Demand to stop using Edinburgh primary schools as polling stations

City leaders have been told to stop closing schools on election days – and accused of causing “significant disruption” to pupils, parents and teachers.

Monday, 18th November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 18th November 2019, 9:38 am

Liberal Democrat councillors are formally calling on the authority to commit to investigating alternative venues for polling stations after it was revealed that 37 primary schools in Edinburgh will be closed on Thursday December 12 for the general election.

The  stopping of lessons marks the third set of unscheduled school closures this year after the European Elections in May and the Leith Walk ward council by-election in April.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang will table a motion at Thursday’s full council meeting.  If approved by councillors, it calls on officials to investigate ending the use of schools as polling places by identifying alternative venues in time for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.

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Cllr Lang said: “It is important that voting is made as easy as possible so everyone can exercise their democratic rights.

“However, this general election will involve the closure of 37 schools across the city. In my own ward, half of all the primary schools will close because they are being used as polling stations. It’s the third set of school closures for elections in Edinburgh this year. ”

He added: “This all causes significant disruption to teachers and pupils. It also impacts parents who have to take time off work or make alternative childcare arrangements.”

A total of 143 buildings are being used in the Capital as polling stations for the general election – including churches, hotels, scout halls, community centres and even a mobile library.

Funding was made available from the UK Government to councils to find alternative polling station venues to schools in order for lessons to continue. But the council said alternative suitable venues could not be found.

Council Leader Cllr Adam McVey said: “We do appreciate the disruption unscheduled school closures can cause to parents, teachers and pupils, and we’re grateful to those who do experience disruption while general elections and other votes take place. As is the case for all local authorities, polling places are chosen to provide the best location, accessibility and space to allow as many people as possible to cast their vote and sometimes primary schools are the only option.”