Edinburgh ready to vote in elections that were never meant to happen

VOTERS go to the polls tomorrow in possibly the UK’s most hotly contested European Parliament elections ever.

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 7:00 am
Anna Soubry MP at the Change UK People's Vote Remain rally at the SKYBar, Edinburgh, ahead of the forthcoming European elections.

The Brexit debacle has turned the spotlight on a battle for votes which a majority of the public has usually ignored in the past.

Turnout has been notoriously low in the European elections, which have been held every five years since MEPs were first directly elected in 1979. Before that, each national parliament used to appoint a cross-party delegation of its own MPs to represent them in Brussels and Strasbourg.

But this year’s elections were not meant to be happening here because the UK was due to leave the European Union on March 29. However, when Brexit was delayed, the EU insisted there was no alternative to the UK electing its quota of MEPs.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie water-skiing at Water Ski and Wakeboard Scotland in Dunfermline as he campaigns for the European elections. Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

It remains to be seen whether turnout is any better than on previous occasions.

Last time, only 33.5 per cent of Scottish voters took the trouble to cast their ballot.

Some may see the election as an opportunity to register their views on Brexit, but others could view it as an irrelevance on the grounds the MEPs elected will only be in office until the UK does leave the EU.

Scotland has six seats out of the UK’s total of 73. At the last elections in 2014, the SNP and Labour each won two, the Tories one and in a shock result the final one went to Ukip.

Nigel Farage attends a rally with the Brexit Partys European election candidates at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh on May 17, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Pic: Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Three of Scotland’s six MEPs are seeking re-election – Labour’s David Martin, the SNP’s Alyn Smith and Tory Nosheena Mobarik.

Labour’s other MEP, Catherine Stihler, resigned earlier this year when she got another job. Meanwhile, the SNP’s Ian Hudghton is retiring, and former Ukip MEP David Coburn is not standing again.

Eight parties are each fielding a full slate of six candidates and there are also two independents.

The SNP is widely tipped to win three of the six seats, with Labour likely to be reduced to one and the Tories in danger of losing their only seat while the Brexit Party also gets an MEP, and the final seat could go almost anywhere.

Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon meets with European citizens during a European Parliament election campaign event at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Edinburgh on May 21, 2019. Pic: Andy Buchanan / AFP/Getty Images

A total of 3.953,289 voters all over Scotland can take part in tomorrow’s poll – they must be aged 18 or over, a British citizen or an Irish, EU or qualifying Commonwealth citizen, and be on the electoral roll.

Edinburgh has 343,748 people registered to vote, East Lothian has 78,630, Midlothian 68.992 and West Lothian 131,295.

Many will already have voted by post – Edinburgh alone saw 69,067 applications for postal votes.

Polling stations will open at 7am tomorrow and close at 10pm.

There are some 141 polling places throughout Edinburgh in schools, youth clubs, hotels, churches, a mobile library, scout halls, rugby club, golf club, cafes and council offices.

All the votes from across the Capital will be counted at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre from 5.30pm on Sunday.

The results from council areas all over Scotland will be collated at the City Chambers.

A reasonably clear picture of the overall outcome is expected by around 11.30pm, but the final result will not be declared until after the count for the Western Isles has taken place on Monday morning.