Villagers oppose closure of polling stations

Cranshaw Village Hall will no longer be used as a polling station, under proposals drawn up by Scottish Borders Council.
Cranshaw Village Hall will no longer be used as a polling station, under proposals drawn up by Scottish Borders Council.

Casting votes within their own local community is a reasonable expectation for electors, Berwickshire Area Forum concluded last week.

Lammermuir Community Council chairman, Mark Rowley, highlighted Scottish Borders Council’s proposals to close polling stations at Abbey St Bathans and Cranshaws at last week’s meeting of the area forum and received unanimous support when he submitted a motion asking councillors to reject the proposals.

In their constant bid to look for savings, Scottish Borders Council carried out a review of polling stations across the region and found that ten, including Abbey St Bathans and Cranshaws, had fewer than 100 people on the electoral roll. A public consultation on the proposals was carried out earlier this year and a decision is expected to be made by councillors in October or November this year.

Mr Rowley said: “We ask that councillors recognise that for residents to be able to cast their votes within their own local community is a reasonable expectation, helps to encourage community engagement and is central to the democratic process.

“To act as a polling place is also central to these areas’ sense of place and community and vital to the survival of their few remaining community facilities.”

Giving his support to retaining local polling stations Councillor John Greenwell said: “The proposal to close polling stations in Cranshaw’s and Abbey St Bathans by SBC is taking away the fundamental democratic rights of the individual voter in these areas.

“Even though the answer to any query may be there is always a postal vote it does not take into consideration that to some families it is a ritual to attend the polling station to carry out their democratic right to vote, and to put obstacles in their way could infringe on their human rights amongst other things.

“For the very small saving this may make to the huge council budget I think that the council should reverse this plan.”

Louise McGeoch, from SBC’s democratic services said: “It is proposed, given the increasing financial constraints on both national and local government, the increasing use of postal votes and high cost per elector for these 10 polling places, that they cease to be used for electoral purposes after 2014.”