Call to stop ‘draconian’ measures ahead of referendum

Cllr Peter Grant
Cllr Peter Grant

A Glenrothes councillor has called for an immediate halt to letters being sent out by the local authority threatening to remove people from the electoral register ahead of the Independence Referendum.

Peter Grant, leader of the SNP, has been contacted by people who have received letters telling them the Council “had reason to believe” they no longer lived at their registered address.

The letters added that if there was no reply within fourteen days the person would be removed from the electoral register making them ineligible to vote in the referendum on September 18.

“I appreciate that the Council needs to make sure we don’t have bogus people voting in the referendum or in elections but this is draconian,” said Mr Grant.

“There’s a real risk it will lead to citizens in Fife losing their right to vote on the most important question the people of Scotland have ever been asked.

“The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights we have and if it’s true that Fife Council intends to deny people this right just because they forgot to send back a form, this is something we should all be concerned about.”

The councillor has also questioned the timing of the move just as the holiday period reaches its peak.

“If the Council has reason to believe that there are bogus people on the register, why didn’t they do someting about it before?,” added the councillor.

“Why was it okay for these people to get a vote in the European elections but not in the referendum?”

Responding to Mr Grant’s claims Lawrence Cooper, depute electoral registration officer said they had “a duty to keep a complete and accurate electoral register”.

She added: “To do this we have to make sure that everyone eligible to vote is on the register. We also have to make sure that anyone not eligible to vote is removed from the register.

“The process for the Annual Canvass is the same as in previous years. The Annual Canvass form was issued to all properties in Fife with details of the electors we currently hold on file. No blank forms are issued unless the property was previously empty, in which case it would be addressed to “The Occupier”.

Mr Grant said he has now written to the electoral registration officer and the Council’s chief executive Steve Grimmond asking how many of these letters had been sent out, and how this compares with previous year.

He added “I’ve also asked for an immediate halt to any more threats of this kind being issued until we can be sure it’s not going to lead to people being wrongly denied their democratic rights.”