Payment to Returning Officers in Scotland


About the Inquiry

The Committee agreed to undertake a short inquiry to explore the purpose and appropriateness of providing payments or fees to Returning Officers (principally Local Authority Chief Executives) in Scotland in relation to Local Government, Scottish and UK elections and referenda.

In addition to exploring publicly the reasons why the current arrangements exist, the Committee reflected upon the evidence received before deciding on what steps to take next.

Written Submissions


The Committee agreed to seek written and oral evidence from the following:

Wednesday 23 November:

  • Jonathon Shafi, Campaigns Organiser, Electoral Reform Society Scotland; Navraj Singh Ghaleigh, Senior Lecturer in Climate Law, University of Edinburgh; Dr Toby James, Senior Lecturer in British and Comparitive Politics, University of East Anglia.
  • Link to Official Report of meeting of 23 November

Wednesday 30 November:

  • Malcolm Burr, Chair, SOLACE Scotland; Mary Pitcaithly, Convener, Electoral Management Board for Scotland, Annemarie O'Donnell, Chief Executive, Glasgow City Council; Andy Hunter, Chair, Scotland and Northern Ireland Branch, Association of Electoral Administrators; Ailsa Irvine, Director of Electoral Administration and Guidance, Electoral Commission, Scotland.
  • Link to Official Report of meeting of 30 November


  • The Committee considered the Scottish Government's response to the Committee's report at its meeting on 26 April 2017 and agreed to write to the Scottish Government and the UK Government:

The Scottish Government responded to the Convener's letter on 31 May 2017:

The UK Government responded to the Convener's letter on 21 June 2017:

Freedom of Information Request to Local Authorities on Payments to Returning Officers for Running Elections 

On 8 June 2017 the Committee, via the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre, issued a freedom of information request to all local authorities on payments to returning officers for running elections. The responses received can be viewed at:

On 19 October 2017, the Convener wrote to the Scottish Government and the UK Government on the perceived lack of transparency around how payments to returning officers were claimed and reallocated:

The Scottish Government responded to the Convener's letter on 1 November 2017:

The UK Government responded to the Convener's letter on 20 November 2017:

As a follow-up to its letter of 1 November 2017, the Scottish Government wrote to the Convener on 13 December 2017 with a breakdown of costs of the 2016 Scottish Parliament election:


The Committee published its report on 24 January 2017:

The Scottish Government responded to the Committee's report on 9 March 2017:

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