The UK Elections Bill: A plan to disenfranchise SNP voters

The Elections Bill 2021-22 would require voters in Scotland to show voter ID in polling stations for UK parliamentary elections. The types of ID required include passports, driving licences, PASS scheme and Blue Badge cards, and some travel passes. People without existing photo ID will be able to apply for a free voter card from their local council to use in the polling station. Research commissioned by the UK Government found 96% of respondents had suitable photo ID with a recognisable picture.* The Government’s view is that asking voters to prove their identities will safeguard against the potential voter fraud in polling stations.[1]

How serious a problem is voter fraud in the UK? The Electoral Commission reported 164 cases in the 2019 General Election. There were 47.6 million eligible voters. Fraud accounted for 0.00035%.[2]

The vanishingly insignificant level of this fraudulent behaviour suggests that the Government’s claim to be acting in defence of democracy is a cover for some other agenda.

Sharpening this suspicion is the Conservative Party’s traditional hostility to similar proposals in the past.

Reacting to the Labour Party’s ID Cards Bill in their 2010 manifesto, the Conservative Party argued that “Labour’s approach to our personal privacy is the worst of all worlds – intrusive, ineffective and enormously expensive” and states that they will “scrap ID cards, the National Identity Register and the Contact-point database.” [3]

More recently, in December 2021, 99 Conservative MPs rebelled against plans for vaccine certificates despite surging Covid cases.[4]

Drawing conclusions already apparent to many of us, Kirsten Oswald, the SNP’s Westminster deputy leader, said in September 2020: “These laws are designed to suppress votes among groups that traditionally vote against the Tories.”[5]

Which groups traditionally vote against the Tories and would be disenfranchised by the Bill?

Research for the Cabinet Office, in March 2021, found that those with severely limiting disabilities, the unemployed, people without qualifications, and those who had never voted before were all less likely to hold any form of photo ID.[6] Earlier research in 2015 by the Electoral Commission estimated these groups to account for 7.5% of the electorate.[7]

A YouGov poll in August 2020, revealed SNP support at 61% among NRS social grades C2DE (working-class and unemployed) compared to only 18% for the Conservatives. [8]

In its 2020 report on Black PeopleRacism and Human Rights, the Joint Committee on Human Rights highlighted the probable racial discriminatory impact of the Government proposals to require a form of photographic ID in UK Parliamentary.[9] Returning to the Government’s own research *claiming that 96% of respondents had suitable photo ID with a recognisable picture, research by the Runnymede Trust tells a different story:

 [W]hite people are most likely to hold one form of photo ID–76% hold a full driving licence. But 38% of Asian people, nearly a third of people of mixed ethnicity (31%), and more than half of Black people (48%) do not. [10]

Around 4.1% (225 000) of the Scottish population is recorded as one of the non-White ethnic minority groups so we are looking, here, at around 100 000 who may be disadvantaged in terms of their access to voting. [11]

Polling by Hanbury in March 2021 suggests that between 70% and 80% of those in BAME groups are in favour of Scottish independence. [12]

These are serious concerns which, on their own, cast doubt on the rationale for the plans to impose a need for voter ID but there is another factor of particular significance across a number of electoral seats such as mine and notably in many Conservative seats.

My local constituency of Ayr Carrick and Cumnock has significant Conservative support, has been won by them in one election and they have come second in three out of the five since the seat was first contested in 2005. The margin in the last two has been between only 5 and 6%. Disenfranchising the possible 7.5% with severely limiting disabilities, the unemployed, people without qualifications, those who had never voted before and a further group from BAME communities, would turn a seat like Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock into a Conservative safe seat.

Only 4 out of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats can currently be considered safe[13].  While the latest opinion polls suggest the Conservatives are in danger of being wiped out in 2024, disenfranchising around 8% of the electorate might save them from the worst.


[1] https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9187/

[2] https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/our-views-and-research/our-research/electoral-fraud-data/2019-electoral-fraud-data

[3] https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/opposition-policies-on-identity-cards/

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-59659851

[5] https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9187/

[6]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/984918/Photographic_ID_research-_headline_findings_report.pdf

[7] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/parliamentary-briefings/briefing-on-mandatory-voter-id-at-the-polling-station/

[8] https://docs.cdn.yougov.com/l0arqcm4ea/TimesResults_200810_ScotlandV2_W.pdf

[9] https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/3376/documents/32359/default/

[10] Runnymede Trust (RHR0011)

[11] https://www.statista.com/statistics/367842/scotland-ethnicity-of-population/

[12] https://hanburystrategycloud.filecloudonline.com/ui/core/index.html?

[13] https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit/marginal-seats-galore-scotland-just-four-59-constituencies-considered-safe-1400060

5 thoughts on “The UK Elections Bill: A plan to disenfranchise SNP voters

  1. AND WE WORRY ABOUT THE RUSSIAN AND CHINESE INFILTRATION
    INTO U.K. POLITICS AND GENERAL LIFE

    THESE TORIES ARE STEALING THE COMMON MANS FREEDOM
    TO VOTE AND CHOOSE WHO THEY WANT TO REPRESENT THEM HONESTLY

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I’d be more keen to make sure that people with second and third ‘homes’ in Scotland, who do not actually live in Scotland, do not get to vote in our elections and referendums. Also students from England who are temporarily resident, knocking on doors a few years ago, all anti SNP, anti independence.
    Also a closer check on postal voting. Scotland needs independence to ensure voting is legit, and free of fraudsters, a catch 22?

    The Tories are also moving the consituency boundaries are they not? Blaggards and thieves even when it comes to elections.

    Liked by 2 people

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