Scottish Parliament Election - 6 May 2021: guidance for the Scottish Government, its agencies and National Devolved Public Bodies

Sets out guidance for the Scottish Government, its Agencies and National Devolved Public Bodies ahead of the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Elections.

Note 6: Political Activities of Staff

1. All political activity connected with the election falls within the definition of national political activity, so the general rules on civil servants' participation in national political activities apply. The Civil Service is divided into three groups:

  • The "politically free" ‐ industrial and non-office grades;
  • The "politically restricted" - members of the Senior Civil Service, civil servants in Band C, Fast Stream staff and Graduate Development Programme members of staff; and
  • The "intermediate group" - civil servants in Bands A and B.

2. All civil servants (whichever group they belong to) are disqualified from election to the Scottish Parliament and must therefore resign from the Civil Service before standing for election. If you intend to become a candidate for the Scottish Parliament, you should contact HR to discuss how the rules apply to you, the effective date of resignation and, if your candidature is unsuccessful, the possibility of reinstatement.

3. Aside from Parliamentary candidature, the "politically free" group may engage without restriction in national political activities (as described in paragraph 6 below). "Politically restricted" civil servants are totally debarred from national political activities.

4. The "intermediate group" may participate in national political activities provided:

  • They do so in their capacity as private individuals, without reference to their roles or experience as civil servants; and
  • They have official permission to do so (taking into account the points in paragraph 5 below).

5. The area in which "intermediate group" civil servants work is also relevant. For example, it may be less appropriate for those civil servants working in areas with a high level of Ministerial contact to engage in such activity than for those in areas where there is little such contact. If you wish to participate in national political activities, you must discuss this with your line manager and seek permission from HR.

6. National political activities are:

  • Holding, in a party political organisation, office which impinges wholly or mainly on party politics related to the Scottish Parliament;
  • Speaking in public on matters of national political controversy;
  • Expressing views on such matters in the media, or in books, articles, letters to the press, leaflets or on social networking sites;
  • Being announced publicly as a candidate or prospective candidate for Parliament; and
  • Canvassing on behalf of a candidate for Parliament or on behalf of a political party.

7. Civil servants on secondment to outside organisations remain civil servants, and the rules relating to political activity continue to apply to them (as does all the guidance). Individuals seconded into the Civil Service are also covered by these rules for the duration of their appointment.

8. Further guidance on the political activities of Scottish Government civil servants only is available on their staff Intranet. Case specific advice on participation on political activity can be provided by submitting a query via HR Online

Further information

9. For further advice, please contact the

  • Jane Wilson or
  • Julie MacFadyen



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