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Holyrood elections to now be held every five years


By Gavin Musgrove

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Scottish Parliamentary and local election terms will be extended to five years in line with the UK Parliament and other devolved legislatures under changes approved by MSPs.

Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh
Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh

The Scottish Elections (Reform) Bill, which has now passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament, increases the election cycle from the current four-year term.

The legislation also enables all 14-year-olds to register ahead of attaining voting age, and bans people from voting in more than one area in local elections – mirroring the law for Scottish and UK Parliament elections.

The legislation gives the Scottish Parliament oversight of the work of the Electoral Commission on Scottish elections for the first time.

In order to focus on removing barriers to voting for disabled people, the Commission will report on the assistance provided to disabled people at Scottish elections.

Minister for Parliamentary Business Graeme Dey said: “From the outset, this Bill has been focused on ensuring robust electoral processes, building on the progress of previous legislation, and putting the voter first.

"The integrity and smooth functioning of elections is a cornerstone of any democracy, and these reforms will deliver a real difference.

“We consulted extensively on whether to change election terms for Parliament and local government elections and the majority were in favour of five-year terms. This will reduce voter fatigue and avoid clashes between elections.

“Longer terms provide the opportunity to build upon and develop expertise in Government and Parliament. They should – depending on possible early UK general elections being called – avoid clashes with UK elections.

“We are not alone in making this change – the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Welsh Parliament both moved to five-year terms in 2014.”

The reforms will be in place for the Scottish Parliament election in 2021 and local government elections in 2022.

MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016, and councillors elected in the 2017 Scottish local government elections, are currently serving five-year terms - this was to avoid potential clashes with a UK General Election.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland - to be renamed Boundaries Scotland - will be given more flexibility for reviewing boundaries, with a greater role for the Scottish Parliament in considering its recommendations.


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