Scottish Election 2021: Will there be a Scottish election exit poll? This is when we will know the result of the Holyrood ballot

People across Scotland are heading to the polls today, but it could be some time before we know who has won the Holyrood election.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the Electoral Commission, which organises elections across the UK, to change the way it is holding this year’s ballot in Scotland.

The alterations, which include new rules around social distancing at polling stations, have also affected the use of exit polls.

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What is an election exit poll?

An election exit poll is a random poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited polling stations.

Pollsters, usually commissioned by broadcasters like the BBC and STV, hold exit polls to gain an early indication of how each party has performed, before the official result is certified.

An exit poll is considered a useful tool to determine the rough outcome of a vote, since some elections can take several hours or days to certify.

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Nicola Sturgeon and candidate Roza Salih outside the polling station at the Annette Street school in Govanhill, Glasgow

Will there be an exit poll for the Scottish election?

The answer is no.

Unlike in 2019’s General Election, none of the major UK broadcasters are running an exit poll.

Observers will have to wait until the final result is certified to know the outcome of the Holyrood election.

Why is there no exit poll this time?

Broadcasters have decided against commissioning exit polls due to safety concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic.

For a similar reason, there will be no overnight count for the Scottish election.

Instead, votes will be tallied over the coming days.

When will we know who won the election?

In the Scottish Parliament election, there are 73 first-past-the-post constituencies (FPTP).

A majority of FPTP seats, 46 in all, are expected to count during the day on Friday with results due from about lunchtime, peaking in the evening.

The remaining 27 constituencies are understood to be planning to count in the day on Saturday with results due from about lunchtime.

The Scottish Parliament also contains 56 proportional representation top-up seats chosen from eight regional lists, electing a total of 129 MSPs.

But regional MSPs are only awarded seats once all constituency contest have been decided, meaning the full make-up of Holyrood could take until Saturday evening to be certified.

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