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 could change at short notice, though by this stage it’s very unlikely.

The Voting System

The Scottish Parliament is elected by a system of proportional representation called the “Additional Member System” (AMS). It features 73 constituency seats, elected by traditional First Past the Post, and 56 proportional “list” seats in eight regions. List seats ensure proportionality within each region, so a party that wins many constituencies usually doesn’t need list seats for their fair share overall.

You can read a little bit more about the system and how it works on this explanation page.


The charts below show the Multi-Pollster averages for both the Regional (List) and Constituency ballots. This simply takes the most recent poll from each of the different polling agencies that have run Holyrood polling this year. It also shows the seat projection for that average. As the election date is now looming, I’m removing pollsters from the average if it has been more than one month since their last poll.

For a party to be included in these charts, it will have to have polled at least 2% of the regional vote in polls from two different agencies at some point in 2021. This is the arbitrary line I’ve drawn to minimise the clutter of showing multiple smaller parties bumping along on 1% or less.

See the dedicated Scottish Parliament Polling page for individual poll data and longer term trends before the election period, and the Projections category for detailed analysis of each poll.

Regional (List) Polling

Constituency Polling

Seat Projections

Independence Polling

Party Profiles

There are five major parties who have been represented at Holyrood since the very first election in 1999. 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?

Ballot Box Battlegrounds

The Ballot Box Battleground series is taking a more in-depth look some of what may be the closest and most interesting constituency contests in this election. First up will be the 16 seats that would traditionally be considered “marginal”, meaning they’d need a swing of 5% or less to flip. There’s also a bonus round of seats which don’t meet that definition, but are still worth watching.

Other Articles

Other articles related to the 2021 election:

2016 Results and 2021 Candidates

Full results of the previous election in 2016, and the complete lists of candidates who’ll be contesting this election, are available on the regional pages linked below. A crucial difference compared to, for example, the BBC or indeed Wikipedia data is that a full breakdown of list vote per constituency is also shown. This gives the full story of the election in a way no where else really does.

The total number of candidates standing in this election is as follows:

  • 701 Regional List Candidates
    • 689 across 24 parties
    • 12 Independents
  • 357 Constituency Candidates
    • 342 across 16 parties
    • 15 Independents
  • 808 Individual Candidates
    • I.e. not counting the same person standing on both ballots twice.

The range of party presence on ballots is as follows:

  • 13 contesting every regional list
    • Of which 9 are also contesting some constituencies
  • 6 contesting a mix of some regions and constituencies
  • 5 contesting some regions only
  • 1 contesting a constituency only

A complete list is available in both PDF and Excel formats for real nerds.

Retiring MSPs

A total of 34 MSPs are not 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. 13 of the retirements are from the class of 1999. There’s a detailed piece about those long-serving MSPs here.

  • Bill Bowman, North East (2016)
  • Peter Chapman, North East (2016)
  • Ruth Davidson, Edinburgh Central (2016)
    • Previously Glasgow (2011-2016)
    • Former Leader of the Scottish Conservatives (2011-2019)
  • Alison Harris, Central (2016)
  • Tom Mason, North East (2017)
  • 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

Of the other two Independents, one is Andy Wightman, formerly of the Greens, who is contesting the Highlands and Islands as an Independent.

Michelle Ballantyne, who did a brief stint as an Independent following leaving the Conservatives, seems set to re-contest as a Reform UK candidate, having adopted that affiliation in the chamber too. I’m keeping her in the total number of independents in spite of that, for ease of display.

  • Derek Mackay, Renfrewshire North and West (2011)
    • Elected as SNP
    • Cabinet Secretary for Finance (and various other items, 2016-2020)
    • Junior Minister for Transport (2014-2016)
    • Was suspended and resigned from the SNP as a result of inappropriate behaviour.
  • Mark McDonald, Aberdeen Donside (2013)
    • Previously North East (2011-2013)
    • Elected as SNP
    • Junior Minister for Children and Early Years (2016-2017)
    • Was suspended and resigned from the SNP as a result of harassment.
  • 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
  • Johann Lamont, Glasgow (2016)
    • Previously Glasgow Pollok (1999-2016)
    • Former Leader of Scottish Labour (2011-2014)
    • Former Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour (2008-2011)
    • Junior Minister for Justice (2006-2007)
  • Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland (2011)
    • Previously Aberdeen Central (1999-2011)
    • Held four Junior Minister roles (Transport, Enterprise, Environment, Health) from 2001-2007
  • Jenny Marra, North East Scotland (2011)
  • 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)