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IndyRef2 can wait: a guide to the Scottish council elections

Source: BBC News

Apparently Scotland just loves elections and five in three years wasn't just enough fun for everyone. Why not have a sixth just for the bants. No, I'm not speaking about IndyRef2, but that glamorous event known as the council elections. Yes, I know elections when we decide who empties our bins are not nearly as fun as a will-they-won't-they referendum, but all elections are important (I say this, despite the only election I've ever skipped since turning 18 was a council by-election *cough*). 

I wouldn't even blame anyone if they forgot since the yet-to-be-confirmed IndyRef2 has been taking over our newsfeeds. Jesting aside, let's focus on the councils elections as they are 1) confirmed and 2) happening in just over a month.What I'm about to write here is not a soapbox about who to vote for (but, erm, I'm voting Green in case you were wondering) but a guide to voting and why it's important. Like did you know you can vote in two places if you're a student? And that you number the boxes instead of tick them? Ever been to a husting? And are you keeping Scottish Independence out of this? 

1. The council elections give small parties a chance
This is my personal number one reason why I believe council elections are extremely important. With a fairer voting system in place it's much easier for lesser known parties to break through and get a seat, thus giving them a platform to gain more seats in other elections. Given that I am a member of the Scottish Green Party you can see why this is important to me because we've got a better chance of achieving seats and proving to people that we're a serious party worth voting for. 

It does however mean that smaller parties who are a bit sucky have a better chance of slipping through. So if there are smaller parties you want to block, you've got to get out and vote for someone else. 

2. You number the candidates on the ballot
Spoilt ballots turn up every year after council elections because people forget that you number the boxes rather than tick them. And until six months ago I thought you had to number them all! Instead you just number the candidates you like in order of preference (and a blank box effectively means you're not in favour of them at all). 

3. You can vote in two places if you're a student
If your term time address and home address are in different councils you can vote twice. However, I've known multiple people (myself included - back in the 2012 council elections!) who have had to reapply for dual-voting multiple times before they were registered properly. You might have to shout down the phone and refuse to hang up until they process your request properly, but it is your legal right. 

4. If you're undecided, hustings are a great place to gather information
Election hustings are usually attended by political geeks who probably already know they are voting for, or are friends with the candidates. Which is a shame, because hustings are the one of the best ways to get to know the candidates and what they stand for. Have a wee Google and find out when and where your local ones are happening.  

5. Council elections have nothing to do with Scottish independence!
A few of the Scottish Green Party candidates have returned from canvassing saying that people have been asking them about independence. Scottish independence is a hot potato right now and I realise why people are curious to hear the Greens take on it (we support it) but let's not let IndyRef2 cloud people's judgements for an election that will literally have very little impact on whether we vote Yes or No. When you're quizzing candidates or casting your vote, make sure you keep in mind what councils actually can control: such as council housing, bus routes, pot holes, recycling, leisure facilities, road works and - ready for it? - bins. 

P.S. Vote Green
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