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Who can vote in Scottish elections?

To vote in Scottish Parliament elections you must:

  • Be registered to vote at an address in Scotland
  • Be 16 or older on the day of the election
  • Not be legally excluded from voting

You must also be:

  • A British citizen
  • An Irish citizen
  • A foreign national of another country living in Scotland who has leave to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need leave

Registering to vote

You must register to vote in Scottish elections. Once you have registered you only need to register again if you move house or change your name.

  • You can register to vote online by following this link. This usually takes 5 minutes.
  • You can register to vote by post. To do this you must download and fill out a paper form in this link.
  • You may need your national insurance number or your passport if you are a British citizen living abroad.

Can I register to vote anonymously? 

You may be able to register anonymously if you’re worried about being listed on the electoral register.

You’ll need to:

  • explain why your safety, or the safety of another person in your house, would be at risk
  • provide evidence to support your application

I don’t know if I’m registered. How can I check this?

You can contact your local Electoral Registration Office to find out if you’re already registered to vote.

I changed my details since the last time I registered to vote. What should I do?

You can also use the register to vote service to:

  • change your name, address or nationality
  • get on or off the open register

You’ll need to register again with your new details (even if you’re already registered to vote).

The Electoral Roll

There are 2 versions of the electoral register – the full version and the ‘open register’.

Full register

Everyone’s name and address go on the full version of the electoral register, and you cannot opt out. This is the version of the register that’s used for elections and referendums.

The full version of the register can only be used for:

  • electoral administration purposes (such as sending out poll cards before elections)
  • campaigning activities (for example, candidates and political parties sending election communications to voters, surveying opinions or fundraising)
  • preventing and detecting crime
  • checking applications for loans or credit
  • jury summoning in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Open register

You can opt out of the open register. This is the version of the register that’s available to anyone who wants to buy a copy.

To opt-out, either:

Opting out does not affect your right to vote.

When you opt out of the open register, your details will still appear on the full version of the electoral register.

How to vote

You can decide if you want to vote and who you want to vote for in any Scottish vote. You can vote in person, by post or by proxy (where you ask someone you trust to vote on your behalf).

Voting at a polling place

  • You will receive a poll card in the post. This will tell you where your local polling place is.
  • A member of staff will ask for your name and address and give you a ballot paper.
  • You will be shown to a polling booth where you can vote in secret. You must fold up your ballot paper and put it into the sealed ballot box.

Voting by post

  • If you have registered for a postal vote, you will receive your ballot by post. You must complete and return your ballot papers with enough time for them to arrive by 10am on the day the vote is held.

Voting by proxy

  • You must register to vote by proxy with your electoral registration office.
  • You must tell your proxy who you would like to vote for and they go to your polling place and vote on your behalf.

Follow these links for more information:

This information was updated on 13th April 2022.