MSPs & a Presiding Officer: What’s Happening in the Scottish Parliament This Week

All those elected to serve as Members of the Scottish Parliament will be sworn in on Thursday 13 May 2021. The proceedings will be ‘chaired’ by Ken Macintosh – the outgoing Presiding Officer.

Members must pledge their allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen before they can take part in any other parliamentary business at Holyrood. They can take the ‘oath’ or the ‘affirmation’.

Leader of the largest party, the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, will be the first to be sworn in at 9.00am, followed by the other party leaders, and remaining MSPs in four groupings and in alphabetical order. 

 “I (Member’s Name), do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Her Heirs and Successors, according to Law. So help me God.”

The Oath

“I (Member’s Name), do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Her Heirs and Successors, according to Law.”

The Affirmation

Once all MSPs are sworn in, the Presiding Officer will suspend the meeting of the Parliament until about 10 past 2 when the election of a new Presiding Officer will take place.

Candidates who wish to be the Presiding Officer have to be nominated and seconded by MSPs.

The vote for the Presiding Officer takes the form of a secret ballot and does not use the electronic voting system.

After the voting has taken place, ballot papers will be collected and taken to another room where votes will be counted by two clerks. Each candidate may appoint a Member to act as scrutineer to oversee the count on his or her behalf.

Once the clerks counting the votes have recorded the result, the outgoing Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh, will announce the result.

Counting the votes: If a candidate wins more votes than the total number received by all other candidates, that candidate will be elected.

If there is no outright winner, then successive rounds of voting will be held with the candidate(s) receiving the fewest votes in each round being eliminated. This will continue until one candidate is left or until one candidate wins more votes than the total won by the other candidates. In each round, new ballot papers will be printed and Members will be invited to follow the same voting procedures.

In all rounds of voting, the result is only valid if the total number of votes cast is more than a quarter of the total number of seats in the Parliament.

Once a candidate is elected, he or she will be invited by Mr Macintosh to take the chair as Presiding Officer. The newly elected Presiding Officer will have the opportunity to address the Parliament if they wish. He or she will then suspend the meeting until the morning of Friday 14 May, when nominations for the two Deputy Presiding Officer positions will be submitted.

The first duty of the newly elected Presiding Officer will be to preside over the election of his/her two deputies.

All of this will take place with Covid measures in place: physical distancing etc.

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