The Scottish Parliament General Election is on Thursday 5th May. If you’re reading this you probably knew that, but I thought I’d remind those playing poker or dozing at the back.
What you might not know is that the deadline for registering to vote at the election is 17.00 on Friday 15 April. That’s this Friday. If you’re not registered then you cannot vote and decide how Scotland is governed, at least on devolved issues*.
If you want a postal vote then you need to apply by 17.00 today. If you want a proxy vote (someone voting on your behalf), you have until Thursday 21 April to submit the form.
The most important thing about May’s election is voting if you are entitled to. I admit I have a vested interest in you registering, but that’s not the only reason I’m writing this. In the past, people campaigned to ensure we had the vote. From the Suffragettes, who pushed to ensure women had the vote, to Screaming Lord Sutch, who was one of the first British figures to call for lowering the voting age to 18.
Most folk don’t realise they are able to vote for Holyrood politicians. For clarity’s sake, you can vote to elect MSPs if you are over 18 on the date of the election and one of the following:
- a British Subject;
- from a Commonwealth Country; or
- a citizen of another European Union country.
As I said earlier, it’s really important to vote, to express your views on our potential MSPs. After all, they’ll decide on how much is spent on your local schools and hospitals, how we fund local government (currently through the Council Tax) and how we protect our environment. Even if you do that by spoiling your paper, you are still exercising you democratic right. However, a more positive way is to pick a candidate you believe in and whose principles match yours. After that, put a cross by the candidates you want to elect on both ballot papers.
The Scottish Parliament has 129 MSPs, 73 of whom represent individual constituencies. This is sometimes referred to as your first vote and is on a lilac coloured ballot paper. The remaining 56 MSPs are elected from the eight additional member regions, with each electing seven MSPs. This is sometimes referred to as your second or regional vote and is on a peach coloured ballot paper. You’ll find my name on the peach ballot paper.
If you are British, from a Commonwealth country or Irish, you earn a two for one offer. You have the chance to vote on whether we move to the Alternative Vote system for electing MPs to Westminster instead of the current First Past The Post. The referendum is on a white ballot paper.
So, make sure you complete your forms and are registered to vote if you’re not already. To register to vote in the Lothian region, go to the Lothian Valuation Joint Board’s website. There’s also more information about elections, democratic institutions and guidance about registering to vote and how to vote on the About My Vote website.
*The BBC has produced a summary of what responsibilities and subject areas are devolved to Holyrood and which Westminster has retained.