Pedal on Polling Place*

May 5, 2022

So after POP, and our local Candidates’ Ride, and a month and a half of trying to fit Walk, Wheel, Cycle, Vote in around my other commitments, today was the day when the rubber hits the road (or the pencil hits the paper) and I actually got to go and vote (as did the other half, despite being a furriner, because he’s now allowed to do that in Scotland).

I’m going to blame busyness, but in truth it’s nobody’s fault but my own that it was only a couple of days ago that I actually took the time to look up the candidates standing in my ward. The voting system here is the single transferrable vote, or ‘vote till you boak’ and I know from having done the lists of parties standing in each of the 32 local authorities in Scotland, there are some quite nausea-inducing options out there in some of the wilder fringes. We don’t have any of the really fringe parties standing in Bigtownshire, but a bit of last minute googling revealed that among the five candidates standing for three seats we had one ‘independent’ who’d been thrown out of his party for making Islamophobic jokes, one Tory who’d been an SNP councillor but left because he felt it was becoming a hard left party, and another Tory who I swear to God appears to be about 12 years old. Only one responded to my question about support for Walk, Wheel, Cycle, Vote, so for the rest of them it was definitely a question of who do you want to see defeated the most, rather than who would you like to see elected, and working back from there.

In the past few years I’ve come to the conclusion that one really good councillor in a position of power beats a large number of vaguely well-intentioned ones. If you look at the councils that have streaked ahead with active travel (other causes are available) they’ve had a genuine champion driving it forward. When most of your interactions with the council feel closer to gaslighting than anything else, you need someone who will stand up to the more obstructive officers, and actually work out how to get things done. Whether we’ll manage to elect anyone like that in Bigtownshire, I don’t know. Almost definitely not among the lot on my ballot paper, but I live in hope, as always. And besides, if you don’t vote you can’t complain so off we went and did our duty.

Bicycles against a wall at the polling station

And besides, it was a nice excuse for a bike ride.

* For some reason, they’re called polling places and not polling stations in Scotland (don’t ask why) which tends to ruin a good hashtag.