MSPs to elect a new Presiding Officer for Holyrood


Holyrood’s newly elected MSPs are due to elect a new Presiding Officer for the Scottish Parliament this Thursday 13 May 2021. The election takes place on the first day of parliamentary business for the Parliament’s sixth session.

Following the swearing in of MSPs, a Presiding Officer and two deputies must be elected before any other parliamentary business is progressed at Holyrood.

The first duty of the newly elected Presiding Officer will be to preside over the election of his/her two deputies.

The election of the Presiding Officer will take place at circa 2.10pm on Thursday 13 May. The election of the two Deputy Presiding Officers will take place the following day, Friday 14 May at 10.30am.

Timings are approximate and are as follows:

12.40pm on Thursday 13 May: The incumbent Presiding Officer announces the voting period for the Presiding Officer election.

12.40 – 1.40pm: Presiding Officer nomination period

1.40-2.10pm: period for Members to reflect on nominations made

2.10pm: voting period for Presiding Officer election begins.

4.55pm: new Presiding Officer is elected.

10.30am on Friday 14 May: New Presiding Officer announces voting period for Deputy Presiding Officer elections:

9.00 – 10.00am: Deputy Presiding Officer nominations period

10.00 – 10.30am: period for Members to reflect on nominations made

10.30am voting period for DPO elections begins

Approximate close of election: 3.45pm

Procedural guide: electing the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officers

Following the completion of the oaths and affirmations, Members will be advised of the process they must follow to submit their nominations for a new Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.

Nominations can only be made by Members who have taken the oath or affirmation. A nomination is valid only if it is seconded by another Member.

Nominations will be announced, via the building-wide PA system, shortly after the end of the nomination period. Names of nominees will also be emailed to MSPs.

The vote for the Presiding Officer takes the form of a secret ballot and does not use the electronic voting system. Members will be seated within three different areas of the Scottish Parliament (Chamber, Chamber public gallery and the Main Hall) to allow for social distancing. Ballot papers will be distributed to Members at their seats.

After the voting has taken place, ballot papers will be collected and taken to another room where votes will be counted by two clerks. Each candidate may appoint a Member to act as scrutineer to oversee the count on his or her behalf.

Once the clerks counting the votes have recorded the result, the outgoing Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh, will announce the result.

Counting the votes: If a candidate wins more votes than the total number received by all other candidates, that candidate will be elected.

If there is no outright winner, then successive rounds of voting will be held with the candidate(s) receiving the fewest votes in each round being eliminated. This will continue until one candidate is left or until one candidate wins more votes than the total won by the other candidates. In each round, new ballot papers will be printed and Members will be invited to follow the same voting procedures as outlined above.

Where there are two candidates in a round of voting, a candidate is elected if they receive more votes than the other candidate.

If there is only one candidate, Members will be asked to vote for or against that candidate or to abstain. The candidate will be elected if he or she obtains a simple majority in his or her favour. A simple majority occurs when the number of votes cast for the candidate exceeds the number of votes against the candidate. No account is taken of any abstentions.

In the event of a tie at any stage there will be a brief suspension before new ballot papers are printed and another vote taken.

In all rounds of voting, the result is only valid if the total number of votes cast is more than a quarter of the total number of seats in the Parliament.

Once a candidate is elected, he or she will be invited by Mr Macintosh to take the chair as Presiding Officer. The newly elected Presiding Officer will have the opportunity to address the Parliament if they wish. He or she will then suspend the meeting until the morning of Friday 14 May, when nominations for the two Deputy Presiding Officer positions will be submitted.

Only one nomination process, similar to that followed for the election of the Presiding Officer, will take place for the election of both Deputy Presiding Officers. This election will be chaired by the new Presiding Officer.

Covid Measures:

Extensive risk assessment and security measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of MSPs and parliamentary staff and to facilitate attendance in the building during the first couple of weeks of the new parliamentary session. These include, for example:

  • The first meeting of Parliament will take two days, rather than one, to allow for social distancing requirements
  • PO/DPO elections will take place at various locations in the building to ensure social distancing
  •  Written guidance and direction given to all attending Parliament
  • Additional signage & one-way systems implemented
  • Parliamentary staff available to guide new members, reminding them of social distancing requirements and the need to wear face masks when moving around the building
  • If a member is unable to participate in the meeting in person, arrangements will be made for them to vote remotely.

    Media day passes: will only be issued in exceptional circumstances.  These should be arranged in advance with the Media Relations Office.

    Press photographs; Images will be made available on a pooled basis. Further information please contact; Andrew Cowan: 0131 348 5878 / [email protected]


Contact Information

Hilda Stewart

[email protected]

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