Holyrood’s MSPs set to elect a First Minister


Holyrood’s MSPs are this week set to elect a First Minister for the sixth session of the Scottish Parliament (Tuesday 18 May 2021). Under the Scotland Act 1998, a new First Minister must be elected within the first 28 days of the election, or another Scottish Election must be held.

The election process will take place at 2pm, with the new Presiding Officer announcing, in alphabetical order, the names of the nominations received. Each nominee will then speak for five minutes in support of their candidacy before the voting process begins via the Parliament’s digital voting system. 

After a candidate is selected, each party leader will be invited to speak for five minutes each, taken in party size (largest party first) with the successful candidate being called to speak last. The approximate timings are as follows: 

9.30 am: nomination period opens

1.30 pm: nomination period closes 

2.00 pm: Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Alison Johnstone MSP, presides over the election of a First Minister. 

Ends - 

Procedural Guidelines:  

The voting process for the First Minister will take place using the digital voting system.

Written nominations for First Minister have to be submitted to the Clerk no later than 30 minutes before the selection and voting process begins. Nomination forms will be made available to Members from the Parliamentary Business Team on the day. Any Member may be nominated but a nomination must be proposed by one Member and seconded by another Member who have already been sworn in.

 At the time appointed for the voting period, the Presiding Officer will announce the name or names of the candidates and ask Members to vote for one candidate only. Each candidate will be allowed to speak briefly (up to five minutes) in support of their nomination. 

Candidates can withdraw their candidature during any stage of the voting process on the day.

Counting of Votes

If a candidate wins more votes than the total number received by all other candidates and the total number of votes cast is more than a quarter of the total number of seats in the Parliament, that candidate will be elected. 

Where there is only one candidate, Members will be asked to vote for or against or abstain. If that candidate obtains a simple majority, he or she will be declared as the Parliament's nomination. 

Where there is more than one candidate in a round of voting, the Presiding Officer reads out the names of all candidates in alphabetical order. Members will be asked to vote "yes" for one candidate only. When the votes for the last candidate have been cast, Members will be given an opportunity to vote  to abstain. 

Where there are 2 candidates in a round of voting, a candidate is selected if they obtain a simple majority of votes in their favour. 

Where there are more than 2 candidates in a round of voting, a candidate is selected if the total number of votes for them exceeds the total number of votes for all other candidates.

Where there are more than 2 candidates in a round of voting, but no candidate obtains sufficient votes under the procedure above, the candidate with the smallest number of votes is eliminated and further rounds of voting take place until a candidate is selected. 

Where, in any round of voting, the candidates all receive the same number of votes, no candidate is selected and another selection process is arranged to take place as soon as possible 

A result is only valid if the number of members who voted is more than a quarter of the total number of seats for members. In all rounds of voting, if any member records more than one vote, all their votes will be treated as spoiled.

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: 

* 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, they will take their oath or make a solemn affirmation 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]



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