Church Buildings as Polling Places
Many congregations let their church buildings to their local authority to be used as a polling place. The Scottish Government has confirmed that church buildings can reopen and be used as polling places and, therefore, it is up to each individual congregation to decide whether this is appropriate to do so.
In practical terms, congregations should only consider letting their church buildings as a polling place once they have completed the reopening of church buildings checklist and a COVID-19 risk assessment and submitted both documents to Presbytery for approval. Those congregations which have already reopened their church buildings after the initial lockdown in March 2020 should only complete the buildings safety declaration, review and update their COVID-19 risk assessments and submit both documents to Presbytery for approval. If the congregation has already been approved by the Presbytery for the reopening of their church buildings, then no further action is required.
Local authorities have been issued with guidance from the Electoral Commission about how to operate polling activities safely. Congregations who decide to let their church buildings as a polling place should be aware that the resources available to local authorities to support polling places varies considerably. Some local authorities may be able to assist with enhanced cleaning or pay for an external cleaning company to undertake enhanced cleaning after polling day; however, this is not guaranteed. Congregations must discuss with the local authority who will be responsible for cleaning and disinfection and the removal of waste from their church buildings once polling has ended. Congregations must also ask to see a written copy of their local authorities' COVID-19 risk assessment and assure themselves that adequate control procedures are in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission whilst their building is been used as a polling place.
As well as the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2021, a number of local government by-elections are planned for throughout the year and the same guidance as highlighted above should be followed.