2021 Election Campaign: A guide to voting

The 2021 Scottish Parliament Election is coming up. Our Policy Assistant, Anna Telfer, provides information about voting in the election.

How can you have a say in the Scottish Parliament? Vote!

Political engagement is vital to have your voice heard and encourage change for the better.

Voting gives you the opportunity to have influence over the important issues which affect you and your life.

In the last Scottish Parliamentary election, only 56% of the people who had the right to vote actually voted. The Scottish Parliament exists to represent the people of Scotland.

The more people that vote, the more representative the Scottish Parliament can be.


Who can vote in Scottish Parliament Elections?

To vote in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election you must be:

  • be registered to vote at an address in Scotland
  • be 16 or over on the day of the election (6 May 2021)
  • not be legally excluded from voting

You must also be one of the following:

  • British citizen
  • an Irish citizen
  • a citizen of another country living in Scotland who has permission to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need permission. This includes all those granted refugee status.


How do you register to vote?

You can register to vote online or download a form and apply by post.

Registering is quick and easy, you only need your national insurance number.

You only need to register once, unless you change your address, name or nationality, in which case you will need to register to vote again.

If you are unsure if you are registered to vote, you can contact the electoral services team at your local council to find out.

The deadline to register to vote for the 2021 Scottish Parliament Election is midnight on Monday 19 April, 2022.


How do I vote?

There are several ways to vote. You can either:

  • Vote in person, on the day at a polling station
  • Vote by post
    • The deadline for applying for a postal vote in the 2021 election is 5pm on Tuesday 6 April 
  • Vote by proxy
    • If you have a specific, long-term reason that you cannot vote in person, such as a disability or being overseas, you can apply for someone else to vote for you. The deadline to apply for a proxy vote in the 2021 Scottish Parliament Election is 5pm on Tuesday 27 April 
    • This year, in response to COVID-19, the electoral commission has introduced an emergency proxy vote. If you are self-isolating and unable to vote in person at your polling station as a result of government or medical practitioner advice, you can apply to vote by emergency proxy. You can apply until 5pm on the day of the poll.


What am I voting for?

In a Scottish Parliament election, you have two votes so you will receive two ballot papers.

  1. To elect your constituency member – where you choose who you want to represent your constituency.
  2. To elect your regional members – where you choose from a list of party or independent candidates to represent your region.

For more information about voting and the 2021 Scottish Parliament Election visit the Scottish Parliament website.