DECADES of election tradition are set to come to an end this week when the massive task of counting all of Edinburgh’s votes is switched to a new venue.
Meadowbank sports centre has been the focus of activity on most election nights since it opened 45 years ago.
But when the polls close at 10pm on Thursday, ballot boxes from all over the Capital will be driven instead to the newly-extended Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
Council chiefs decided the increased space and state-of-the-art facilities made the EICC in Morrison Street a must-use choice for the count.
A massive 26-metre screen in the main counting hall will display the results as they come in and broadcasters are expected to beam live TV coverage from the roof.
A total of 515 counting staff will be involved in the counting operation, with scores of observers from the political parties also in attendance. Counts have on occasion been held at the Royal Highland Showground at Ingliston rather than Meadowbank, but the EICC is seen as combining a city-centre location with modern amenities.
One source said: “It will be good to have somewhere that is designed for hosting major events rather than selling cows or playing badminton.”
The EICC, which opened in 1995, is owned by the city council but run independently as a commercial venture. It hosted both the Scottish Labour and Tory spring conferences earlier this year. The count is seen as another opportunity to promote the centre to a wider audience.
Election officials say it has good transport links so candidates, observers and others can get there easily and is also well placed for ballot boxes to be transported quickly and safely.
The venue’s Lennox Suite – a world-class conference space with moving floor, added to the existing facilities in 2013 as part of a £35 million expansion – will see most of the action during the vote count.
Two of the Capital’s five constituencies will be counted there and it is where the results will be declared. Two other constituencies will be counted in the Cromdale Hall and one in the ground-floor Strathblane Suite.
Meadowbank has been the scene of many tears, both of joy and sorrow, over the years.
City council leader Andrew Burns said he was pleased about the new count venue but would still be sad to say goodbye to Meadowbank.
“While it has its restrictions, there is a bit of nostalgia looking back at counts which have been held there,” he said. “But I am looking forward to being at the EICC with its brand new facilities.”
Sue Bruce, city council chief executive and returning officer for the Edinburgh seats, said: “I am delighted that we are able to host the general election count in the award-winning, newly-expanded EICC. The state-of-the-art venue has attracted numerous high-profile business conferences and events to the city, and will now provide the perfect setting.”
EICC chief executive Marshall Dallas said: “The EICC team is excited to host a major vote count in Edinburgh for the first time and to have the opportunity to showcase our world-class facilities to a national and international audience. The expansion of the venue reflects other improvements across the city – including infrastructure and the airport development – meaning that the city is now much more accessible to overseas visitors.”