Scotland Election 2016

Holyrood 2016: How to vote in the Scottish Parliament election

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The Scottish Parliament election is being held on Thursday 5 May. Here's a quick guide to voting - with further information available at the Electoral Commission website, and at

Can I vote?

You can vote in the Scottish Parliament election if you are registered to vote in Scotland and are aged 16 or over.

If you have already received a poll card (which are generally sent out in the middle of March) you are registered to vote.

Where and when can I vote?

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Polling places - also known as polling stations - are open for voting between 07:00 and 22:00 on Thursday 5 May.

Information about which polling place you should go to will be on the poll card that was sent to you ahead of the election, and on your local council website.

You do not need to take your poll card with you when you vote - although it may speed up the process slightly.

If you have got a postal vote but have not had a chance to return it by polling day, you can hand it in at your polling station.

What happens when I go to the polling place?

You will be given two ballot papers - a purple one and a peach-coloured one.

The purple ballot paper lists the name of each candidate along with their party name and party logo.

You should vote for one candidate to represent your constituency by marking a cross (X) in the box next to their name.

The peach ballot paper lists political parties and independent candidates.

You should vote for one party or independent candidate to represent your region by marking a cross (X) in the box next to their name.

Take your ballot papers into a polling booth so that no one can see how you vote.

Mark your ballot papers according to the instructions. A pencil will be provided, but you may use your own pen if you prefer.

Fold your completed ballot papers in half, and then put them in the ballot boxes.

If you make a mistake on your ballot paper, or if you need any other assistance, staff will be able to help you.

How are MSPs elected?

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Media captionGlenn Campbell explains the electoral system in Scotland

The Scottish Parliament's 129 MSPs are elected through the Additional Member System (AMS).

There are 73 constituencies, each represented by one MSP who is elected through the purple-coloured ballot papers, with the candidate who receives the highest number of votes winning.

There are also eight regions, each represented by seven regional MSPs who are elected through the peach-coloured ballot papers.

A formula is used to allocate these 56 regional seats to the various parties to make the overall result more proportional.

The regional MSPs are selected from lists compiled by the parties ahead of the election.

Counting is done by hand through the night, with the first declarations expected at about 02:00 on Friday morning and the final results about 08:00 - although this could be later if there are delays at counts.

What happens if I am unable to vote?

In an emergency where you cannot go to the polling station in person you can apply for an emergency proxy to vote on your behalf up to 17:00 on Thursday 5 May.

For more information, go to or call the Electoral Commission helpline on 0800 3 280 280.