Everything You Need to Know About the 2022 Scottish Local Government Elections

Scottish local elections are the process by which councillors get elected to their local government to represent their area.

There are 1,129 seats up for election across Scotland's 32 council areas.

The next Scottish Local Government Election will happen on Thursday 5th May 2022.

Who can vote?

To vote in the Scottish Local Government Election you must:

  • be registered to vote,
  • be 16 or over on the day of the election (‘polling day’),
  • be registered at an address in the area you want to vote in,
  • not be legally excluded from voting.

You must also be one of the following:

  • a British citizen,
  • an Irish or EU citizen
  • a qualifying Commonwealth citizen
  • a citizen of another country living in Scotland that has permission to enter or stay in the UK. Or, who does not need permission.

You may be able to vote in 2 different local authority areas if you live in both areas. For example, you are a student who spends your term time in a different area.

You must register to vote in both areas. The local Electoral Registration Offices will check each application and tell you if you can register in both areas.

Registering to Vote

The day of the election is also called polling day. This is when all registered voters can go to their local polling station and vote for who they want to represent their area.

In order to vote, you must first be registered.

The deadline to register to vote in this election is 11:59pm on Monday 18th April 2022.

Register to vote online at gov.uk.

When do you vote and what do you need to vote?

You can vote on polling day, on Thursday 5th of May 2021 between 7am and 10pm.

You will get your polling card through the post before the election and it will tell you where your local polling station is. However, don't worry if you lose or misplace the card as you don't need it to vote!

Voting by post

If you think that you won’t be able to make it to the polling station on the day of the election you can apply for a postal vote which is sent to the electoral office in advance of polling day.

The deadline to register for a postal vote is 5pm on Tuesday 19th April 2022.

Voting by proxy

If you can't make it in person or don't want to send a postal vote, you can also apply for a proxy vote, which is when someone you trust votes on your behalf on polling day.

If this is the case, you will need to let your electoral registration office know about this before the election and registration deadline.

The deadline to register for a proxy vote is 5pm on Tuesday 26th April 2022.

Find out more about voting by proxy.

How does the voting system work?

Scotland has 32 local authorities. Smaller areas within the local authority called wards, that councillors represent, make up a council area. There are usually 3 or 4 councillors representing a ward, but this can be different in some areas. 

You can find which ward you are in on your local authority's website. This page on gov.uk will help you find your local councillors using your postcode.

Voting in the local elections uses the Single Transferable Vote system. On your ballot paper, you rank the candidates you'd like to vote for in order of preference from best to worst. You can choose to list as many or as few candidates as you want.

In each ward, there will be a set number of candidates who get elected. They have to reach a certain number of votes before they are successful. If nobody in your ward reaches this number after a round of ranked preferences, the person with the lowest number of votes gets eliminated.

There is then another round where preferences get tallied again until a councillor hits the required total for the election.

This continues until all council seats for the ward get filled.

How do I vote in person?

Polling places are usually busier in the early morning and after school. You may want to go at a different time when it is quieter.

Polling places will be open on Polling Day between 7am and 10pm.

If you go to your polling station, you will get one ballot paper to vote on.

To vote, number the candidates in the order of your preference. Put the number 1 in the box next to the name of the candidate who is your first choice, 2 in the box next to your second choice, 3 in the box next to your third choice and so on. You can make as many or as few choices as you wish. 

You should not put any other mark such as a tick or an 'X' on the ballot paper. This may mean your vote isn't counted. 

You can then fold your ballot paper so that nobody can see how you have voted. Show the Polling Staff the unique identifying mark on the back of your ballot paper. Put your folded ballot paper into the ballot box and leave the polling station.

How will COVID-19 restrictions impact voting?

Polling places will be safe places to vote during COVID-19 and will follow Scottish Government guidance. 

The following measures may be in place:

  • Physical distancing and a limit on how many people are allowed inside the polling place,
  • wearing a face covering,
  • hand sanitiser available on entry and exit,
  • polling place staff behind protective screens, but you’ll still be able to ask them for help if you need it,
  • polling place staff cleaning regularly, so you might need to wait for a booth to be cleaned before you can use it,
  • fresh clean pencils will be available for each voter, you can take your own with you if you’d like to,
  • a one-way system, look out for signage to follow and any instructions.

Check your local council website to find out more about what might be in place in your area.

Why is it important to vote?

The councillors elected will represent you and everyone else in your ward at your local council, making decisions that can affect everyone.

Local governments have a range of powers and responsibilities, including in areas such as:

  • education,
  • setting council tax rates and collecting this,
  • social care,
  • bin collections,
  • libraries,
  • and much more!

If you aren’t sure about who you should vote for then be sure to research the candidates before the election. This will help you understand which political party they represent, or if they are running as an independent, and what they want to achieve for your area as councillor. This will help you make an informed decision about who best suits your views.

Find out more about how to make an informed decision.

Need more information?

Information on the candidates for your ward is available from your local council.

For details on your local council, visit COSLA's website and if you're feeling confused, take a look at our political jargon glossary.

Further information can be found at:

Find out more information about voting.