Have your say on how we vote

Scottish Parliament

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The Scottish Parliament can now change the way Scottish Parliamentary elections and electoral registration is conducted. 

“Scotland has led the way internationally by lowering the voting age to 16. We now seek to extend the opportunity to vote to all who are legally resident in Scotland. It seems only fair that those who have the right to live here, whether from EU countries or elsewhere, have the right to vote. ” Joe FitzPatrick , Minister for Parliamentary Business in the Scottish Government

A consultation paper has been published which hopes to get responses from a wide range of people.

You can access it here: Consultation on Electoral Reform 

  • How Often Elections Should be Held
  • Who Runs Elections and How They Are Run
  • Who Can Register and Vote
  • Accessibility of Voting and Elected Office

Avoiding election date clashes

The dates for elections to local authorities and the Scottish Parliament have recently been moved due to clashes with other elections. The length of time between elections is under consideration.

Running the Election

It is proposed that the Electoral Management Board for Scotland (EMB) extends its role to include running elections to the Scottish Parliament. In May 2012 the EMB had a statutory role as provider  of practitioner advice for the elections to local government.

” the Convener of the EMB would be given the power to give directions to Returning Officers and Electoral Registration Officers about how they carry out their functions in relation to Scottish Parliament elections.”

This power already exists for local elections.

Currently the Returning Officer is appointed on a personal basis and is usually the Chief Executive of the Local Authority. They can be held personally responsible for the conduct of elections and are paid a remuneration because of this. The consultation questions whether this payment should continue and how the Returning Officer should be appointed.

In local elections a candidate’s home address appears on the ballot paper. This does not happen in national elections and concern has been expressed about the personal safety of candidates. The consultation would also like your views on how candidates are listed on the ballot paper which currently is alphabetically by surname.

“It is argued that being further down the paper puts candidates at an immediate disadvantage.”

Electronic Voting

The counting of votes in local elections in Scotland has been done electronically since 2007. Electronic voting is used in various forms in several countries but most extensively in Estonia. The electorate of Estonia can vote via the internet from anywhere in the world. It includes a log in system and a pre-voting period when voters can change how they voted. There are several options proposed for piloting a system that would work in Scotland.

Boundary Changes

The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland is  responsible for reviewing council boundaries and electoral arrangements,  the constituencies and regions of the Scottish Parliament  and making recommendations to Scottish Ministers.

The consultation wishes to know if there should be rolling reviews within  local authorities. At the present time these boundaries are all reviewed at the same time every 8 – 12 years. It is not proposed to change the boundaries or go to a rolling review system of the Scottish Parliamentary boundaries as these are linked to local authority boundaries.

“The Scottish Parliament electoral system requires that there should be 73 constituencies for the election of constituency MSPs and 8 regions for the election of 56 regional MSPs, with each region comprising a number of whole constituencies.”

Scottish Ministers have the power to implement the recommendations of the Commission, to amend them or not to implement them at all. This is particularly relevant to the Islands Bill where it is proposed that there are changes made to the multi – member wards system.

Who can vote in Scottish elections?

Someone who lives in Scotland can vote in Scottish Parliament and in local government elections if they are over 16 years old and are:

  • a British citizen 
  • a qualifying Commonwealth citizen
  • a citizen of the Irish Republic or European Union

The extension of the franchise is being considered. Also included is more anonymity in those registered to vote.

“Whilst access to the full electoral register is restricted, it is still available for public inspection, often in libraries or other public buildings in the local community. The register lists everyone who is registered to vote in the local area and public access allows individuals to question any entries on the register. However, in some cases, the availability of an individual’s name and address could put them in danger and therefore there is the option of anonymous registration available to those who can demonstrate that they are at risk.”


Improvements are suggested on extending opportunities for  those who wish to be candidates to be able to do so and to improve access at polling stations for those with a disability.

The consultation closes on the 12th March 2018. To take part you can go online Consultation on Electoral Reform



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3 replies »

  1. I have to admit, that I don’t think 16 year olds having the vote is a good idea. They are too impressionable. Grown-ups are daft enough about how they vote – but – 16 year olds? or even 18 year olds. Are they going to assess the situation? weigh up the candidates? Maybe I’m remembering myself at 16 and 18, too clearly – definitely not fit to vote! Far too easily swayed by good looks and charisma! People tend to not really remember what it’s like to be young, once they get older – maybe the folk who changed this rule, don’t remember?
    Just my view – but – I never thought it was a good idea, and still don’t – in fact, it makes me feel very un-certain, when ever it’s brought to my attention again. The country in the hands of 16 year olds? A worrying thought.
    I’d go for age 20, at least.

    • If you talk to a range of 16-17 year olds, you generally hear a very positive reaction to getting the vote here in Scotland. That is borne out by the higher relative turnout for their age group, compared to 18-24 year olds.

      Having the vote at 16 & 17 while many are still at school actively discussing the issues of the day in class may help to sow seeds of greater participation / engagement as they get older.

  2. Yes, I can see what you mean. Maybe it’s all very different – we didn’t discuss the issues of the day in class – we stuck to mainline subjects, with the aim of passing exams. It was a good school, in many ways, which gave us a good education, in many ways, but they weren’t very interested in getting us to think for ourselves – not at all. In fact, discouraged it – didn’t like ‘troublemakers’. A different world now, and maybe one in which people become aware, at a younger age? A bit older than 16, me and my friends discussed, and discussed, and discussed, but often in a very emotional, heart-ruling-head kind of way.
    I don’t have a lot of contact with that age group now, and maybe am out of touch? I hope so – it would be a good thing if the youth are paying more attention and participating more in the politics which can shape their future.
    I hope so – I’d much prefer it if I’m mistaken on this one!

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