But some believe people might just have even been ‘excited and enthused’ at having a reason to leave their home.

Last night, Nicola McEwan, co-director of the Centre on Constituti­onal Change, said: ‘It looks to be highest turnout we’ve had in a Holyrood election.’

She said it was ‘all about the stakes, it’s all about the people thinking it really matters. They see it as an important issue’.

More than 4.2million people registered to vote in the Scottish parliament election.

The previous highest turnout was in 1999 when 59 per cent of the electorate voted in the first Holyrood election. The lowest turnout was 49.4 per cent in 2003, which led to a LabourLibe­ral Democrat coalition.

Writing in today’s Scottish Daily Mail, pollster Mark Diffley, founder and director of the Diffley Partnershi­p, said the surge in interest included a trip to vote.

He said: ‘There may be a number of reasons for this [high turnout], including record registrati­on for postal votes during the Covid lockdown period, and a recognitio­n among voters of what is at stake at this election in terms of Scotland’s constituti­onal future.

‘There may also of course be a more straightfo­rward explanatio­n, that the public were simply excited and enthused by the prospect of a trip to the polling station after months of Covid lockdown.’

The highest turnout was in Eastwood at 76 per cent, where Conservati­ve Jackson Carlaw held his seat with nearly 18,000 votes compared to 15,000 for the SNP.

Edinburgh Western also had a huge turnout of 71.46 per cent with 46,901 votes cast, up from 65.4 per cent in 2016. The seat was held by Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton.

The turnout for Edinburgh Central was 41,833 (62.69 per cent), up 7,664 from the last election, when turnout was 57.3 per cent. The SNP’s Angus Robertson won.

SNP Westminste­r leader Ian Blackford called the turnout ‘a victory for democracy’.

However, voter numbers led to problems – with some in Glasgow temporaril­y turned away because the ballot box was too full. Nadeem

Basharat, 37, and his partner Joanne Basharat, 34, went to Jordanhill Parish Church polling station at 8.30pm but were told they could not cast their vote.

Mr Basharat said: ‘We went home and waited and got there for about 9.30pm and managed to get in.’

A spokesman for Glasgow’s returning officer said: ‘The sheer size of the regional paper meant some ballot boxes became full. We were able to deliver replacemen­t boxes.’

It follows claims from one voter who told BBC Radio Scotland he visited the polling station on four occasions, returning home three times because of the queue stretching to 60 or 70 people. The 73-year-old, who would give his name only as Michael, joined the queue at 9.30pm but still had to wait. He said: ‘I voted for the first time in my life after 10 o’clock.’

Returning officer for Edinburgh Andrew Kerr said the nearly 90 per cent turnout in postal votes shows the scale of interest in the election.

‘People think it really matters’

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 ??  ?? Busier than ever before: Staff at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, top, far left and right, and at the Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh, left, work their way through the piles of ballot papers
Busier than ever before: Staff at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, top, far left and right, and at the Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh, left, work their way through the piles of ballot papers
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