We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site

Types of Elections

Types of Elections

There are several different types of elections that you may be eligible to vote in.

  • Local Government Elections
  • Scottish Parliamentary Elections
  • UK Parliamentary Election
  • European Parliamentary Elections
  • By Elections
  • Referendums
  • Crofting Commission Elections
  • NHS Heathboard elections
  • National park elections

Local Government Elections

The Scottish Government is responsible for Local Government Elections in Scotland and Scottish Ministers issue rules for the way they are conducted. Elections are held to elect Councillors to 32 unitary local authorities in Scotland. There are currently 1222 Councillors in Scotland. The next Local Government Election will be held in 2012. Since 3 May 2007, Councillors have been elected through the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system which allows voters to express a preference for more than one candidate. The next scheduled election is on 3 May 2012. A detailed description of an STV count in accordance with the Rules in the Scottish Local Government Elections Order 2011 is available here.


Scottish Parliamentary Elections

There are currently 129 elected members in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, of which 73 are constituency members and 56 are list members.

Scottish Parliamentary Elections use the Additional Member System (AMS) where each voter has two votes. One of these elects a constituency MSP using the first past the post system, and the other elects regional representatives from a list of political parties and individual candidates. The elections take place every four years and the next election is expected in 2016.

UK Parliamentary Elections

Members of Parliament (MP's) are elected using a First Past the Post System (FPTP). The UK Parliament currently has a maximum 5-year life span, although the Prime Minister may request that the Queen calls a General Election at any time within the Parliament's lifetime. Those elected sit in the Westminster Parliament. A General Election requires to be held by 2015.

European Elections

The UK is divided into twelve regions, each of which has between 3 and 10 MEP's representing the area. MEP's are elected every five years using a closed list system. MEP's sit in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The next election is scheduled to take place in 2014.


A By Election occurs due to a vacancy caused by the death or resignation of an elected representative. It can take place during any of the standard Election cycles, and is subject to the timetable for normal elections.


Referendums are relatively rare in the UK, but can take place at any time. A referendum on the voting system for UK General Elections took place on 5 May 2011.

Crofting Commission Elections

When the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1st July 2010, it made provision for elections to be held, to establish ‘The Crofting Commission’ as the public body charged with regulating the Crofting Acts. More information can be found here. The Crofting Commission Elections use the AV voting system.

NHS Health Board Elections

The Health Boards (Membership and Elections) (Scotland) Act was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament on 12 March 2009 and introduced, by way of pilots, elections to Health Boards in Scotland. More information can be found here. NHS Heathboard elections use the First Past the Post System (FPTP).

National Park Elections

There are two national parks in Scotland that are ran by National Park Authority Boards. These are Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Cairngorms National Park Authority. More information regarding elections and the Authority Boards can be found here. National park elections also use First Past the Post System (FPTP).