More resource needed to ensure 2021 elections can take place


New measures to make sure next year’s Scottish Parliament elections take place have been scrutinised by Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

While recognising the necessity of the measures in the Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Bill, the Committee has asked the Scottish Government to confirm that adequate resources will be put in place to allow all those who want to apply for postal votes can do so.

The Bill puts in place a series of contingency measures to allow the election to take place safely next year. These include increasing the use of postal voting,  as well as allowing for the election to take place over more than one day if needed. 

Acknowledging the likely increased demand for postal voting, the Committee recommends that there must be a clear plan from the Scottish Government to educate, encourage and simplify the postal voting process. 

Committee Convener Bill Kidd MSP said:

“Our Committee’s first priority is to ensure that no voter is unable to vote. Whilst there is no doubt that next year’s election will be unlike any other, it is vital that there are the resources and support in place to deal with the increased demand on postal votes.

“We want to see a clear plan of education and encouragement with regards to postal voting. But more than this, the process must be simplified. This cannot become a barrier to anyone casting their ballot at next year’s election.” 

Other proposals contained in the Bill include the option to have the vote take place over multiple days. The report notes that the Committee heard that there was a general preference have the vote on a single day. The Committee is clear that such decisions should not rest with Ministers alone and must be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

Patrick Harvie MSP, Deputy Convener of the Committee said:

“Confidence in our election process is vital, and the Bill sets out clear contingency plans to allow next year’s elections to take place. But the measures in the Bill give broad powers to Scottish Government Ministers.

“For a Bill which will sit at the heart of how our democracy functions, there must be parliamentary scrutiny on key decisions such as extending the ballot over multiple days. These decisions must not be taken by Ministers alone and must be subject to scrutiny.”

Further details about of the Committee’s report can be found here.


The Bill was introduced by the Scottish Government on 16 November with the aim of making arrangements for the Scottish Parliament election scheduled for 6 May 2021 to mitigate the public health effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

A copy of the Bill can be found here:

With the election currently scheduled to take place on 6 May 2021, the Scottish Government has asked for the Bill to be completed by the end of the year in order to provide certainty to the public, electoral campaigners and electoral professionals.

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