Leader comment: Local elections too important to ignore

Tomorrow, we go to the polls to give our verdict on the politicians who have put themselves forward to represent our interests on local issues. Or do we? There have been estimates that the turnout might be not much more than 30 per cent, an alarmingly level of interest caused by the combination of this being traditionally the lowest turnout, electoral fatigue, and a general election only five weeks away. Many will have the attitude that they might vote today, but will definitely vote next time.

The local elections have been overshadowed by the general election, but their consequences are no less important than before.

It is an inescapable fact that the general election has blown away any prospect of genuine debate over local issues in the mainstream media, however much we might like to think otherwise. The headlines have been dominated by the big issues of Brexit, an independence referendum, and the fate of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Sadly, the local elections have been something of an inconvenience for even the political parties, none of whom can take the risk of waiting until the local elections are over before starting their general election campaigns, for fear of being left behind and never recovering from that lack of momentum. The additional election campaign, not budgeted for, will also have restricted the amount of resource that could be put into local election campaigning.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

And yet issues which touch us directly, such as schools, recycling, planning, waiting lists and the state of our roads, are at stake tomorrow. This is our chance to give our verdict on what we are getting, and what we want. If we pass up that opportunity, we are in no position to complain about what we get.

Those who argue that one vote makes no difference are mistaken. Every vote counts, now that we have a system of proportional representation which allows us to state an order of preferences for candidates. Your first choice might not win outright, but that person could still be elected as an additional representative. This is a huge improvement on the previous first-past-the-post system, when a vote for a certain party in a certain area could indeed be considered a waste of time.

Democracy in Scotland has never been more alive than in 2014, when the one positive we could all agree on after the independence referendum was the record level of engagement achieved. No-one expects anything like that level of turnout, but if you can, please try to find twenty minutes tomorrow to cast your vote. The issues at stake matter, and so does your input.