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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
02 July 2024
John Swinney calls for review into postal vote delays

John Swinney | Alamy

John Swinney calls for review into postal vote delays

John Swinney has called for a review into delayed postal votes and the timetable for UK Parliament elections

The call for a review comes after Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson said he was not concerned that some people could be disenfranchised by delays in receiving their postal votes ahead of polling day. 

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Swinney said he was “concerned” about his response, adding that many, including the Postal Affairs Minister who is “urgently investigating” the delays across the UK, have raised concerns.  

A high number of voters may be unable to cast their ballots across the UK after having not received their postal vote on time. 

And despite some local authorities setting up emergency drop-in centres, many Scottish families have already left the country as the Scottish school holidays have begun.  

The First Minister told Sunak "it should have been clear” that calling the general election with just six-week notice on 4 July would “could cause issues”.  

Swinney’s letter follows calls for a “major” review of the postal vote system by the Electoral Management Board for Scotland and the Association of Electoral Administrators.  

He told Sunak he expects the Electoral Management Board for Scotland to be involved in any such review.  

In the letter, Swinney said: “Returning officers have done everything they can to try to get postal votes into the hands of those that need them, including setting up emergency facilities for the in-person collection of replacement postal votes. But these facilities are not suitable for everyone. It is important that we are clear that there are no arrangements that can ensure that everyone entitled to vote is able to, in these circumstances. Contrary to reported comments by your official spokesperson on 1 July, emergency proxy votes are not available to those registered for a postal vote in Scotland. 

“The problem has been caused by a combination of your selection of an unsuitable date for the General Election, and the timetable for UK Parliament elections, which has little room in it to address issues arising, such as the reported delays at the printers. In this case, the deadline for applying for a new postal vote being on 19 June meant that some postal packs had to be issued at a time when some Scottish schools were already on holiday.” 

He added: “As well as establishing the facts about what happened during this election, a review into both the timetable for UK Parliament elections and how decisions are made about their timing needs to be held urgently after the General Election. I expect the Electoral Management Board for Scotland to be involved in this review, as the body with the greatest expertise and experience in the conduct of elections in Scotland. 

“There may be little that can be done now for some voters to secure their ability to vote in this election, but it would give them some confidence in the UK electoral system and our democracy to know in advance of the election that such a review was planned.” 

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