HUNDREDS of voters were turned away from polling stations due to voter ID issues at the first by-election in Scotland where it was required, it can be revealed.

The ballot in Rutherglen and Hamilton West also saw the highest percentage of voters “permanently” turned away due to not having the right identification out of all by-elections which took place after the new law was introduced last year.

The figures have raised fresh concerns about the impact of the controversial requirement ahead of the General Election, which will be the first time voters across Scotland will have to show photographic ID to be able to cast their ballot.

The need for voters to show a form of identification before being issued with a ballot paper introduced by the Tories sparked a huge backlash, with accusations it would disenfranchise vulnerable groups to “tackle a problem that doesn’t exist”.

READ MORE: What is voter ID and how will it affect Scotland?

Figures obtained by the Sunday National show that nearly 300 people – 298 – were turned away from polling stations in Rutherglen and Hamilton West because of the rule, adding up to 1.47% of all polling station voters.

Out of these, 99 did not return and so did not vote – 0.49% of all polling station voters.

While the figures cannot be used to predict what will happen in the General Election, this percentage applied to four million voters across Scotland would add up to nearly 20,000 people.

And it is a higher figure compared to five other by-elections which took place last year where voter ID was required, with the percentage of “permanently” turned-away voters ranging from 0.09% in Selby and Ainsty to 0.37% in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

Meanwhile, notes on a meeting after the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election involving South Lanarkshire Council obtained under a Freedom of Information (FOI) to the Electoral Commission found there were “definitely” reports of abuse towards staff over the issue of voter ID.

The National: Votes are counted in the count hall at the South Lanarkshire Council Headquarters in Hamilton for

The notes said it “wasn’t a widespread problem”, but added that there was “one report of police having to speak to an elector but that wasn’t followed up as prosecution".

It added: “Think it was related to being turned away at 9.30pm making it harder for them to vote.”

Dr Jess Garland, director of research and policy at the Electoral Reform Society, said: “These figures reveal a worrying trend emerging since voter ID became mandatory.

“Even one voter turned away because of voter ID is one too many but we are seeing large numbers, and some potentially put off turning out in the first place.

READ MORE: Katy Loudon: Voter ID concern ahead of Rutherglen by-election

“Rather than putting up barriers to voting, we should be restoring trust in politics and boosting engagement.

“Lessons must be learnt from the elections last year. The Government needs to scrap this unnecessary policy before more damage is done.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “From the very beginning, the SNP has opposed Westminster’s draconian voter ID policy which has been widely criticised as targeting those on low incomes, those with disabilities and people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

“The SNP Government has confirmed it will not apply to Holyrood and local council elections, but the upcoming Westminster Election will be the first national election in Scotland where these new restrictive voter ID laws apply.

“To ensure you don’t let Westminster lock you out from making your voice heard, register for a postal vote so you don’t need to worry about having voter ID - and vote SNP for a fairer, more equal Scotland where no-one is cruelly excluded from the democratic process."

The local elections in England in May were the first in Britain which required voters to show ID under the Elections Act 2022.

Analysis carried out afterwards found that 0.25% of voters at these elections were not able to because of ID requirements, equivalent to around 14,000 people. A further 4% of non-voters said they had not gone to the polls because of the ID requirement.

The Electoral Commission said some people found it harder than others to show accepted voter ID, including disabled people, younger voters, people from ethnic minority communities, and the unemployed.

READ MORE: How voter ID could disadvantage SNP at General Election

Ahead of the local election in England, the Commission had launched a public awareness campaign, which correspondence revealed by the FOI said could account for the higher rate of people being turned away in the Scottish by-election.

It said: “Ultimately, those voters at the by-elections in England will have seen all the TV advertising we carried out ahead of the English local elections in May last year so it’s not surprising that there was a lower rate of voters turned away there.

“Given the absence of TV advertising in your area [Scotland], it’s actually quite impressive what was achieved through social media and partnership work.”

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election was won by Labour’s Michael Shanks, with 17,845 votes ahead of the SNP’s Katy Loudon, with 8399 votes.

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “For the first time across Scotland, voters will need to show photographic ID to vote in person at the forthcoming UK Parliament election. Accepted forms of ID include a driving licence, passport, older person's bus pass and Young Scot card.

“Anyone without accepted ID can apply for free voter ID. Find out more at

“We are working with electoral registration offices, local authorities and civil society organisations to raise awareness of the new voter ID requirement, and will be launching a national advertising campaign ahead of the UK Parliament election.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to have their say in our democracy. As recommended by international election watchdogs, we have introduced identification for voting in person across Great Britain, in line with the longstanding arrangements in Northern Ireland.

“The vast majority of voters in the polling station - 99.75% - cast their vote successfully at the local elections in England in May.

“The Government has always been confident in the ability of local authorities to implement the voter identification changes, whilst continuing to deliver our elections robustly and securely.”