Moving Morningside polling station ‘too confusing’

Morningside Parish Church. Picture: Julie Bull
Morningside Parish Church. Picture: Julie Bull
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PARENTS are up in arms after council chiefs refused to move a polling station from their primary school to a nearby church on the grounds it would be “confusing”.

Mums and dads at South Morningside Primary said forcing pupils to stay off school every election day disrupts their education and causes childcare problems for parents who are working when there is a suitable alternative building just a few hundred yards away.

Council officials admitted Morningside Parish Church could accommodate the polling station and meets all the criteria, but the local authority’s review of polling places across the city said the school should continue to be used.

In a letter to councillors, depute returning officer Chris Highcock said: “Morningside Parish Church has been investigated and could accommodate the polling stations. However this change could confuse voters.”

Craig Hilton, chair of the South Morningside parent council, was furious at the council’s attitude.

He said: “I am dismayed to see that whilst a suitable, alternative location to South Morningside school has been identified, the report recommends the continued use of the school.

“What evidence does the council have that this would disrupt or confuse voters? Have they canvassed their views?

“The report states on three separate occasions that a change would be ‘confusing’, but this is not a factor – or word – mentioned in relation to any of the other changes discussed in the report. Is this a problem unique to Morningside residents?”

Mr Hilton also pointed out part of Mr Highcock’s letter which said: “Unless an alternative is identified with much better facilities then there is no strong argument, in the interest of voters, for moving the polling place.”

Mr Hilton said: “It seems it is not enough to show there are suitable alternative premises, you have to show they are ­better.”

He was backed by Meadows/Morningside Conservative councillor Mark McInnes, who said part of the church was already used as a polling station for another group of streets.

He said: “I don’t think the argument that it’s confusing really stacks up. It’s a relatively short distance. I think the electorate is reasonably sophisticated and if they are told the polling station has changed they will be able to find it.”

Education bosses have already tried to time teachers’ in-service training days to coincide with election dates.

But the parents said one week next May will see children off on Monday for Victoria Day, back at school on Tuesday and Wednesday, and off again for European Parliament elections on Thursday.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com