With turnout at today’s Scottish local elections expected to be as low as 30%, it is interesting to reflect on a story from 18 years ago in the Sentinel about another election that was taking place in what was then the world’s newest democracy.
Margaret McCulloch a former regional councillor for Wester Hailes acted as an independent monitor in the first general election in South Africa after the end of apartheid. She sent a special report into the Sentinel about her experiences, saying that she would never forget the sight of mile long queues full of people who could vote for the first time. In the end, an extra day had to be allowed to ensure that everyone was able to cast their vote.
As the recent events across countries caught up in the Arab Spring have shown, the right to have a voice, an opinion and a vote free from intimidation is of paramount importance for those with no access to democracy. If protestors were to see how little the right to vote is now valued here, they would probably not believe what they were seeing. You can read Margaret’s story here in Sentinel June 1994.