Abbey St Bathans is to keep its polling station

Abbey St Bathans is the first of the nine polling stations under threat of closure to get a reprieve.

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson confirmed: “The criteria agreed by Scottish Borders Council for the possible closure of polling stations was that the electorate numbered less than 100. The number in Abbey St Bathans has now risen to 104 so no longer meets the review criteria.

“The consultation period has now finished and the report will go to council on November 20.”

However, if it hadn’t been for Lammermuir Community Council putting in a Freedom of Information request it’s likely that Abbey St Bathans polling station wouldn’t have been reprieved and councillors would probably have made a decision on outdated information.

Scottish Borders Council’s initial proposals to close nine rural polling stations across the Borders was based on figures from 2012 - all those at risk having under 100 electors registered to vote at that station.

Two years later Abbey St Bathans has over the 100 voter cut-off.

Lammermuir Community Council chairman, Mark Rowley has led the campaign to oppose the closure of the polling stations and he said: “We are thrilled for our neighbours in the hills and delighted to see SBC remove this stupid threat from at least one small rural community.

“To deny rural residents access to full involvement in the electoral system is shocking, but even more so that SBC were proceeding with this policy on the basis of historic 2012 figures that they knew to be outdated.

“It was disappointing that our community council had to resort to a Freedom of Information Request to reveal just how out of date those figures were.

“It looks as if SBC officials are still going to force councillors to vote on possible closure for Cranshaws and other rural polling places despite declining to undertake a rural proofing assessment and a cursory Equalities Impact Assessment that appears open to question.

“We hope that we will be able to demonstrate to them how vital polling places are to some of the smaller rural communities and how SBC’s attempt to save themselves just £141 a year will cost our small community thousands of pounds through the electoral cycle.

“We’ve heard nothing similar from SBC, so presume their plan is still to push for closure of Cranshaws, despite its electoral roll increasing significantly by 18% between 2012 and September 2014 and a recent turnout of over 85%.”