An election count like no other

Jenni Minto does her first interview as an MSP. Photograph: Kevin McGlynn

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The count on Friday began promptly at 9am.

The result were expected by ‘late afternoon’ depending on the turnout across the region, which was believed to be high.

Ballot boxes from the islands had been delivered to the count by helicopter at midnight.
Given the restrictions, the usual buzz of the election count was subdued; to count within the social distancing rules the tables were split between two locations within the Lochgilphead Joint Campus – in the gymnasium and the sports hall. The number of counters per table was down to four.

Gone were the large number of observers from each party and local media. Only strictly limited numbers were allowed into the count.

The counters themselves were fenced off with large, clear plastic screens – watching them in action was likened to a visit to an aquarium.

At previous counts, the sound of the crowd usually bounces off the gymnasium walls, but on Friday it was down to a murmur.

However, the day was not without drama. At 3.37pm, while the count was in full swing, the fire alarm was triggered at Lochgilphead High School Joint Campus.

Count staff were evacuated while they waited for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to attend.

Prior to staff being evacuated the third of the three mini counts had begun. Candidates were called to view each of these and the adjudication of doubtful ballot papers with the Returning Officer Pippa Milne.

During the evacuation observers were placed at each door to ‘maintain the integrity of the vote’.

Following an inspection of the building by firefighters, the all clear was given and at 4.10pm staff were allowed back into the building to resume the count. Despite the disturbance, Pippa Milne told staff: ‘Apologies for the delay, we intend to declare the constituency ballot before the close of business today.’
And she delivered on that promise.