Scots flying abroad furious as postal vote scandal robs them of chance to have say in election

Cliff and Karen Woodman from Annan
-Credit: (Image: Robert Perry)

Scots have begun flying abroad on holiday furious that the postal vote scandal has robbed them of a chance to have a say in Thursday’s General Election.

Holidaymakers leaving Glasgow Airport at the weekend told how they can’t vote after chaos led to postal ballots being sent out late. PM Rishi Sunak had been slammed for calling an election during the Scottish school summer holiday.

Now delays in getting postal ballots out to those who will be overseas on Thursday means they have been denied the right to vote. Last night, the Electoral ­Commission, which oversees the vote, said it would be launching a full investigation into the fiasco.

After checking in for her flight to Australia on Saturday, holidaymaker Lucy Urquhart-Dixon said: “I am raging I didn’t get a postal vote.”

The teacher with North Ayrshire Council said she had applied for her postal vote on June 14, five days within the deadline for applications. However, the paperwork had not arrived ahead of her trip to Brisbane for a three-week break.

Lucy Urquhart-Dixon from Arran
Lucy Urquhart-Dixon from Arran -Credit:Robert Perry

Lucy, 54, from the Isle of Arran, said: “I am staying with friends on the July 4 and planned to watch the coverage in Australia. But I will be sitting there knowing I had no ­influence in its outcome. Picking an election date when many Scots are on holiday just shows what they think of us.”

Cliff and Karen Woodman were booked on an afternoon flight to Boston, in the United States, knowing that they too were being denied a part in the national vote. Karen, 61, from Annan in Dumfriesshire, said the couple had applied for their postal votes “around two weeks ago” but they didn’t arrive.

Husband Cliff, 60, a company owner said: “I am a bit disappointed that we have been unable to vote.We wanted to play our part. Dumfries-shire is a long-standing Conservative stronghold and it would have been good to have had some kind of say in the outcome.”

Wendy Smith was heading for Angola for work on Saturday. The 59-year-old oil industry employee from Aberdeen said: “We got my dad’s postal vote through and helped him send it off. But I was disappointed to discover that mine did not come through on time. The application was made in good time, so why didn’t I get it? Yes, I do feel a bit cheated at being left out.”

Wendy Smith from Aberdeen
Wendy Smith from Aberdeen -Credit:Robert Perry

Some councils have admitted problems over the time it has taken to print postal voting packs. Royal Mail denied any part in the scandal, saying there were no electoral packs lying around in Scottish sorting offices.

East Renfrewshire Council said teams were out over the weekend, delivering packs to those in urgent need of a postal vote form. The Electoral Management Board for Scotland (EMB) said there had been “many difficulties experienced with the delivery of postal votes” across the country. The Electoral Commission said it was aware of issues caused by the vote coinciding with the ­holidays.

A spokesperson said: “Following the Election, we will undertake research with voters and ­electoral administrators to understand their experiences at this poll. The administration of postal voting is one of the areas we will look at.”

Postal vote
Postal vote -Credit:UGC

First Minister John Swinney said there was “nothing that can be done” about postal votes that have not yet arrived for voters who are now overseas. East Lothian Council set up emergency polling booths at the weekend to ensure residents were able to vote, following similar measures in Edinburgh and Fife.

Other councils around the country are issuing website updates. But Swinney said there had been “significant reports of people who were trying to vote by post who had applied properly for a postal vote before the deadline of June 19”.

He said yesterday: ­“Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done. They have to be here to be able to exercise their postal vote, if it’s been delivered to the house, or if there is an ­alternative arrangement in place. There are no other proxy arrangements that can be put in place, but I think it’s illustrative of the fact that there was no thought given to summer school holidays.”

Completed postal votes must have reached councils by 10pm on polling day, July 4. They can be returned by post or handed in at council offices and can also be dropped at the correct polling station on election day.

Swinney added: “I warned when the election was called that it was going to take place during the ­Scottish school summer holidays and many of our schools broke up for the summer last week. Those postal ballots have not arrived with people and some of them have now left the country, and they have been disenfranchised because of the timing of the ­election, which is something I deeply regret.

“I warned about the decision to have the Election during the school holidays and welcome the fact that a number of local authorities in Scotland have taken emergency measures to establish centres which could enable people to ­exercise their postal vote.”

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