VOTER ID laws introduced by the Tory government could influence the result of the upcoming General Election, it has been warned – as polling suggests issues could be particularly acute in Scotland.

Dr Jess Garland, the Electoral Reform Society’s director of research and policy, told the Sunday National that the “unnecessary new law” could have a significant impact in the wake of stories linked to the policy following local elections in England and Wales on Thursday.

The law caught out former prime minister Boris Johnson, who was initially turned away from a polling station for forgetting his ID, and Tory MP Tom Hunt.

Conservative minister Johnny Mercer also apologised to one army veteran who was told he could not use his government-issued veteran ID card to vote.

READ MORE: Revealed: Hundreds turned away in Rutherglen by-election due to voter ID rule

If polling is to believed, the problems could be much more acute in Scotland once the General Election comes around.

In April, a huge 15,000-voter poll conducted by Survation for campaign group Best for Britain showed a clear divide in awareness of the new law at the Scottish Border.

In Dumfries and Galloway, 25.6% of people said they didn’t know they needed photo ID to vote in the Westminster elections. The Scottish average was 27%.

Directly over the Border in Penrith and Solway, the figure was just 11.6%. In Carlisle, 11.8%. The English average was 14%.

Polling from YouGov published on May 2 found a similarly stark divide, with 12% of people in England unaware of the need for voter ID compared to 34% in Scotland.

The National:

Professor Stephen Gethins – a former SNP MP who won his North East Fife seat in 2017 by just two votes – said the new voter ID rules “could have a significant impact on the outcome of a number of races – and consequently a significant impact on the makeup of the next Parliament”.

Gethins, who is the SNP candidate in Arbroath and Broughty Ferry, pointed to comments from polling expert Professor John Curtice about how “pretty much every seat in Scotland will be a marginal seat” at the next General Election.

The international relations professor said the expected number of tight races meant that results could be influenced dramatically by even a few people being turned away.

The National:

“I think it would be a cause for concern,” Gethins (above) said. “In Scotland, we do know that there are a large number of races that could be very tight. I've got first-hand experience of that. That's why I know that you have to campaign for every single vote. They all count.

“And these are the people who make the difference between winning or losing a vast swathe of seats, and therefore somebody who supports the SNP will make a huge difference to the kind of pro-independence voice that you have in any Parliament.”

He went on: “This new legislation, I'm not sure what problem it's trying to solve, but we do know what problem it has created.

“And there can be no more serious issue on which to have created a problem than the ability of people to cast their vote – as we've seen with the challenges in the English local authority elections on Thursday.”

Polling experts who spoke to the Sunday National suggested that the number of people in Scotland who are aware of the need for voter ID would likely increase as a General Election comes closer.

The upcoming Westminster election will be the first time many Scots will be asked to show ID in order to cast a ballot. Up to now, the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election has been the only ballot north of the Border where voter ID has been required.

The UK Government is currently running adverts in Scotland in a bid to increase awareness of the need for ID to vote and the Electoral Commission is set to run a campaign to the same effect ahead of the General Election.

In 2023, the commission reported that 14,000 people had been turned away from voting in English local elections due to the laws – with expectations that the true number of people put off even trying was much higher.

Dr Garland said: “We are seeing the real impact of voter ID requirements on voters this weekend. There are already numerous reports of people being prevented from exercising their basic right to vote because of this damaging policy.

READ MORE: Tory MP red-faced as he forgets voter ID at polling station in local elections

“This unnecessary new law has seen a veteran, who served in Afghanistan, prevented from voting. Even Boris Johnson failed to bring the correct ID, despite being the prime minister who introduced the policy.

“Lack of awareness about voter ID could not only damage public confidence but may also influence election results. Under the Westminster electoral system, seats can be won on a handful of votes meaning this policy could ultimately impact who gets elected.

“The UK Government must either scrap this policy or ensure, at the very minimum, that there are more options available to voters, including a wider range of permissible ID and alternatives for voters on the day.”

A UK Government spokesperson pointed to a blog post from the Department for Levelling Up, which states: “We are continuing to work closely with local authorities and other partners to raise awareness both of the requirement to show identification in the polling station and of the types of identification which are accepted, including a widespread public information campaign led by the Electoral Commission. 

“We are grateful for the ongoing work of local authorities and other partners to deliver these new requirements.”