Argyll election turnout turns off

The count took place at Lochgilphead Joint Campus.  Photograph: Kevin McGlynn.
The count took place at Lochgilphead Joint Campus.  Photograph: Kevin McGlynn.

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By last Friday evening, when the ballot counting ended, Argyll and Bute had a new council comprising 10 Conservative councillors, one Labour, five Liberal Democrats, one Green, 12 SNP and seven independents.

With no one party in overall control, the horse trading began to find a workable coalition.

The council’s next full meeting, expected to be later this month, will decide who becomes deputy leader for the authority next term, along with the posts of leader, provost and depute provost.

If apathy had been a candidate, it would have romped home.

No one party was the overall winner on polling day, Thursday May 5, but one of the biggest hitters on the day upset councillors of all political parties and independents in Argyll and Bute – and that was apathy.

Its close runner-up was age, with a notable absence of younger voters; ironic given the council now has one of Scotland’s youngest members, Tory Daniel Hampsey, aged 18, in Dunoon. Both he and Green Party councillor Luna Martin, 24, Oban North and Lorn, are university students.

‘About 400 fewer votes were cast in South Kintyre than at the last election and in that time the population here has increased,’ said Councillor Donald Kelly, who now finds himself as one of the council’s longest serving members.

‘There was a distinct lack of young people voting; we need to engage with the youth.’

In the two Oban-based wards, fewer than half the people eligible to vote bothered to do so. One of the ballot boxes in an Oban ward contained less than a quarter of the votes, not including the postal votes.

Cowal turned out the most voters to the polls at 55.8 per cent; Oban South and the Isles was the lowest at 45.7 per cent. Oban North and Lorn reached 49.3 per cent.

Councillor Julie McKenzie, elected to Oban North and Lorn with one of the highest first preference votes across the council at 1,254, said: ‘Some people are feeling disenfranchised.’

Veteran campaigner Cathy McInnes, convener of Argyll and Bute LibDems, said at the count on Friday at Lochgilphead Joint Campus: ‘It always upsets me, when out canvassing, if you go to a door and people say they are not bothered about going to vote – especially if it is a young woman. Politics affect every part of our lives.’

There was also a large number of rejected ballot papers; the feeling across all the parties is that, prior to elections, there should be more advice given out on how to fill in papers.