SEVEN new Inverclyde venues will be used as polling stations for the Scottish Parliament election in May in a bid to limit the risk of the spread of coronavirus.

As council chiefs continue to grapple with how to keep voters safe during the pandemic, they have confirmed regular polling places in Greenock, Port Glasgow and Gourock that cannot accommodate a one-way system will be replaced with ones that can.

Lady Alice Primary School on Inverkip Road is to be used as a replacement for South West Library at Barr’s Cottage, with council bosses insisting there are no other suitable alternatives.

Elsewhere in the town, Victoria Bowling Club in East Crawford Street will be used instead of Crawfurdsburn Community Centre, and Grosvenor Bowling Club on Dempster Street will replace the Prospecthill Christian Fellowship.

In Port Glasgow, voters who usually visit St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Bardrainney Avenue will instead be directed to Boglestone Community Centre in Dubbs Place.

Meanwhile, Clune Park Resource Centre in Montgomerie Street will be replaced with a base at 7 1/2 John Wood Street, and St John’s Church Hall in Brown Street will be utilised instead of Port Glasgow Lesser Town Hall in Shore Street.

The Spinnaker Hotel in Gourock will be abandoned in favour of Gourock Bowling Club in Barrhill Road.

The changes were revealed in a paper presented by officials, which also detailed a multitude of other measures which will have to be brought in to protect staff and residents from the virus.

In the document, council chiefs said: “The chief executive, as returning officer for the Greenock and Inverclyde constituency, will have to put in place additional measures to ensure the poll can be conducted in terms of all prevailing health advice and election rules.

“It is clear there are many added complexities in terms of planning and public safety which will have an impact on time and staff resources.

“The assessment of suitable polling place venues has been undertaken as from November 2020.

"This was essential pre-election preparation and some major changes have been identified.

“These changes are necessitated by the absolute requirement to ensure a one-way system within all polling areas.

“Although the core team has been successful in minimising the use of the school estate, the arrangements for alternative locations in the Scottish Parliamentary election mean Lady Alice Primary will have to be added to the polling scheme list as there is no suitable alternative.”

So far, SNP incumbent Stuart McMillan, Labour’s Francesca Brennan, and the Liberal Democrats’ Jacci Stoyle have been confirmed as candidates for Greenock and Inverclyde in May's poll.

The council’s health and safety team will now complete individual risk assessments for each of the polling stations.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be supplied to all polling and count staff, and the council will be putting perspex screens and extra physical distancing signage in place at all sites.

No changes have yet been announced to the count venue, which is normally the Waterfront Leisure Complex in Greenock.

However, this will be subject to review.

At least one additional polling clerk or marshal will be required at each polling place to help with the flow of voters and the cleaning of booths after each use, and all staff will be required to undertake extra tasks to ensure compliance with guidelines.

It is also anticipated resources will be hit by a major increase in postal voting, with data suggesting it could rise to approximately 40 per cent of the electorate. 

Officials added: “It is expected there may be a substantial increase in postal voting and this will have a significant impact on the resourcing of the election.

“At present, the constituency has approximately 18 per cent postal voters.

"Even a return of this number, given the altered arrangements for postal vote opening, will have a significant effect on the numbers of staff required for the opening process and the venues to be used for postal voting."