Ensuring next year’s Holyrood election can take place is the focus of a new Bill being considered by the Scottish Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.
With the election currently due to take place on 6 May 2021, the impact of Covid-19 means that contingency measures have been suggested by the Scottish Government to make sure the elections can take place as planned.
Measures in the Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Bill include provisions for an increase in postal voting levels, as well as physical distancing measures at polling stations and counts. Other measures include, changing the dissolution period and extending the power of the Presiding Officer to recommend postponement of the election.
Now the Committee want to know if these measures would work in practice and have the impact needed to adapt to a Scotland living with the Covid pandemic.
Committee Convener, Bill Kidd MSP said:
“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.”
Deputy Convener, Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“With the election less than 7 months away, it is clear that the impact of Covid will be huge. Many of our lives have changed beyond description and it is right that plans are put in place to allow us to vote safely and with confidence in our election process.
“With plans in the Bill to a change in dissolution and suggestions around postal voting, we want to hear from those who would be affected by these changes to ensure that they could work in practice to ensure that we all have access to democracy.”
Questions the Committee are asking include:
• What are your views on the power to allow Ministers acting by regulations to permit physical polling to take place over multiple days?
• Do you agree with the deadline for applications to vote by post being moved forward to 6 April 2021?
• What are your views on the proposal to give Ministers a power to make any necessary changes to legislation to permit an all-postal election?
With the election currently scheduled to take place on 6 May 2021, the Scottish Government has 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.
Due to this short timetable, those wishing to subject their views have just one week, with the closing date for submissions, Sunday 22 November 2020. Responses should be sent to https://yourviews.parliament.scot/sppa/scottish-general-election-coronavirus-bill/.
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