When is Scottish election? Key dates

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The Scottish Parliament will soon take place and political parties have started campaigning to win as many seats in Holyrood as possible. The Scottish Parliament consists of 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The devolved Scottish Parliament was established in 1999 and elections are held to elect MSPs every five years.

When is the Scottish election?

On Thursday, May 6, 2021, the highly-anticipated Scottish Parliament election will take place.

Polling places will be open for people to vote from 7am until 10pm on election day.

On May 5, 2021, the Scottish Parliament will be officially dissolved to allow the upcoming election to take place.

When is the deadline to register to vote?

Someone must be registered to vote by midnight on Monday, April 19, 2021, but there are different deadlines for other ways of voting.

To vote by post, you must complete a postal vote application form and send it to your local electoral registration office to arrive by 5pm on Tuesday, April 6.

To vote by proxy, you must complete an application form and send it to your local electoral registration office to arrive by 5pm on Tuesday, April 27.

When is the TV election debate?

On Tuesday, March 30, leaders of major Scottish political parties will go head-to-head in a TV debate.

Leaders of Scottish Labour, the Scottish National Party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Greens will be taking part.

Leaders from each party taking part in the debate are as follows:

  • Nicola Sturgeon – SNP
  • Douglas Ross – Scottish Conservatives
  • Anas Sarwar – Scottish Labour
  • Lorna Slater – Scottish Greens
  • Willie Rennie – Scottish Liberal Democrats

The debate will take place on BBC One Scotland at 7.50pm, but it can also be viewed on the BBC News Channel or iPlayer.

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When will we know the results?

Polls will close at 10pm and usually in the past, a result has been announced overnight.

However, this year the coronavirus pandemic is expected to delay when the Scottish election results are announced.

Votes will not start to be counted until the morning after the election is held, so a final result may not be expected until the weekend of May 8 and 9.

Electoral Management Board for Scotland convener Malcolm Burr said earlier this year the counting of the results for the election was expected to take “significantly longer than in previous Scottish Parliament elections”.

How does the Scottish Parliament election work?

In the Scottish Parliament election, 65 seats will be needed to secure a majority.

There are 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament up for grabs in this election.

Elections for the Scottish Parliament use a type of Proportional Representation (PR) electoral system, which combines two systems of voting.

The ‘First Past the Post’ system used for Westminster elections is used in elections to the Scottish Parliament, along with a system of voting called Additional Member System (AMS).

This means people who vote in the Scottish election have two votes, the constituency vote and the regional vote.

People across the 73 constituencies in Scotland will vote for a candidate to be their constituency representative, based on the First Past the Post system.

There are eight regions in Scotland and people also have to cast their regional vote on election day.

Political parties will run for votes in the regions and people will vote for a party based on their preferences.

The number of additional members elected to the Scottish Parliament is based on the number of votes each party receives.

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