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The numbers behind the election count in the Highlands with hundreds of polling stations and more than 700 staff spread across an area twice the size of Jamaica.

By Scott Maclennan

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Ballot boxes being prepared for the general election. Courtesy Highland Council.
Ballot boxes being prepared for the general election. Courtesy Highland Council.

Staging the general election is one of the biggest logistical challenges that Highland Council faces as it involves an area that is larger than Wales with hundreds of polling stations collecting tens of thousands of votes.

Work is well underway preparing the count venue – the Highland Football Academy in Dingwall – where a significant operation will see ballot boxes collected from across the region, votes counted and winners declared.

All the efforts come under the control of the Highland Returning Officer who is Derek Brown. In previous years the returning officer in the north donated the fee estimated in the thousands to charity but now the council “does not comment on personnel matters”.

At this point the election operation in the Highlands is about halfway through with the results expected in the early hours of Friday morning.

It started well before 7am when the polls opened today, the 533 inspectors will have been briefed and ready to work the polling stations and then from 10pm.

After the polls close and before the 198 people who will count the votes can get to work one of the big challenges of the night will emerge.

The size of the Highlands will play a major role Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross covers an area 11,798 km sq, Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire is 9,688 km sq.

So before the 198 can get to work, ballots will have to be packed and sealed for the journey to the count site in Dingwall from 245 polling stations across the region and some of them are quite far away.

The shortest journey is undoubtedly from the Dingwall polling station where even in traffic it should not take more than five minutes but that is not so elsewhere.

Starting with the north coast – Canisbay is 109 miles from the count in Dingwall, Durness is 94 miles and Kinlochbervie is 84 miles – they add up to individual driving times of around two hours and 30 minutes.

Then there are the islands of Eigg and Raasay which both have polling stations. It is possible that the ballots from the islands will be added to the total later having first been secured.

If it was possible then it would take well over three and half hours to make the journey to Dingwall as the route involves a ferry – the same is true for Eigg except that journey would take around five hours.

The north-west seaboard of Skye has three polling stations at Glendale, Waternish, and Kilmuir that make for the longest road journeys from the official count at around 120 miles and journey times of three hours and 40 minutes.

Lochaline in the Sound of Mull is closer but the drive of three and half hours to cover the 113 miles and is one of the longest in duration for the mainland.

There was no word on whether the council chief executive Derek Brown would be accepting the returning officer fee as the local authority “does not comment on personnel matters” nor did it reveal the number of drivers involved in transporting ballots.

The times are pretty significant as well. The first declaration is expected at 5am for the Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire seat and about 30 minutes later the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross seat is expected to be announced.

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