Scottish election 2021: Here's the real reason why the turnout was so high: free pencils – Susan Morrison

Now that the election is over, will the BBC let their reporters back indoors?

Friday, 14th May 2021, 12:30 pm

We live in strange times, but cut these guys some slack. At one point Glen Campbell looked like he had early stage exposure.

Politics and the weather are never kind to those pavement-bound correspondents, waiting for their moment on camera.

Remember the great John Cole, standing in Downing Street during many a howling gale, protected by only an umbrella and a powerful Belfast accent? Not forgetting poor John Sergeant, shivering outside the British Embassy in Paris, until he was steam-rollered by Mrs Thatcher's Press Secretary, Bernard Ingham, and the Iron Lady herself.

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Last week, the talking heads who managed to stay in the cosy studios marvelled at the massive turnout. Other democracies are concerned by low voter numbers. The Scots have clearly decided this ballot box lark ranks alongside a good Hogmanay do and can’t keep away.

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Scottish Election 2021 results: Huge voter turnout fails to shake up Edinburgh's...

This is remarkable, given that since 2016 we’ve been in more polling booths than we’ve had foreign holidays.

The rest of the world looks to Scotland. How did we do it?

A free pencil for every voter seemed to go down well. So what next? (Picture: Ian Johnston)

Perhaps it was the sudden reappearance of Mr Salmond and Mr Galloway, like a political Burke and Hare, trying to resurrect dead careers. One look at their grim fizzogs and we took to the polls to vote for anyone who’d stop those two from gazing balefully from our television screens on a regular basis.

Perhaps it was a resurgence against Boris Johnson, or at least his taste in wallpaper.

Perhaps it was a day out, when so many of us have not even been able to cross the threshold for months.

Or perhaps it was democracy’s newest secret weapon – the wee free pencil.

Covid safety measures meant that we all got our very own pencil to vote with and the nation went wild. Social media was flooded with photos of folk posing with their little pencil. I’ve got mine here. I love it.

Can I suggest that next time we give out stickers to maintain this enthusiasm? We can’t rely on the Salmond and Galloway roadshow forever.

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