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Contingency planning underway for possible changes to 2021 election

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Contingency planning underway for possible changes to 2021 election

Contingency planning for possible changes to the timetable for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election is underway, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said. 

The comments follow concern that COVID and potential restrictions could cause major disruption to the vote, which is due to take place on 6 May next year.

Swinney said the government was planning for the election to take place as scheduled, but that "it's appropriate that we look at contingencies in case that is not practical".

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh has the power to recommend a change to the date of an election by one month either side of the scheduled date, but any more extensive change would require primary legislation going through parliament.

Ministers have held talks with the Electoral Commission and political parties over possible alternative arrangements, with reports in the Sunday Mail suggesting potential options include pushing the vote back until October or moving to an entirely postal vote.

It comes after 700 new positive tests were reported on Saturday, with national clinical director Jason Leitch warning the spread could be accelerating, and amid concern COVID could cause major problems for campaigning in the run up and access to polling stations for the vote.

Speaking to the BBC, Swinney said: “The government's plan - and parliament's plan - is that the election should take place as scheduled on the first Thursday in May.

"Obviously there are some contingencies being looked at by parliament, by all parties, and obviously they will continue to discuss these issues."

He added: "It's vital that we have that democratic process to enable the people of Scotland to choose their government and - certainly from the government's point of view - we want the election in May to go ahead as timetabled already."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We expect the election to go ahead as scheduled but we are working with the Electoral Management Board, the Electoral Commission, Scottish Parliament and political parties to look at options for potentially running an election in different circumstances from the norm if required.”

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