This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

“I loathe Ring doorbells,” says Fergus Mutch, the North East businessman who was the SNP’s candidate in West Aberdeenshire at the 2019 election.

“The must-have accessory of every curtain-twitching busybody,” he moans.

He tells of the time he received a “very angry” email from a man in Westhill who claimed someone canvassing on Mutch’s behalf had stolen some jewellery.

The theft, he said, had been captured on his smart doorbell and footage was with the police and the P&J.

And the video – which was also sent to Mutch – did appear to show an elderly SNP activist picking up something ring-shaped on the man’s driveway.

“Was it a priceless bangle, a diamond ring, a platinum wedding band? Nope,” says Mutch, “after closer inspection we realised that it was the elastic band my activist had used to bundle up the leaflets he was delivering.”

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Over the last decade, the number of us with a doorbell connected to the internet has grown rapidly.

Consumer research firm GWI estimates that between 2019 and 2023, the proportion of homes in the UK that have these small CCTV systems fitted has jumped from 4% to 11%.

The bells themselves – and Amazon’s Ring is the market leader – connect to an app so you can be anywhere in the world and see who’s chapping your door.

And, if you want, you can talk to them.

Not all activists hate the smart doorbells.

One told me of a conversation they had with a supporter in Germany at the Euros.

“They had their postal vote sorted,” he added, which was always going to be a bit optimistic.

“Canvassing folk through their ring doorbell has become a regular occurrence”, Councillor LLoyd Melville told me on X. “Always a bit odd.”

Just after Rishi Sunak called the election, a Labour contact in the North East sent me a message.

“Keep an eye on Aberdeen South,” they said. “It’s tight, but we could be on course for an upset.”

Those Labour hopes of a McPortillo moment suffered a blow on Wednesday night when footage emerged of the candidate, Tauqueer Malik, telling a voter the party had secretly supported the Tories in 2019.

11% of homes in the UK now have a smart doorbell installed (Image: Stock)
“When Douglas was [the Tory] candidate, Douglas Lumsden, in 2019 we did not bother, Labour did not bother at all, we were hoping that Douglas would make it,” he said.

“That’s why Labour had only 3000 [votes], because we did not do anything.”

The exchange was captured entirely on a Ring doorbell and then downloaded and sent to The National.

Given that much of what happens in Scotland next Thursday will be down to how many SNP voters switch to Labour, you can understand why senior bods in the party quickly distanced themselves from Malik’s comments.

“It was untrue and a very stupid thing to say,” Jackie Baillie told my colleague Kathleen Nutt.

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Exclusive | Jackie Baillie: Labour candidate's door step remarks 'stupid' and 'untrue'

Just in case you’re wondering, yes, it’s a pretty big deal for Labour’s deputy leader to call one of her candidates a liar a week out from polling day.

That exponential rise in the number of smart doorbells hasn’t necessarily been matched by an increase in awareness.

On Thursday morning, Politico shared details of a conversation between two Tory activists in Kingston and Surbiton, where one told the other: “There is a lot more immigrants on this street than the one we just saw, and they don’t reveal anything.”

“If they come from India they sort of keep it close to their chest.”

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Again, the conversation was captured entirely by the Ring’s powerful microphone.

“I have had to tell older members and elected officials quite a few times that they need to be quiet as they are still within the range of the door,” one Labour activist told me.

When they see a Ring, they added, they were always careful “not to say anything that could be used out of context to hurt the candidate.”

However, the real problem for canvassers is that the Ring doorbells mean voters can see them coming.

“You can see them in the house, but they no longer answer the door," one said.