Everything You Need to Know About the Scottish Parliamentary Election

Find out everything you need to know about the Scottish Parliamentary Election in this simple guide.

The Scottish Parliamentary Election is the process by which MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament) are elected to represent the people of Scotland. In total there are 129 MSPs.

On polling day (the day of the election) all registered voters can go to their local polling station and vote for the candidate and party of their choice. Scotland is split into 73 constituencies. A constituency is the area that the MSP who is elected will represent. You can find out which constituency you are in by checking the Boundary Commission Constituency Area Map.

The voting system used in the Scottish Parliament Election is slightly different to the one used in the UK General Elections. The Scottish Parliament Election will use the Additional Members System. This means that voters will make two votes and will therefore receive two ballot papers (one for each vote).

The first vote is for the constituency MSP. This vote will be counted up in the same way as the General Election system known as 'First Past The Post', which means that the person with the most votes in each of the 73 constituencies wins.

The second vote will elect the 56 additional members of the Scottish Parliament. Instead of voting for a local candidate, voters will instead vote for the political party of their choice. Parties will then receive a number of seats proportional to the number of votes they received.

To vote in the Scottish Parliamentary Election you must be:

  • 16 years of age or older on polling day,
  • A Resident in Scotland,
  • A British citizen, a citizen of the European Union, or a qualifying Commonwealth citizen,
  • Registered to vote in the election.

Registration to vote in the election closed on the 18th of April 2016 and you'll only be able to vote if you registered by that date. However, if you still want to vote in the upcoming EU referendum then you can still register until 7th June 2016 (please note that unlike the Scottish Parliamentary Election, only UK and Commonwealth citizens aged 18 and over can vote in the EU referendum). Check out our article on how to register to vote for more information. 

You can vote on polling day, on the 5th of May 2016 between 7am and 10pm. Your polling card, which will be posted to you before the election, will let you know where your local polling station is - however, don't worry if you lose or misplace the card as you don't need it to actually vote!

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 or for a proxy vote (having someone you trust vote on your behalf). If this is the case, you will need to let your electoral registration office know about this in advance of the election and registration deadline.

The MSPs who are elected during the election will represent you and everyone else in Scotland in the Scottish Parliament, making decisions which can affect all of our lives.

Things that are affected by what goes on in the Scottish Parliament include:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Transport
  • Housing
  • Justice
  • Sport

From 2016, the Scottish Parliament is also going to have new powers over Income Tax and some aspects of Welfare. If you aren’t sure about who you should vote for then be sure to research the manifestos and policies of political parties and candidates before the election so that you can make an informed decision about which candidate or party best suits you.

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

For details on your local council, visit COSLA's website and if you're still feeling confused, take a look at our article on what all the political jargon means.