WELCOME to the latest edition of General Election Watch. This newsletter keeps its readers updated with the essential Scottish perspective on the ballot set to be held this year. 

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THE next General Election will be significant for a number of reasons – not only that the Tories look likely to be booted out of Downing Street, but that it will be the first national poll in Scotland where voters will have to show photo ID.

The requirement was introduced by the Tories under the Elections Act 2022 and provoked a huge backlash when announced.

The Government insisted it was needed to help combat electoral fraud – but with low levels of this crime recorded in the UK prompted questions over the move.

Critics warned that people without ID would be disenfranchised by the new rules, especially those in marginalised groups.

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, which took place in October last year, was the first in Scotland where voters had to show photo ID.

There were plenty of warnings raised about the potential impact of voter ID ahead of the ballot, including by SNP candidate Katy Loudon.

As revealed in the Sunday National this week, there were hundreds turned away because they failed to have the correct ID.

Nearly 300 people – 298 – were turned away from polling stations in Rutherglen and Hamilton West because of the rule, adding up to 1.47% of all polling station voters.

Out of these, 99 did not return and so did not vote – 0.49% of all polling station voters.

The National: Votes are counted in the count hall at the South Lanarkshire Council Headquarters in Hamilton for

It wouldn't have affected the outcome in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, with Labour's Michael Shanks winning with a majority of nearly 9500 votes.

On the surface, it appears to be a small number, and cannot be used to predict what will happen in the General Election.

But if this result was applied to four million voters across Scotland it would add up to nearly 20,000 people.

Responding to the figures, the Electoral Reform Society said that even one voter turned away because of voter ID is “one too many”.

And recent history shows even a tiny number of votes can make a big difference – in 2017, the SNP’s Stephen Gethins won North East Fife by just two votes over the Liberal Democrats.

What's it all for?

Meanwhile, what’s the scale of the electoral fraud that the Tories said was so necessary to tackle?

Well, according to figures from the Electoral Commission there were nine convictions and six cautions issued by the police between 2018 and 2022.

Even more worryingly, the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election saw the highest percentage of voters “permanently” turned away due to not having the right identification out of all by-elections which took place after the new law was introduced last year.

It’s thought one reason could be that a huge public awareness campaign was launched ahead of the local elections in England last May, which were the first in Britain which required voters to show photo ID.

Yet an analysis found at least 14,000 people who tried to vote in English council elections were denied a ballot paper due to photo ID requirements.

The Electoral Commission says it will be launching a national advertising campaign ahead of the General Election to make sure people are aware of the new requirements.

Everything possible must be done to ensure that no-one is unable to cast their vote due to not having the right identification.

The National:

What's happening in Rochdale?

Meanwhile, there’s another by-election taking place on Thursday, this time in Rochdale, which has already become mired in controversy before a single vote has been cast.

Once the frontrunners, Labour, withdrew support for their candidate Azhar Ali after he made alleged antisemitic remarks. But he will still be listed as the Labour candidate on the ballot paper as it was too late to replace him under electoral law.

The name of the Green party candidate will appear on the ballot paper, but Guy Otten stopped campaigning after the exposure of “regrettable” social media posts, which he said were made a number of years ago.

And to cap off what is being billed the most bizarre by-election in decades, Workers Party of Britain leader George Galloway – formerly of Labour, formerly of Respect and formerly of a catsuit-clad role in Big Brother – is now the bookie’s favourite to win.

Visit our interactive map for a seat-by-seat guide to the General Election