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Politics / Covid restrictions will make for different election

Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

THE UPCOMING Scottish Parliament election in May will feel somewhat different than usual due to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an update given to parliament on Tuesday, MSP Graeme Dey, the minister for parliamentary business, said no more than 800 electors will be assigned to a polling station.

Locally the Gilbertson Park games hall is the largest polling place, but its 4,000-plus voters are usually split into seven polling stations.

In the last Scottish Parliament election in 2016 more than 800 people were registered for the Scalloway polling station.

The upcoming vote will take place on Thursday 6 May but counting is likely to be held on Friday and Saturday if needed rather than overnight as usual.

This is due to physical distancing requirements meaning there will be less people counting.

Dey also revealed that face to face, door to door campaigning could take place from early April if infection and test positivity rates are low enough.

Leafleting will be able to start from mid-March.

The MSP also said the prospect of party leaders travelling to any given constituency is being looked into.

Candidates and agents can travel to the constituency if necessary if the work cannot be undertaken at home.

Guidance is being prepared for campaigners.

Dey said it would be a “judgement call” for parties to decide whether they want to undertake campaigning activities such as going door to door.

He stressed that street stalls and hustings, and giving voters a lift to polling stations, will not be allowed.

The number of people registering for postal votes has also risen significantly.

Shetland Islands Council has been contacted regarding the local take-up of postal votes.

Dey said: “An enormous amount of work has taken place across our electoral community to ensure that the election in May can be conducted safely. It is as a result of the hard work of electoral professionals over the course of the winter that I am confident the election can go ahead on 6 May.”

The only confirmed candidates announced for the main constituency vote for Shetland so far are Liberal Democrat Beatrice Wishart, the SNP’s Tom Wills and Labour’s Cameron Thompson.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021