Fifth session timings and procedural guide: electing the Presiding Officer


The Scotland Act 1998 requires the Scottish Parliament to elect a Presiding Officer and two deputies within 14 days of the election and it must do so before taking any other item of business (except the taking of the oath or affirmation). As such it forms one of the first items of parliamentary business in the new parliamentary session.

The election of the Presiding Officer and two Deputy Presiding Officers will take place at 2.30pm on the afternoon of 12 May. Timings are as follows:

Approximately 12.15/12.30pm: The incumbent Presiding Officer announces the voting period for the Presiding Officer election

1.30pm: nomination period closes
1.30-2.30pm: period for Members to reflect on nominations made
2.30pm: voting period for Presiding Officer election begins in the chamber 

Approximately 3.15pm: new Presiding Officer elected. New Presiding Officer announces voting period for Deputy Presiding Officer elections:

3.15-4.15pm: Deputy Presiding Officer nominations period
4.15pm: nomination period closed
4.15-5.15pm: period for Members to reflect on nominations made
5.15pm: voting period for DPO elections begins

Approximate close of election: 6.45/7.00pm

Background information

Procedural guide: electing the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officers

Following the completion of the oaths and affirmations, Members will be advised of when during that day they will be able to submit nominations for Presiding Officer to the Parliamentary Business Team.

Nominations can only be made by Members who have taken the oath or affirmation. A nomination is valid only if it is seconded by another Member.

The outgoing Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick, will resume the chair at 2.30pm and announce the nominations.

The vote for the Presiding Officer takes the form of a secret ballot and does not use the electronic voting system in the Chamber. Each Member may collect a ballot paper from one of the clerks. Voting booths and 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 scrutineer to oversee the count on his or her behalf.

Once the clerks counting the votes have recorded the result of each round, it will be announced by Mrs Marwick.

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 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 as outlined above.

Where there are 2 candidates in a round of voting, a candidate is elected if they receive more votes than the other candidate.

If there is only one candidate, Members will be asked to vote for or against that candidate or to abstain. The candidate will be elected if he or she obtains a simple majority in his or her favour. A simple majority occurs when the number of votes cast for the candidate exceeds the number of votes against the candidate. No account is taken of any abstentions.

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.

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 Mrs Marwick 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 adjourn the meeting to enable nominations for the two Deputy Presiding Officer positions to be submitted.

A similar process will follow for the election of the Deputy Presiding Officers. There will only be one nomination process for both Deputy Presiding Officers. This election will be chaired by the new Presiding Officer.

Fifth session timings and procedural guide: electing the Presiding Officer

Media information

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