This page will be your guide to the upcoming Holyrood election, covering everything from the most exciting battlegrounds, through polling and projections, to tracking the MSPs due to retire. As the election draws closer, new information, data and analysis will be added to this page frequently so that you have the most up-to-date information at your fingertips.

The election is currently expected to be held on the 6th of May 2021. As with so much else, the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic means that date should be taken as indicative rather than certain. 

Retiring MSPs

Before the election itself gets underway, parties are going through their internal candidate selection procedures. That means sitting MSPs have been indicating whether they intend to re-contest their seat or stand down.

So far a total of 27 MSPs have announced they will not be re-standing in 2021. This exceeds the 24 ahead of 2016. Note that as Holyrood is still quite a young parliament, we don’t have a settled idea of what a “normal” level of retirement looks like as yet.

Of the 129 MSPs elected at the first ever Scottish Parliament election in 1999, there are currently 26 still serving in Holyrood. 11 of the announced retirements are from the class of 1999. There’s a detailed piece about those long-serving MSPs here.

Nearer the election I may write a few dedicated pieces about these departing MSPs, but until then this easy reference list will tell you what seat they currently represent and when they were elected to it, if they previously represented any other seats, and any major roles they have had in their time.

  • Peter Chapman, North East (2016)
  • Ruth Davidson, Edinburgh Central (2016)
    • Previously Glasgow (2011-2016)
    • Former Leader of the Scottish Conservatives (2011-2019)
  • Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland (2003)
    • Candidate for leader in 2011, lost to Ruth Davidson
  • Adam Tomkins, Glasgow (2016)
  • John Finnie, Highlands and Islands (2011)
    • Initially elected as SNP in 2011, resigned from the party in 2012 and sat as an Independent for the rest of the term. Re-elected as a Green in 2016

Note that both Independent MSPs were elected as SNP in 2016. It is vanishingly unlikely that Derek Mackay will be standing as a candidate again, with the SNP having started selection procedures for a new candidate. However, I prefer to have a formal announcement of intent before I add to the list.

  • Mark McDonald, Aberdeen Donside (2013)
    • Previously North East (2011-2013)
  • Mary Fee, West Scotland (2011)
  • Neil Findlay, Lothian (2011)
    • Candidate for leader in 2014, lost to Jim Murphy
  • Iain Gray, East Lothian (2007)
    • Previously Edinburgh Pentlands (1999-2003)
    • Former Leader of Scottish Labour (2008-2011)
    • Held two Junior Minister roles (Social Justice then Enterprise) from 2001-2003
  • Elaine Smith, Central Scotland (2016)
    • Previously Coatbridge and Chryston (1999-2016)
    • Deputy Presiding Officer (2011-2016)
  • David Stewart, Highlands and Islands (2007)
    • Previously MP for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber (1997-2005)
  • Mike Rumbles, North East (2016)
    • Previously West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (1999-2011)
    • Candidate for leader in 2005, lost to Nicol Stephen, and in 2008, lost to Tavish Scott
  • Ken Macintosh, West (2016)
    • Previously Eastwood (1999-2016)
    • Was Labour before taking up the Non-Partisan role of Presiding Officer
    • Candidate for leader in 2011, lost to Johann Lamont, and in 2015, lost to Kezia Dugdale

The Scottish Parliament does not follow the same traditions for the Presiding Officer as the UK Parliament does for the Speaker. Whilst the Speaker may stand for re-election under that banner any number of times, and by convention will not face an opponent from any of the major parties, all Presiding Officers have served only a single term in that role.

Additionally, only one former Presiding Officer – Alex Fergusson in the 2007-2011 session – has chosen to re-stand for election at all, and did so as a Conservative. The Presiding Officer suspends rather than totally abandons their party affiliation during their term of office, and for that reason although I haven’t counted Macintosh in the current Labour total in this list, he is included as a Labour MSP in the map below.

  • Aileen Campbell, Clydesdale (2011)
    • Previously South Scotland (2007-2011)
    • Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government since 2018
    • Held three Junior Minister roles (Local Government, Children, Public Health) from 2011-2018
  • Bruce Crawford, Stirling (2007)
    • Previously Mid Scotland and Fife (1999-2007)
    • Junior Minister for Parliamentary Business from 2007-2011
    • Cabinet Secretary for Parliament and Government Strategy from 2011-2012
  • Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire (2011)
    • Previously Perth (1999-2011), boundary changes
    • Previously MP for Perth and Kinross (1995-1997) then Perth (1997-2001)
    • Former Depute Leader of the SNP (2000-2004)
    • Candidate for leader in 2004, lost to Alex Salmond
    • Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform since 2016
    • Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training from 2014-2016
    • Held two Junior Minister roles (Environment then Community Safety) from 2009-2014
  • Linda Fabiani, East Kilbride (2011)
    • Previously Central Scotland (1999-2011)
    • Deputy Presiding Officer since 2016
    • Junior Minister for Europe from 2007-2009
  • Jeane Freeman, Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (2016)
    • Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport since 2018
    • Junior Minister for Social Security from 2016-2018
  • Richard Lyle, Uddingston and Bellshill (2016)
    • Previously Central Scotland (2011-2016)
  • Angus MacDonald, Falkirk East (2011)
  • Alex Neil, Airdrie and Shotts (2011)
    • Previously Central Scotland (1999-2011)
    • Candidate for leader in 2000, lost to John Swinney
    • Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioner’s Rights from 2014-2016
    • Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing from 2012-2014
    • Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment from 2011-2012
    • Junior Minister for Housing from 2009-2011
  • Gil Paterson, Clydebank and Milngavie (2011)
    • Previously Central Scotland (1999-2003) then West of Scotland (2007-2011)
  • Gail Ross, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross (2016)
  • Mike Russell, Argyll and Bute (2011)
    • Previously South of Scotland (1999-2003, then 2007-2011)
    • Candidate for leader in 2004, lost to Alex Salmond
    • Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, Europe and External Affairs since 2016
    • Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning from 2009-2014
    • Held two Junior Minister roles (Environment then Culture) from 2007-2009.
  • Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast (2011)
    • Previously Banff and Buchan (2001-2011), boundary changes
    • Held two Junior Minister roles (Transport then Environment) from 2007-2010 then 2011-2012.
  • Maureen Watt, Aberdeen South and North Kincardine (2011)
    • Previously North East (2006-2011)
    • Held three Junior Minister roles (Schools, Public Health, then Mental Health) from 2007-2009, then 2014-18.
  • Sandra White, Glasgow Kelvin (2011)
    • Previously Glasgow (1999-2011)

Polling

The charts below show the current 5-poll average for both the Regional (List) and Constituency ballots as well as projected seats. See the dedicated Scottish Parliament Polling page for individual poll data and trends, and the Projections category for detailed analysis of each poll.

2016 Results and 2021 Candidates

2016 results were one of the first bits of information that appeared on Ballot Box Scotland. Since then, this website has come on leaps and bounds, and that data looked a bit dated. It has now been comprehensively overhauled, with shiny interactive charts plus pretty constituency maps.

With 73 constituencies and two ballots to show for each, it wouldn’t make much sense to replicate the GE19 Hub’s “every constituency in one place” approach. Instead, each region has its own detailed results page. A crucial difference compared to, for example, the BBC or indeed Wikipedia coverage is that a full breakdown of list vote per constituency is also provided. This gives the full story of the election in a way no where else really does.

Candidate information will be added to the same pages when it becomes available after the close of nominations shortly before the election.

Ballot Box Battlegrounds - March/April 2021

Due after Parliament dissolves in March, the Ballot Box Battleground series will take a look at the 16 most marginal (swing of 5% or less to flip) constituencies across Scotland, plus 4 others that may be particularly worth keeping an eye on.

Party Profiles - March 2021

In early 2021, we’ll take a look at each of the five Holyrood parties in more detail. What has their electoral history been like? What are polls suggesting might be in store for them this time? What seats are most worth watching?