Handy guide for first-time voters!

Speak Out Champion Isla has got you covered at the upcoming Scottish Election!


Are you voting for the first time on Thursday 6 May 2021? Not sure which candidates are standing in your area, or how to decide who to vote for, or how to actually cast your vote? Speak Out champion and assistant Guide leader Isla has got you covered!

Voting is so important because it allows everyone aged 16+ who’s living in Scotland (and has registered to vote) to use their voice and have their say on who will represent them at the Scottish Parliament. Plus, the more women who vote the more we will be represented overall, which would be amazing!

Figuring out who to vote for

Don’t know which candidates are standing in your area? You can find out here. Now the next step is to do some research and make an informed decision on who to vote for. To find out more about what each political party stands for, make sure to check out their manifestos! A manifesto sets out a party’s intentions if it were to form the Government.

Don’t forget, you can also tune into the TV debates or read through the campaign leaflets that are often posted through the door to find out more about who’s standing in your area (or check their social media profiles). Once you know who you’d like to vote for all that’s left to do is cast your vote!

Where do I go to vote?

If you didn’t vote by post already you’ll be heading to your local polling station on 6 May. You should have received a polling card in the mail which states your name, address, the election the card is for, and where your polling station is. You don’t have to take your polling card with you, but it might be helpful.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, you’ll have to wear a mask inside the polling place (unless you’re exempt) and use hand sanitiser. It’s recommended you bring your own pen or pencil to fill out the ballots with. Physical distancing measures will be in place and some stations may be operating a one-way system.

How do I vote?

Once you arrive you will need to give your name and then you’ll be handed two ballot papers before being directed to a booth to cast your vote. The constituency ballot paper is purple and the regional ballot paper is orange – the regional ballot will likely be a lot bigger and longer than the constituency one. You can only vote once on each ballot.

Holyrood elections in Scotland use a more proportional voting system called the Additional Member System (AMS) to elect its 129 MSPs. AMS works by allowing you to have a constituency MSP representing you, as well as seven regional “list” MSPs. On the purple ballot you vote for a specific candidate, and on the orange ballot you vote for a party (or a specific independent candidate) – you don’t need to vote for the same party on both ballots (unless this is your preference).

Once you have voted, you put your ballots into a big box at the polling place. Then that’s it – you’re done! This year, it will take longer to count the ballots due to Covid, and we will probably not know the outcome of the election until the next day or Saturday (most results come in overnight in normal times).

To sum up…

We know the system seems a bit confusing, but the way it’s set up means there will be a wider range of people and political parties for you to choose from. This is an important election, especially as we recover from the pandemic, and it’s good to know how the system works and what each party is proposing ahead of time. For more information on the electoral system, check out this handy guide from the BBC and head to our website.