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The Electoral Commission

Trevelyan House

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Scottish elections 2007

On this page we look forward to the next Scottish Parliamentary and local government elections to be held on Thursday, 3 May 2007.

Further information on the elections can be found on VoteScotland.com

Introduction

Scottish Parliamentary general elections and elections to Scotland's 32 councils normally take place every four years on the first Thursday in May. The next elections for both the Parliament and councils are due to be held on 3 May 2007.

For information on how to register to vote and about elections in your area, visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

The Scottish Parliament

The electoral system in use at the Scottish Parliamentary elections is called the Additional Member System (or AMS). Each voter has two votes in the Scottish Parliament election: a constituency vote for a candidate and a regional vote for a political party or candidate standing as an individual. There are 73 constituency seats in the Scottish Parliament, which are elected using the first past the post system, and there are 56 regional members who are elected using the party list system (which provides an element of proportional representation to reflect the voting preferences of the electorate in a more representative manner).

Further information about how the Scottish Parliament is elected and an analysis of the 2003 election results can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.

The Scotland Office is responsible for setting the statutory framework for Scottish Parliamentary elections. We work closely with them and the Returning Officers, who run the elections, to ensure their success. We developed guidance for candidates and their agents for the last Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2003 to provide an overview of what standing for election involves. Our 2003 guidance is available for information purposes - we will update the guidance in time for 2007 elections to reflect any changes in the law that may occur.

The law limits the money that candidates at Scottish Parliamentary elections can raise for their election campaign and how much they can spend. Our guidance is currently being revised to take account of changes introduced by the Electoral Administration Act 2006. Updated guidance will be incorporated in our 2007 candidates' guidance to be published early in 2007.

In June 2006, the Secretary of State and the Scottish Executive Minister announced that the 2007 Scottish Parliament and local government elections will be counted electronically. Electors will mark their paper ballots by hand and on close of poll ballots will be electronically scanned, facilitating the production of results at these complex combined elections.

The Secretary of State further announced that the Scottish Parliamentary elections will be counted overnight and will be declared before the local government results. Scottish Ministers have still to take a decision on when the local government result will be declared.

The Scotland Office has concluded a consultation on the re-design of the ballot paper for Scottish Parliamentary elections in August 2006. As part of this process, the Scotland Office asked the Electoral Commission to take soundings of voters in order to assess the impact of any possible change in the ballot paper format. We engaged Cragg Ross Dawson consultants to carry out some public opinion research among voters and potential voters to gauge responses to the new design proposed by the Scotland Office, to other variants of this design, and to the two separate ballot papers used at previous Scottish Parliamentary elections.

The research report draws a number of clear conclusions for the design of the Scottish parliamentary ballot paper, which have been fed into the Scotland Office's consultation process. 

Local government

The Local Governance Act 2004  changes the way Scottish councillors will be elected. From May 2007, they will be elected using the Single Transferable Vote electoral system (STV) - a form of proportional representation (PR).

The Electoral Commission does not have a statutory role in local government elections in Scotland. The Scottish Executive is responsible for setting the policy framework, and the elections are run in each council area by a Returning Officer. Because local government elections are combined with elections to the Scottish Parliament, we work closely with the Executive and returning Officers to help ensure their success.

Changes for 2007

The introduction of the single transferable vote electoral system has led to two major changes in the way that local democracy is delivered in Scotland.

Firstly, new electoral areas are required to replace existing council wards. Proposals for these new wards are currently being developed by the independent Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland through a public consultation process. These new wards will be larger in size, and from 2007 voters will elect either three or four councillors to represent them instead of one, as before. Final ward boundaries have been agreed for many of Scotland's councils, and the review is expected to be completed during August 2006. Proposals and final boundaries are available on the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland's website.

The second difference for local government elections in 2007 relates to the way electors cast their vote. Under the new STV system, voters mark their ballot paper to show the order in which they want candidates to be elected. Instead of using the traditional cross to mark their ballot paper, voters should mark their first choice with a '1', their second choice '2' and so on. Voters may mark just one preference or as many preferences as there are candidates.

Marking candidates in order of preference means that if your first choice is not elected then your vote may be transferred to your second choice and so on until all your preferences are exhausted or until all seats are filled. These changes do not affect the Scottish Parliamentary elections held on the same day.

The exact rules that will apply to local government elections in Scotland are awaiting approval by the Scottish Parliament. These rules (The Scottish Local Government Elections Order 2007) are available in draft.

The 2007 Elections Steering Group

A Steering Group has been established to bring together all the organisations involved in the administration of the elections in 2007. The Electoral Commission, the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive are on the Steering Group along with a wide range of other organisations involved in the elections. The Steering Group coordinate work in the following areas:

  • Communications about the elections
  • Publicity and voter awareness
  • Legislation
  • Training for election staff
  • Guidance for candidates and agents
  • Review of the elections

If you would like more information about the work of the Steering Group, please visit the Scottish Executive's Local Government web pages.


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