Flexible measures to enable next year’s Scottish Parliament election can take place despite the COVID-19 pandemic are contained in a new bill before Holyrood – and there is less than a week for the public to have their say in the stage 1 scrutiny.
With the election currently due to take place on 6 May 2021, contingency measures have been suggested by the Scottish Government in the Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Bill to make sure the elections can take place as planned.
Proposals include provisions for an increase in postal voting levels, physical distancing measures at polling stations and counts, changing the dissolution period, and enabling the Presiding Officer to fix a later date for the election for a reason relating to coronavirus. Ministers would have power to make regulations permitting polling to take place over more than one day, in the period up to eight days after 6 May, or even to make it an all-postal election.
The Parliament's Standards, Procedures & Public Appointments Committee, which is now considering the bill, has issued a call for views with a deadline next Sunday, 22 November.
Ministers have asked for the bill to be completed by the end of the year in order to provide certainty to the public, electoral campaigners and electoral professionals.
The committee wants to know whether these measures would work in practice and have the impact needed to adapt to the pandemic.
Convener Bill Kidd MSP commented: "We are living in extraordinary times, and the election in May will be like no other. However, it is important that the voices of the electorate are heard, and plans are put in place so that this can go ahead as planned.
"The Government’s bill puts in place a range of measures to ensure that the election takes place next year. We want to know whether this is the right approach and the impact that this would have for those involved in the election."