The Royal Burgh of Queensferry, (1636-1975), was within the County of Linlithgowshire in 1918. The County of Linlithgowshire became the County of West Lothian during the years 1921 – 1927. It took time for the transition to finalise. (Unfortunately, Queensferry lost its Royal Burgh status when it became part of Edinburgh District in 1975).
The draft roll for electors in the county of Linlithgowshire for 1918 was 34,617 as compared with 13,828 for the year 1914 – 1915. (the transition period of ‘Linlithgowshire’ to the ‘County of West Lothian’ was during the years 1921 - 1927).
The numbers returned, in 1918, for the respective Parishes were:-
Abercorn – 433
Bathgate – 7,696
Bo’ness and Carriden – 5,580
Dalmeny (of whom Queensferry was a district) – 1,629
Ecclesmachan – 610
Kirkliston – 1,590
Linlithgow – 3,205
Livingston – 1,772
Torphichen – 2,418
Uphall – 5,653
Whitburn – 4,031
Burghs with comparison of 1914-15 Parliamentary roll:-
Linlithgow – 1807 633
Queensferry - 905 342
Bathgate - 3687 1470
Bo’ness - 4320 1824
Armadale - 1923 816
Whitburn 790 357
· A change in size of the population who are entitled to vote. This change can be brought about by migration to or from an area, people becoming old enough to vote in a given election, and deaths.
· A change in the proportion of the eligible population who actually register to vote as a result, for example, of better canvassing or an increased public interest in the political landscape.
· Changes in definitions of eligibility. For example, in 2015 the minimum voting age for Scottish Parliament and Local Government elections was lowered to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote.
In our February 2016 Archives for “Interesting War Facts” we gave information on Scottish Suffragettes. We now take this further, with the “Representation of the People Act 1918” (The Fourth Reform Act)..
Prior to this act, restrictive qualifications meant only 58% of the adult male population were eligible to vote before 1918. Only men who were leaseholders and had been resident in the country for 12 months prior to a general election were entitled to vote. This effectively disqualified millions of returning troops who had been serving overseas in the war.
With a general election imminent, politicians were persuaded to extend the vote to all men over the age of 21, with no restrictions, even allowing men in the armed forces to vote from the age of 19.
Although 8.5 million individuals met the criteria, it only represented 40% of the total population of women in the UK. (The age was restricted to 30 as there was a fear that the eligible women to vote would outnumber the men and this could not be allowed!)
The Act also instituted the present system of holding general elections on one day and brought in the annual electoral register. These changes saw the size of the electorate triple from 7.7 million to 21.4 million. Women now accounted for around 43% of the electorate but there was still huge inequality between women and men.
The General Election was held on 14th December 1918 with a 57.2% turn out. It was a landslide victory for the coalition government of David Lloyd George.
The Equal Franchise Act of 1928 gave women over 21 the right to vote and women finally achieved the same voting rights as men. This act increased the number of women eligible to vote to 15 million.
In 2015, in Scotland, the minimum voting age for Scottish Parliament and Local Government elections was lowered to allow teenagers aged 16 years and 17 years, to vote. More than 100,000 were registered to vote. They are not permitted to vote in General Elections.
© Queensferry History Group 2019