Scottish elections 2021: Your guide to the Holyrood election results

Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in one of the strangest elections in Scotland’s history, but what will happen once all the ballots are counted and what will be the key moments over the coming days?

Voters turned out to vote in the Holyrood election on Thursday May 6.
Voters turned out to vote in the Holyrood election on Thursday May 6.

When will we know the results?

There is no exit poll – when pollsters across the country interview voters to get an understanding of the overall vote – following this election meaning no-one will have any idea of the final results until they begin to be announced on Friday from around midday.

The majority of the constituency results – 44 of the 73 overall seats elected via the first-past-the-post electoral system – will be announced by the end of play on Friday

The remaining 29 FPTP seats will be confirmed most likely by mid-afternoon on Saturday, though delays are possible and could push the results of the final constituencies into the evening.

Most of the eight regions will declare their results on Saturday evening after they finish counting the final ballots for the constituencies.

The regional list results will then be announced on Saturday evening, potentially as late as 8pm, with any delays to counting potentially pushing the final result to Sunday.

Where are the key constituencies?

In 2016, the SNP won 59 of the 73 constituency seats available while also gaining three seats via the regional list in South Scotland and one in the Highlands and Islands.

Barring a major collapse in several constituencies across Scotland, the SNP will likely only win an overall majority should they gain seats via the constituency ballot.

Those most likely to flip yellow on any election map are Scottish Labour-held Dumbarton, Edinburgh Southern, and East Lothian, and Scottish Conservative held Edinburgh Central, Eastwood, Ayr, and Aberdeenshire West.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat held Edinburgh Western and North East Fife are also narrow marginals, but are unlikely to change hands.

Should the SNP win just three of the seats currently held by other parties, they would be set for a narrow overall majority assuming they do not lose any seats elsewhere.

Keep an eye on Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Moray and several of the rural north east seats as potential Conservative gains from the SNP, with Coatbridge and Cowdenbeath targets for Scottish Labour.

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross meanwhile could be a rare SNP to Liberal Democrat switch.

The SNP’s performance in each of these seats will, on their own, indicate whether sky-high support for Nicola Sturgeon’s party in the polls has translated into turnout.

If by the end of Friday the SNP have failed to win at least two of Edinburgh Central, Dumbarton, Eastwood, East Lothian, Ayr, the party is likely in for a rough time overall in its pursuit of a majority.

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What about the other parties?

Given the SNP’s dominance in the constituency aspect of the election, all of the opposition parties will be glued to the results of the regional lists.

This is the key aspect of the election for both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives as the degree of support on the peach ballot will determine who finishes second overall and control the main thrust of opposition to the SNP.

Polls suggest Douglas Ross’ party will come through in second place barring a last-gasp surge in favour of Anas Sarwar and Scottish Labour.

The Scottish Greens will be counting every vote as it comes in amid hopes for representation in every region and reaching double figures of MSPs.

They will be watching the results in the North East, South Scotland and Central Scotland the closest and will hope to keep two MSPs in the Lothian region.

Alex Salmond’s Alba party are most likely to gain seats in the North East where the former first minister is aiming to be elected, with the Highlands and Islands and the West of Scotland the next most likely regions to see an Alba MSP.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, will hope to improve on their fourth place on the regional list nationally in 2016 and push both the Scottish Greens and Alba below them.

George Galloway’s All for Unity party may shock in South Scotland, but success for the pro-union party is highly unlikely.

How can I watch the results on the TV?

The BBC will cover counts across the country alongside interviews and analysis from its Glasgow studio across more than 20 hours of radio and TV coverage.

Election 2021 Scotland, presented by Rebecca Curran, will air on Friday from noon until 8pm on BBC One Scotland, simulcast on BBC Radio Scotland.

On Saturday the show will return from noon to 7:15pm with Martin Geissler in the presenter’s chair.

He and Fiona Stalker will also present The Sunday Show the following day, broadcasting for one hour on BBC One Scotland from 10:15am and continuing until noon on BBC Radio Scotland.

For Gaelic speakers, the BBC Naidheachdan team will be live from Inverness with an hour-long special of An Taghadh on BBC ALBA from 7pm on Friday with BBC Radio nan Gaidheal covering results through the day on Friday and Saturday.

STV will broadcast an Election Special, presented by John MacKay and Rona Dougall, airing for three hours from 4pm and then from 8pm for 30 minutes on Friday, bringing key declarations as they happen.

An additional Election Special will also air on Saturday from 4:30pm, covering that day’s results.

What happens after the results?

Once we know the results, the largest party – almost guaranteed to be the SNP – will attempt to form a government.

This is most likely going to be an SNP minority government, similar to the one which has held power since 2016.

However a formal coalition with the Scottish Greens to earn that majority is a possibility and has not been ruled out by either party.

MSPs will then begin to arrive at Holyrood for their registration process on Monday and on Thursday, May 13, MSPs will take the oath in the chamber in the morning.

MSPs will then vote to decide who follows Ken Macintosh into the chair as Presiding Officer in the afternoon.

Deputy presiding officers will be elected on Friday, May 14.

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