BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Scotland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Professor John Curtice
"The reason for this advertising campaign is that now we are moving to a so called rolling register"
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 13:21 GMT
Homeless voters 'could miss out'
ballot box
There is concern the homeless will not be able to vote
Campaigners have warned that homeless people in Scotland could be denied their newly-won right to vote because of a "bureaucratic bungle".

Homeless charity Shelter Scotland said that, although the right to vote has now been extended to the homeless, little information has been distributed about it north of the border.

The allegation came as a 400,000 advertising campaign was launched in Scotland to make sure people register to vote in time for the general election.

The election has been hotly tipped to take place in May and Shelter has warned that there could be little time for the distribution of information or registration forms.

It is important that as many people as possible register to vote and make their voices heard

Scottish Secretary, Helen Liddell
The charity said that, if a May date is chosen, the deadline for registering to vote at the polls is 12 March.

Shelter's campaign manager for Scotland, Lorna Clark, said: "Shelter Scotland is absolutely dismayed that people who wish to use their vote may not be able to as a result of a bureaucratic bungle."

Despite a 3m advertising campaign in England and Wales, she said little or no information was so far available in Scotland about the changes.

Ms Clark said this was because of an apparent "gross oversight" by either the Scotland Office or the Home Office.

"Do homeless people in Scotland matter less than those in England?"

'Targeting homeless people'

But a spokesman for the Scotland Office said everything possible was being done to inform homeless people of the changes.

"The new provisions came into effect on 16 February, and the advertising campaign launched today (Thursday) comes less than a week later," he said.

"The press and TV campaign will reach a mass audience. We are specifically targeting homeless people through the Scottish Executive's Homelessness Task Force.

"Information about the changes to the franchise and registration has already been given to the Big Issue in Scotland.

Homeless person
Homeless people may not be registered in time
"The 12 March deadline for registering for the new electoral roll is included in the England and Wales publicity because of the local government elections there on 3 May.

"The next local elections in Scotland will not take place until 2003."

Under new voting rules, postal votes will be available to all who want them and the right to vote is to be extended to the homeless, remand prisoners and mental patients.

The new voting system also makes it possible for people to join the electoral register at any time.

Previously the register was only updated once a year in October.

All Scottish adults are to be targeted in the advertising campaign.

'Voter apathy remains'

The reforms, based on recommendations that won all-party backing, come through changes in the Representation of the People Act.

Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell said: "It is important that as many people as possible register to vote and make their voices heard.

"That is why we have introduced new measures that make it easier than ever before to get on to the electoral register and be eligible to vote."

The Conservatives said the timing of the campaign was "unfortunate", as Labour had previously admitted it was worried about voter apathy in the next general election.

"We hope that all voters will register and vote but are confident that voter apathy remains a problem primarily for the Labour Party," a Tory spokesman said.

At the European elections in 1999, only one person in four decided to turn out and vote.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

30 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Straw moves to get the vote out
18 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Blair outlines party vision
23 Jun 99 | UK Politics
PR for Scottish council elections
08 Jun 99 | News
Apathy in the UK
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Scotland stories