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Everything Caithness voters need to know ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary election on Thursday, May 6, 2021

By John Davidson

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Voters will cast their ballot on Thursday, May 6.
Voters will cast their ballot on Thursday, May 6.

The Scottish election on Thursday, May 6, will be like no other held in this country. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there will be some changes to polling stations compared to a usual election – but voters are being reassured that their safety is a top priority.

What to expect at the polling station

Highland Council says people may have to queue outside polling stations due to limited numbers allowed in at any one time, and physical distancing will also be required.

Voters will be expected to wear a face covering, exactly as when entering shops or using public transport. Hand sanitiser will be made available on entry and exit.

The polling place staff will be behind protective screens, but voters will still be able to receive their support when they need it.

Prior to the polls opening, all the venues being used will be thoroughly cleaned and regular cleaning will be undertaken throughout the hours of polling. Voters are being asked to be patient as they may need to wait to use a booth while it is being cleaned.

Where possible, polling stations will have a one-way system and voters will have to follow the signage and any instructions. As for casting votes, anyone is welcome to take along their own pencil or pen, but out of the box new pencils will be available for each voter.

The returning officer for the Highland region, chief executive Donna Manson, suggests people plan ahead.

She said: “Our election staff have worked hard to make sure all safety measures for voters are in place. It is a good idea to check the poll card that you will have received, as your polling place may have changed since the last election.

“Due to the social distancing rules we do expect queues to form. If there’s a queue, you’ll still be able vote as long as you have joined it before the poll ends at 10pm.

"Electors may wish to consider avoiding peak times and attending polling stations at quiet periods such as mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

"Our polling station staff are there to provide any assistance. Upon arrival they will give you the two ballot papers and answer any questions you have regarding the process.”

Highland Council has also created a short video to provide information on what to expect.

The council is following the guidelines of Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland, the Electoral Commission and the Electoral Management Board to make sure it is safe and secure for everyone to vote at their polling station.

General risk assessments and specific Covid assessments have been carried out for every polling station to ensure that all measures are in place for the safety of voters and staff. Extra staff have been recruited to make sure that all measures are adhered to and to make the voting experience as smooth and safe as possible.

The two ballot papers for the Scottish Parliamentary election.
The two ballot papers for the Scottish Parliamentary election.

The two ballot papers explained

Voters will be given two ballot papers.

For the three Highland local constituencies – Caithness, Sutherland and Ross; Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch; Inverness and Nairn – electors will receive a lilac coloured ballot paper to elect their constituency member.

Electors should mark one cross (X) in the box opposite the name of one candidate. The candidate with the most votes wins.

As well as returning a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) in their constituency, electors will be asked to complete a ballot paper to elect seven additional members from the Highlands and Islands Regional List to the Scottish Parliament.

The regional ballot paper is peach coloured. On the regional ballot paper, electors vote for a party to represent the region. Voters should mark a cross (X) once in the box opposite the name of one party.

The verification and counting of both ballot papers will take place across three Highland count venues over two days. The process will start at 9am on Friday, May 7, and continue until the three constituency results are declared on Friday evening.

Count staff will return to the count centres on Saturday to continue the process until the Highlands and Islands Regional List result is declared.

Highland Council chief executive and returning officer for the Highland region Donna Manson.
Highland Council chief executive and returning officer for the Highland region Donna Manson.

Who are the candidates?

In the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross constituency, the following candidates are standing for election to the Scottish Parliament:

  • CHRISTIAN, Harry – Scottish Libertarian Party
  • DONALDSON, Marion – Scottish Labour Party
  • MACKIE, Struan – Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
  • MCCAFFERY, Tina – Freedom Alliance - Integrity, Society, Economy
  • NOLAN, Molly – Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • TODD, Maree – Scottish National Party (SNP)

The parties you can vote for on the Regional List are:

  • Abolish the Scottish Parliament Party
  • Alba Party
  • All For Unity
  • Freedom Alliance
  • Reform UK
  • Restore Scotland
  • Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
  • Scottish Family Party
  • Scottish Green Party
  • Scottish Labour Party
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • Scottish Libertarian Party
  • Scottish National Party (SNP)
  • Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
  • UK Independence Party (UKIP)
  • Independent – Mansfield, Hazel
  • Independent – Wightman, Andy

Where are the polling stations?

All polling stations will open at 7am on Thursday, May 6, and remain open until 10pm.

The venues below are hosting the polling stations in Caithness. Your polling card will advise you which station you need to attend to cast your vote.

  • Mount Pleasant Primary School, Thurso
  • Pennyland Primary School, Thurso
  • Castletown Drill Hall
  • Victoria Hall, Reay
  • Halkirk Primary School
  • Bower Community Hall
  • Britannia Hall, Dunnet
  • Noss Primary School, Wick
  • Newton Park Primary School, Wick
  • Watten Hall
  • Canisbay Primary School
  • Keiss Amenities Hall
  • Reiss and Killimster Hall
  • Lybster Community Hall
  • Dunbeath Community Centre

For more information, see www.highland.gov.uk/elections

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