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Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK


Anger over count hold-ups

At one count, a box was forced open because the keys were dropped inside

Delays in election counting led to extra hours of suspense for dozens of Scottish parliamentary candidates.

The longest was in Lothian, where tellers left their posts at 0630 on Friday and the declaration had to wait until the afternoon, 17 hours after the count began.

There was also a major hold-up in the North-east Scotland regional list announcement.

Scottish Home Affairs Minister Henry McLeish was angered by the delays, saying the returning officers had been given adequate resources to do the job on time.

Frustrated candidates

Lothians Returning Officer Tom Aitchison broke the news to frustrated candidates and party workers shortly before 0700 on Friday.

Most had waited many hours, with many having arrived when the counts began at 2200 on Thursday.

Mr Aitchison said delays resulted in counts for the regional lists in two Edinburgh constituencies because of a request for a recount in Edinburgh South.

Staff left because of the number of hours it was taking to complete the count.

Tory dismay

Tory leader David McLetchie was among those who had to wait to learn his fate.

He looked dismayed at the development, which came after he suffered the personal disappointment of defeat in the first-past-the post seat of Pentlands, which was once a Tory bastion.

He was long delayed in thanking party workers at the Leith headquarters and cancelled TV appearances because he was not certain he would become an MSP.

Reacting to the delays, Mr McLeish appealed to returning officers to finish the counts as soon as possible.

Mr McLeish said the problems would cast a shadow over a day when political history was being made.

He said: "We have invested a lot of effort into ensuring everything went smoothly. I would appeal to these people to stay and finish the counts. <P. "We will be looking into the situation to see exactly what has gone wrong."



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