May the 22nd. Rishi Sunak, sans umbrella, announces the date of the election and John Swinney, all nice and dry indoors, says that calling it during the Scottish school holidays is an act of disrespect by the UK Government. He says the election planners won’t have given it a moment’s thought, and it demonstrates the contempt the Tories have for Scotland.

Some people at the time, you will remember, criticised the First Minister for his remarks and said he should just get on with it rather than whinging about how anything and everything that’s ever happened at Westminster is an act of disrespect to Scotland. But some five weeks on, with the postal vote system seemingly in meltdown, it’s starting to look like Mr Swinney was right yes?

Well yes, except look carefully and you’ll see that the First Minister is guilty of a sneaky bit of revisionism that makes him look more prescient than he really was. He said the other day that he’d warned an election in the holidays would create practical problems and he’d been proved right. But back in May no one, including Mr Swinney, was expecting postal votes to break down, meaning there was no reason to doubt that people on holiday would be able to organise a vote, then go off and enjoy the sun knowing they’d done their bit to get the bloody Tories out (other options are available).

But the truth is the postal vote system has broken down and, although Scotland isn’t the only part of the UK experiencing issues, it’s particularly problematic here because of the holidays. Some of the people going away who’d organised a postal vote now face the prospect of not being able to take part in the election because of the delays, of being disenfranchised; I’ve spoken to some of the voters it’s happening to. Not only does it mean they won’t be able to exercise their democratic right, which is bad enough, it means the result of the election could be affected, particularly in the marginal Scottish constituencies, some of which are very marginal indeed.

Let me tell you about the Thompson family for example. They’re from Edinburgh and the extended family, 11 adults with children and grandchildren, headed off to various places in Europe on Friday and Saturday. All of them knew they’d be away at the end of June/beginning of July so they organised postal votes in plenty of time. They assumed everything would be ok as it has been at previous elections.

(Image: Free)

But come the end of last week, none of the family had received their postal votes and they were starting to worry. Eventually, a couple of them did get their papers and were able to send them back. At the very last minute, another member of the family, the granny in her seventies, was able to make the trip to the emergency facility at Edinburgh city chambers and vote, after queuing for 45 minutes. She made it by the skin of her teeth and headed off to France on Saturday.

The other members of the family however – eight of them in all – are now on holiday with no prospect of being able to vote. I spoke to one of them, who’s away with his sister and their kids, and he told me the family are pretty fed up and angry; they feel forgotten and disenfranchised, he said, and deprived of the opportunity to take part in what is obviously an important election.

He also made the point that with hundreds, or thousands, or many thousands of people in the same situation as him, the result of the election could be swayed. And he agrees with John Swinney that the situation in Scotland should have been a factor in setting the date. “A school holiday election is ludicrous,” he said, “And the turnout in Scotland will surely be a record low, despite so many wanting change.”

It's hard to disagree with that, although it’s interesting to speculate what kind of effect it might have. One theory is that it’s the Tories who’ll be most harmed because it’s older people (more likely to be Tories) who tend to have postal votes and younger people (more likely to be SNP or Labour) tend to go to the polling stations. But the point is it doesn’t matter which party is affected most, everyone should be able to cast their vote if they want to and this time round they can’t.

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The debacle over the postal votes also underlines something else which feels like it’s been one of the great themes of this election: the frustration and anger people feel with the governments in Westminster and Holyrood and the way they’ve been running things. We won’t know for quite some time exactly why the postal votes have gone so wrong – Royal Mail says it’s definitely not their fault – but it does feel like another example of the kind of thing that’s driving so many people to vote Labour: stuff isn’t working.

Rishi Sunak was challenged on it at the weekend when he was on the BBC answering viewers’ questions. One of them, Michael, asked “Why does my son's school not have enough money for glue-sticks? Why do I have potholes on almost every road I drive on? Why can't I get a doctor's appointment? Why are beaches closed when it rains and rivers polluted beyond measure?” There were other questions along similar lines, the common theme being: why doesn’t anything work?

Now we have something else to emphasise the importance of that question: the postal voting system, although you could make your choice from any number of other issues. As Michael said: the complete breakdown of the appointment system in GPs’ surgeries. The waiting, and waiting, and waiting to see a specialist or get an operation. The crisis in public transport (especially the ferries in Scotland for which we are still waiting, and waiting, and waiting). The parlous, and dangerous, state of the roads. The broken housing market, the broken rental market, the broken energy market. And the litter on the street and the sewage in the sea.

(Image: Newsquest)

Obviously, these are different problems and require different solutions but many of us will have been affected by many or all of them and most of us wanted the opportunity to express our opinion through the election. Sadly, as John Swinney confirmed at the weekend, for an unknown number of voters, like the Thompson family, it’s too late and nothing can be done.

Which means the only hope, I guess, is that the rest of us, the ones who haven’t been affected by the crisis, the ones who did manage to get their votes in, the ones who will go and vote in person on Thursday, can still bring about the change we need. One of the Thompson family said to me “I wanted to help change things.” It’s up to us to make it happen.