Voting in the Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021

Who can vote? The law has changed

Since April 2020, voting rights have been extended to include all people aged 16 or over who are legally resident in Scotland, regardless of nationality. This includes anyone with ‘leave to remain’ in the UK and students who are temporarily resident in Scotland. To get onto the electoral register and be eligible to vote, you must register in advance of election day.

UK students can register at both their place of study and their home residence, but only vote in one of these. People who are homeless or living in temporary accommodation can also register.

Registering to vote

To get on the electoral register you have two options described below. Notice that you have to register by 19 April 2021 and if you want a postal vote – recommended this year – you have to apply (and be registered) by 6 April 2021 ! !

You can register online, which should take about 5 minutes. You’ll be asked for your National Insurance number (but you can still register if you do not have one).

You can register by post. You can contact the Electoral Commission or your local Electoral Office for further information and to register in writing (see the Electoral Commission for details of your local Electoral Registration Office) . For example in Edinburgh and the Lothians see the Lothians Electoral Registration Office, or call 0131 344 2500 or email:


After you’ve registered, your name and address will be on the electoral register. You can then vote in person, by post or by proxy. In Scotland, people are advised to apply for a postal vote, in case Covid 19 restrictions are still in place or you need to self isolate at that time.

MSPs are elected using the Additional Member system: On the ballot paper you put two crosses or votes. You vote for your constituency MSP (first X) and for an MSP on a regional list to represent your wider region (second X).

Why is it important to vote?

Your vote in the next Holyrood election will be crucial in persuading the Westminster government to grant the ‘section 30 order’ needed to hold a new legally-binding referendum on Scottish independence. By electing an overwhelming majority of MSPs who are in favour of independence we will increase the pressure on the UK government to agree to a section 30 order as soon as possible.

If you want Scottish independence, with the possibility of full membership of the European Union, we suggest you vote for a candidate from the Scottish National Party in your constituency (first X) and choose the same or a different pro-independence, and pro-EU party, such as the Scottish Greens, on the list (second X).