SCOTLAND’S electoral watchdog is to tackle the issue of abuse of candidates as "a matter of urgency” after reports of threats and intimidation at this year’s council elections.

Verbal and online abuse were the most common sources, with more than four out five reports – 84% - relating to the behaviour of members of the public.

A further one in 10 of those who reported issues had received threats or abuse from other candidates.

Female candidates were far more likely to experience abuse than men – with 48% saying it was not a problem, compared to 64% of male candidates.

One said: “In person intimidation/threats/abuse only happened when I was campaigning alone.

“I've decided not to do that in future, however it's frustrating when seeing other (male!) candidates campaigning solo seemingly without such concerns of intimidation.”

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Overall 44% of those standing for a council seat said they had experienced some kind of problem with abuse – with 10% rating it as “serious”.

And one in ten said that their experience would discourage them from standing as a candidate in the future.

The 2022 elections were the first council elections where candidates could choose whether or not to have their home address displayed on the ballot paper, in response to concerns about personal safety.

The vast majority of candidates opted not to display their home address on the ballot papers.

The Electoral Commission report stated: “Some candidates reported experiences of intimidation and abuse at these elections, which is not acceptable.

“We will work with the UK’s governments, Police Scotland and the wider electoral community to make sure we understand what is driving candidate abuse and intimidation, and to ensure this issue is addressed as a matter of urgency.”

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The report also noted turnout at the council elections in May was 44.8%, slightly down from the figure of 46.9% in 2017.

People who did not vote were most likely to say it was because they did not have time – with around a fifth giving this reason.

Just over one in ten – 12% - said it was because they were not interested in politics, while 11% had medical or health reasons.

The number of spoilt ballot papers has fallen since the last council election – from 1.95% in 2017 to 1.85% this year. But the report noted they have increased in some wards and “further targeted action” is needed to address this issue.

The Glasgow Canal ward had the highest number of rejected votes, at 5.64% compared to 5.36% in 2017.

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“The Electoral Commission has previously carried out research which indicated that the wards with the highest levels of rejection were more likely to have higher levels of deprivation and unemployment,” the report said.

“However, we also found that these wards were more likely to have more than one candidate standing from a particular party, thereby increasing the risk of voters placing ‘Xs’ against their preferred party’s candidates on the ballot paper.

“We will repeat our ward level analysis when the new Scottish census data is available in 2023.”

Sue Bruce, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland said: “Voter confidence in elections remains high, thanks to the dedicated work of election teams across Scotland.

“However, further action is needed to ensure everyone understands how to complete their ballot paper so their vote can count.

“We will be taking forward urgent targeted work with the electoral community to trial new approaches to tackling voter information at council elections.”