SCOTTISH voters are being threatened with £80 fines if they fail to provide proof of identification to have their names added to the new electoral register.

Scottish cabinet minister Alex Neil, who exposed the “shambles” surrounding the new registration system, called on the Electoral Commission to shelve its plans in Scotland and let people vote in the May 7 General Election under the same list which was used in the independence referendum last September.

The minister for social justice, communities and pensioner’s rights and former health minister, also demanded that the “shocking” letters threatening people that they could lose their vote and be fined if they fail to provide identification must stop now.

He said: “This is totally unbelievable and shambolic. The Electoral Commission should now treat this an emergency situation because there are too many people now who fear they will not get a vote in the General Election.

“They should revert back to the same register that applied in the referendum when there was an 85 per cent turnout.

“Those people qualified to vote in the referendum should automatically qualify to vote in the General Election and the threats have to stop. The Electoral Commission need to work to the register they had for the referendum without trying to change things because clearly it has gone very badly wrong and they could end up with a lot of people being denied the right to vote in the General Election or being put off voting which is totally unacceptable.

“They need to stop all this nonsense of threatening people with fines and losing their vote because people are going to be denied their basic right to vote as a result of the incompetent way this has been handled.”

The National’s exposure of the mass confusion surrounding the new registration system sparked calls from voters anxious to reveal their nightmare ordeals trying to register on the new system.

Graham Anderson, 40, from Glasgow, spoke of his shock at being threatened with an £80 if he failed to respond to the letter demanding he prove his identity and return forms.

He reluctantly provided the information but got no response and has since registered twice through the government website.

However, he still has no idea whether he is on the register.

He said: “I got a letter saying ‘failure to provide this information may incur a fine of £80’.

“I thought this was bonkers and I was shocked at the wording."

A 70-year-old widow from Inverness told of her fears that there are hundreds of pensioners in Scotland who would feel threatened and confused by the wording in these letters and therefore fail to return them.

The National has been running a series of exclusive stories this week about the mass confusion over the new voting system.

They came after Airdrie and Shotts MSP Alex Neil and Highland MSP Rob Gibson revealed they had fallen victim to the problem.

Both of them were forced to provide proof of identity to be registered under the new system despite voting all their lives and living at the same addresses for nearly 30 years.

Gibson has just had confirmation he is on the register after expressing his concerns in The National but is worried he could miss out on a postal vote.

He said: “They have not told me if I get a postal vote. Their pro forma letters are totally inadequate.

“The perfunctory letter confirming I am on the register does not explain if my initial request for a postal vote has been agreed too.

“Their flawed identity verification system has thrown thousands into doubt if they actually have a vote. Why are there no links to the forms submitted by potential voters before the referendum?

“In my case it is 20 years since I registered at my present address and around ten years since I first got a postal vote.”

Neil, from Ayr, is still waiting for confirmation that he is registered to vote.

Helen McPhee, electoral registration officer for the Ayrshire Valuation Joint Board, said: “When the new voter registration system was introduced in September, the details of all voters on the electoral register were checked against data held by the Department for Work and Pensions, the vast majority of which were matched and automatically transferred to the new register.

“Where that didn’t happen – for voters like Mr Neil – they were asked to provide the relevant additional information so they could also be transferred.

“Once that process is complete, a letter is generated to advise of the outcome and Mr Neil’s correspondence was issued on Monday March 9.

“As he has not contacted us to discuss his registration, further correspondence has also been issued to Mr Neil in response to the issues he’s raised to give him reassurance about the efforts being undertaken to maximise registration.”

The Radical Independence Campaign Ayrshire joint chairwoman Heather Anderson said she was delighted the issue is being raised.

She added: “I am delighted to see that the voter register fiasco is now being highlighted.

“This level of publicity is badly needed on this issue, and I’m glad to see that The National is taking the lead on it. With just weeks to go before a General Election, it is a dreadful thought that literally thousands of voters may have been unknowingly disenfranchised.”

An Electoral Commission spokesman said its template letters for registration officers to use were tested on voters to make sure they were clear and easy to understand and those who got them knew what to do.

He added: “There is an £80 fine but it has been put in legislation. It doesn’t mean it’s applied straight away. We didn’t want to hide the risk of a fine away at the back of the letter. It is not compulsory to vote in the UK. It is a legal requirement to return the information on those forms.”

Case Study: Olive Thomson

PENSIONER Olive Thomson has twice been sent threatening letters demanding proof of identity despite struggling down to her local electoral registration office with her passport.

The 70-year-old widow, from Inverness, said she was worried she might not be allowed to vote because the letters told her that failure to provide proof could result in her application being rejected.

Olive, who has problems with her knees, said: "You will get people, particularly elderly, who will just bin these letters and if you don’t respond to this you are going to lose your vote."

“I totally object to the wording of these letters from the electoral registration officer, they cannot deny they are threatening as it clearly states ‘failure to provide this evidence by the required date may result in me rejecting your application for registration’.

“I didn’t understand the letter at first because I didn’t apply for anything and I’ve been voting all my life. I’ve voted all my life and will do until the day I die, yet here I am in a situation where my right is under threat.

“I think there is something funny going on and it has something to do with the vast amount of people that voted in the referendum and I am suspicious.

“I am very glad The National is highlighting this because up till now I thought I was the only one. I was so relieved and glad when I saw that someone was actually taking the issue up on behalf of the people of Scotland.”

Case Study: Graham Anderson

Computer engineer Graham Anderson was shocked at being threatened with an £80 fine if he did not prove his identity.

The 40-year-old said he still does not know if he is registered to vote despite three separate attempts by letter and online.

Anderson, from Glasgow, said: “I received a letter from the electoral registration to my flat in November saying that due to changes in the electoral registration system I had to fill in the form and provide proof of identity and return it within two weeks or there was a chance I could be charged an £80 fine.

“I thought this was bonkers but as far as I’m aware we don’t have legislation in the country that forces you to be on the electoral register or provide this information.

“My girlfriend got a letter telling her of the change but there was no mention of a fine ... I thought it was odd because I was paying council tax, I had been on the electoral register for years, just voted in the referendum – why are they asking me for all this information and threatening to fine me if they don’t get it?

“I disagreed with the whole thing but I didn’t want to pay the £80 fine so I sent the form off.”

After hearing nothing he went online to the official Government website to register, and hit the submit button but heard nothing back.

He added: “Naturally with another election coming up I am now concerned that I was in some kind of limbo, so I submitted the form again two weeks ago and still have heard nothing.”

Case study: Jonathan Jobson

FATHER-OF-THREE Jonathan Jobson described the new registration system as “a shambles” after trying to check he was registered to vote.

The 44-year-old designer from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, said he feared efforts were being made by the UK Government to “disenfranchise as many people as possible” who voted in the independence referendum.

He said he went online to check his registration but weeks later received a letter asking for confirmation that he and his wife were the only people by those names in the household. Jobson added: “I got an email from a friend with a link saying just check that you are still registered to vote.

“I followed the official link through the government website and went through the whole process. I thought I was registered but I just wanted to check.

“I thought that was the end of it but a few weeks later I got a letter and an email from the Electoral Commission asking me to confirm that I was the only Jonathan Jobson at that address and my wife was the only Jacqueline Jobson at that address.

“I thought ‘no’, I’m not going to send it and thought it was really dodgy.

He said: "I just phoned them up and said ‘look this is daft, I’ve been on the electoral register for years’.

“This week I finally got a letter from the Renfrewshire Joint Evaluation Board saying that I’m on the register.

“It seems to be a shambles and the worrying thing is that some people might not go to these lengths to make sure they are registered and might think they are no longer eligible to vote In May.

It makes you think that they want to get rid of the people who signed up to the referendum. I suspect there is a general will among UK government to disenfranchise as many people are possible.”