Fourth Session: A guide to the election of the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officers


The Scotland Act 1998 requires the Parliament to elect a Presiding Officer and two deputies at its first meeting.

On Thursday 10 March 2011, the Presiding Officer notified Members, under rule 2.4.2 of Standing Orders, that following consultation with party leaders, he intends the first meeting of the new Parliamentary session to be on Wednesday 11 May 2011.

The Parliament will meet from 09.30 to 12.30 for the purpose of Members’ oath-taking, and again for the purpose of electing the Presiding Officer and two Deputy Presiding Officers.

Presiding Officer

The first election will be for the Presiding Officer. Members will be able to submit nominations to the Parliamentary Business Team in the Scottish Parliament between 12.30 pm and 2.15 pm.

Nominees can only be nominated by members who have taken the oath or affirmation. A nomination is valid only if it is seconded by another Member.

Ballot papers for the first round of the election for Presiding Officer will be printed between 14.15 and 14.30

The election will start at 14.30 with the outgoing Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson resuming the chair and announcing the nominations.

Each member may collect a ballot paper from one of the clerks. Two voting booths and two ballot boxes will be situated in the Chamber for members to cast their votes.

After the voting has taken place, the ballot boxes will be emptied out and the ballot papers unfolded and counted by two clerks. Each candidate may appoint a member to act as scrutiniser to oversee the count on his or her behalf.

Once the clerks counting the votes have recorded the result it will be announced by Mr Fergusson.

If a candidate wins more votes than the total number received by all other candidates and the total number of votes cast is more than a quarter of the total number of seats in the parliament, that candidate will be elected.

If there is no outright winner then successive rounds of voting will be held with the candidate 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 other candidates. In each round new ballot papers will be printed and members will be invited to follow the same voting procedures as outlined above.

In the event of a tie at any stage there will be a brief adjournment before new ballot papers are printed and another vote taken.

If there is only one candidate, members will be asked to vote for or against that candidate, or to abstain. A sole nominee will be elected if he or she obtains a simple majority in his or her favour and 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 Fergusson to take the chair as Presiding Officer. The newly elected Presiding Officer will have the opportunity to address the Parliament if they wish to. He or she will then adjourn the sitting to enable nominations for the two deputy Presiding Officer positions to be submitted.

Deputy Presiding Officers

Members who wish to make nominations for the positions of Deputy Presiding Officers will be able to collect nomination papers from the Parliamentary Business Team only after the election for the Presiding Officer has been completed. A nomination is valid only if it is seconded by another Member.

The time period during which nominations can be collected and submitted will be announced by the newly elected Presiding Officer before the sitting is adjourned.

The ballot papers for the first round of the first election for Deputy Presiding Officer are scheduled to be printed in the quarter hour following the close of nominations.

When these have been placed in the Chamber, the Presiding Officer will re-enter the Chamber. He or she does not have a vote or any casting vote in the elections for Deputy Presiding Officer.

The elections for Deputy Presiding Officers will be conducted in the same way as the Presiding Officer election. There will be one nomination list for both posts and consecutive elections will be held for each Deputy Presiding Officer position.

All candidates for the Deputy Presiding Officer will be included on the ballot paper for the first election.

All except the candidate elected as a Deputy Presiding Officer in the first election will then proceed to the second election, unless the Presiding Officer and the first deputy elected represent the same political party. In that event any remaining candidates from that party will be excluded from the second election in accordance with Rule 3.3.9 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament.

The second election follows on immediately from the first. Once elected the Deputy Presiding Officers retain their seats in the Chamber.

Members of the media should contact:
Ann Donald: 0131 348 6085 RNID TypeTalk calls welcome

Committees of the Scottish Parliament


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