On September 10, Leith Walk constituents will elect two new councillors under the single transferable vote (STV) system – a Scottish first for a by-election.
It’s a first for me, too, as I prepare to run the election as returning officer for Edinburgh City Council for the first time.
It’s a particularly exciting time for those living around Leith Walk, with the transformation of the St James Quarter on the horizon, as well as a forthcoming report on the potential for extending the tram to Leith. That’s why it’s important that local people are engaged in matters that affect their neighbourhood, electing councillors who can represent their views and bring them closer to the workings of the council.
As the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh has a strong reputation for delivering electoral events, particularly in the light of last year’s referendum, as well as the recent general election, when the city’s vote played out on an international stage.
While the Leith Walk by-election will be on a considerably smaller scale than this, it’s just as important to democracy in Edinburgh. Local residents now have the chance to elect two councillors to represent their views and opinions, to support those with difficulties we could help solve and to decide how the council should carry out its many important functions.
I want as many residents in the Leith Walk ward as possible to take part. The only way they can do this is by making sure they are registered by August 25 and then filling out their ballot paper correctly on September 10. Voters can use numbers to rank as many or few candidates in the order of preference.
Years of experience have shown me that no two elections are the same. Each brings its own challenges and each is a chance to meet local voters and engage with the community getting to grips with the issues that affect each specific area.
As I prepare to run my first election in the Capital, I am familiarising myself with the Leith Walk ward, a busy and vibrant pocket of the city. I’m looking forward to seeing the STV method of voting really come into its own here to ensure the two candidates are fairly elected with every vote used to its fullest extent.
Your participation in this by-election is my responsibility and one I take very seriously. As I embark on my career as chief executive of Edinburgh City Council, I look forward to many stints as returning officer for the city.
But it all starts with the Leith Walk by-election, which will mark a milestone for me here in Edinburgh. I hope to see as many people as possible turning out on September 10 to have their say and to make it a memorable and successful event.
You can find out more about voting in the by-election on the council website, including information on about candidates standing, polling places and how to register vote in person, by post or by proxy.
Andrew Kerr is chief executive of Edinburgh City Council.