Next Scottish Parliament election

Next Scottish Parliament election
6 May 2021

All 129 seats to the Scottish Parliament
65 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Nicola Sturgeon Ruth Davidson Kezia Dugdale
Party SNP Conservative Labour
Leader since 14 November 2014 4 November 2011 15 August 2015
Leader's seat Glasgow Southside Edinburgh Central Lothian (List)
Last election 63 seats 31 seats 24 seats

  Fourth party Fifth party
Leader Patrick Harvie and
Maggie Chapman
Willie Rennie
Party Scottish Green Liberal Democrats
Leader since 17 May 2011
Leader's seat Glasgow (List) (Harvie) North East Fife
Last election 6 seats 5 seats

First Minister before election

Nicola Sturgeon

Elected First Minister


The next Scottish Parliament election is due to be held on Thursday 6 May 2021[1] to elect 129 members to the Scottish Parliament. It would be the sixth general election since the parliament was established in 1999.

Five parties had MSPs in the fifth parliament: Scottish National Party (SNP) led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Conservatives led by Ruth Davidson, Scottish Labour Party led by Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Greens, led by their co-conveners Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, led by Willie Rennie.


Under the Scotland Act 1998, an ordinary general election to the Scottish Parliament would normally have been held on the first Thursday in May four years after the 2016 election, i.e. in May 2020.[2] This would clash with the proposed date of the next United Kingdom general election.[3] In November 2015, the Scottish Government published a Scottish Elections (Dates) Bill, which proposed to extend the term of the Parliament to five years.[3] That Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 25 February 2016 and received Royal Assent on 30 March 2016, setting the new date for the election as 6 May 2021.[1]

The date of the poll may be varied by up to one month either way by the monarch, on the proposal of the Presiding Officer.[2]

If Parliament itself resolves that it should be dissolved, with at least two-thirds of the Members (i.e. 86 Members) voting in favour, the Presiding Officer proposes a date for an extraordinary general election and the Parliament is dissolved by the monarch by royal proclamation.[4]

It does not necessarily require a two-thirds majority to precipitate an extraordinary general election, because under the Scotland Act Parliament is also dissolved if it fails to nominate one of its members to be First Minister within certain time limits, irrespective of whether at the beginning or in the middle of a parliamentary term.[4] Therefore, if the First Minister resigned, Parliament would then have 28 days to elect a successor (s46(2)b and s46(3)a). If no new First Minister was elected then the Presiding Officer would ask for Parliament to be dissolved under s3(1)a. This process could also be triggered if the First Minister lost a vote of confidence by a simple majority (i.e. more than 50%), as s/he must then resign (Scotland Act 1998 s45(2)). To date the Parliament has never held a confidence vote on a First Minister.

No extraordinary general elections have been held to date. Any extraordinary general elections would be in addition to ordinary general elections, unless held less than six months before the due date of an ordinary general election, in which case they supplant it.[4] The subsequent ordinary general election reverts to the first Thursday in May, a multiple of four years after 1999.[4]

Election system, seats, and regions

The total number of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) elected to the Parliament is 129.

The First Periodical Review of the Scottish Parliament's constituencies and regions by the Boundary Commission for Scotland, was announced on 3 July 2007. The Commission published its provisional proposals for the regional boundaries in 2009.

The Scottish Parliament uses an Additional Members System, designed to produce approximate proportional representation for each region. There are 8 regions, each sub-divided into smaller constituencies. There are a total of 73 constituencies. Each constituency elects one MSP by the plurality (first past the post) system of election. Each region elects 7 additional MSPs using an additional member system. A modified D'Hondt method, using the constituency results, is used to elect these additional MSPs.[5][6]

The Scottish Parliament constituencies have not been coterminous with Scottish Westminster constituencies since the 2005 general election, when the 72 former UK Parliament constituencies were replaced with a new set of 59, generally larger, constituencies (see Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Act 2004). The boundaries used for the Scottish Parliament elections were then revised for the 2011 election. The Boundary Commission also recommended changes to the electoral regions used to elect "list" members of the Scottish Parliament,[7] which were also implemented in 2011. The Westminster constituency boundaries are due to be revised, with the intention of reducing the total number of seats to 600 and equalising the number of voters in each constituency.

Opinion polling

Constituency polling

Polling organisation/client Sample size SNP ConLab Lib Dem Others Lead
24th-29th Nov 2016 YouGov/The Times 1,134 48% 25% 15% 6% 5% 23%
28 Sep–4 Oct 2016 BMG Research 1,010 51% 21% 18% 7% 3% 30%
29–31 Aug 2016 YouGov/The Times 1,039 52% 21% 16% 5% 5% 31%
24–28 Jun 2016 Survation/Scottish Daily Mail 1,055 50.4% 20.5% 17.7% 7.8% 3.7% 29.9%
5 May 2016 General Election Result 2,279,153 46.5% 22.0% 22.6% 7.8% 1.1% 23.9%

Regional polling

Polling organisation/client Sample size SNP ConLab Green Lib Dem UKIP RISE Others Lead
24th-29th Nov 2016 YouGov/The Times 1,134 39% 24% 14% 11% 6% 4% 1% 0% 15%
28 Sep–4 Oct 2016 BMG Research 1,010 43% 20% 16% 8% 7% 3% 1% 23%
29–31 Aug 2016 YouGov/The Times 1,039 45% 21% 15% 9% 6% 2% 0% 0% 24%
24–28 Jun 2016 Survation/Scottish Daily Mail 1,055 40.6% 20.3% 15.9% 11.6% 6.9% 3.5% 1% 20.3%
5 May General Election Result 2,285,752 41.7% 22.9% 19.1% 6.6% 5.2% 2.0% 0.5% 2.0% 18.8%

Target seats

Below are listed all the constituencies which require a swing of less than 5% from the 2016 results to change hands.

SNP targets

Rank Constituency Winning party 2016 Swing to gain SNP's place 2016 Result
1 Dumbarton Labour 0.17 2nd
2 Edinburgh Central Conservative 0.90 2nd
3 Ayr Conservative 1.00 2nd
4 Aberdeenshire West Conservative 1.28 2nd
5 East Lothian Labour 1.45 2nd
6 Edinburgh Southern Labour 1.47 2nd
7 Dumfriesshire Conservative 1.70 2nd
8 Eastwood Conservative 2.22 2nd
9 Galloway & West Dumfries Conservative 2.27 2nd
10 Edinburgh Western Liberal Democrats 3.73 2nd

Conservative targets

Rank Constituency Winning party 2016 Swing to gain Con place 2016 Result
1 Perthshire South and Kinross-shire SNP 1.97 2nd
2 Edinburgh Pentlands SNP 3.68 2nd
3 Angus North and Mearns SNP 4.21 2nd
4 Aberdeen South and North Kincardine SNP 4.26 2nd
5 Moray SNP 4.30 2nd
6 Edinburgh Southern Labour 4.74 3rd
7 Perthshire North SNP 4.90 2nd

Labour targets

Rank Constituency Winning party 2016 Swing to gain Labour's place 2016 Result
1 Eastwood Conservative 2.56 3rd
2 Edinburgh Central Conservative 4.19 3rd


  1. 1 2 "Scottish Elections (Dates) Act 2016". Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Scotland Act 1998 – Section 2 Ordinary General Elections". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  3. 1 2 "Scottish Elections (Dates) Bill published". Scottish Government. 18 November 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Scotland Act 1998 – Section 3 Extraordinary General Elections". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 8 May 2007.
  5. "Electoral system: How it works, 02 April 2003". BBC News. BBC. 2003-04-02. Retrieved 2011-05-06.
  6. "D'Hondt system". BBC News. BBC. 28 September 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
  7. "Revised Recommendations" (PDF). Boundary Commission for Scotland. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
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