03 Sep 2012

Time for a rethink on local polling stations, says John Mason 

A City MSP is calling upon Glasgow City Council to carry out a root-and-branch review of polling places used at election time.  Scottish National Party MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, John Mason, said in a recent letter to Glasgow City Council that a break in the election cycle is a perfect opportunity for the local authority to carry out a review of the conduct of elections and, in particular, the use of local polling places.  Mr Mason’s call comes after the recent local authority elections in May.

Some residents within the Baillieston part of Mr Mason’s constituency have voted eight times since 2007, meaning disruption for parents who require child care, due to schools and nurseries being closed and teaching time being reduced as a result of Schools being used as polling places.

Mr Mason, who also represents the City’s St Andrew’s Square, is also asking the Council to consider specific areas where residents have to travel further away from their communities to vote, when there are local buildings nearby which could act as a polling place.

Commenting, the East End MSP, John Mason, said:

“Following what has been a pretty full cycle of elections, I think now is a good time to pause and reflect on the City’s plan for all elections.  I am asking the City Council to consider a number of scenarios but, above all, whether we could do things more efficiently at election time.  Local democracy is absolutely vital and anything we can do to help engage people in the democratic process must be considered.  Glasgow’s election turn outs are nowhere near where they could be, so this is an opportunity to see how we can make voting easier for local folk.

“One of the things I’d like the Council to consider is its reliance on using local schools as polling places.  I think this tradition of using schools was something that might have worked a generation ago when we had fewer elections, but with regular elections to Holyrood, George Square, Westminster and Brussels – not to mention unforeseen by-elections – the pressure on local schools has simply become too much, in my opinion.  Every time there is an election, we are looking at closing a school for the day, which means a loss of teaching time and problems for local families who have to identify alternative childcare – often at considerable cost.

“Turning to the local issues in the East End, we have some bizarre anomalies whereby residents living in St Andrews Square have to travel to the former St James’ Primary to vote, when there are other buildings closer by which could be considered. 

“We also have the strange situation at my own polling place, Sandaig Primary School, where there is another polling place only about 200 metres away in Our Lady of Peace Primary School.  The ironic thing is that, in between these schools there is a perfectly good community centre which could be used.

“With turnouts still too low and increased pressure on schools and families, now is the time to conduct a root-and-branch review in to local polling stations.  I hope the Council will listen to these concerns”.