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Scottish General Election (Coronavirus) Act 2021

Other arrangements for 2021 election

Section 7: Dissolution of current Parliament: consequential modifications

22.This section makes adjustments to certain provisions of the 2015 Order in consequence of the change to the timing of dissolution made by section 6.

23.Article 80(1) of the 2015 Order provides that a person becomes a “candidate”, in relation to a Scottish Parliamentary election, on the dissolution of the Parliament. Subsection (2) of section 7 modifies this to 27 working days before 6 May 2021 – this is expected to be 25 March, which is also anticipated to be the point at which the Parliament enters recess for the election campaign. A person would then remain a candidate from then on (barring deselection or resignation) even if the election were to be postponed – in other words, they would not become a candidate in legal terms for a second time.

24.Another effect of this provision of the 2015 Order, in combination with section 7 of the Act, is that a number of individuals will be both serving MSPs and election candidates from 25 March until 4 May (if the election is not postponed by the Presiding Officer, in which case section 11(8) of the Act would also postpone dissolution). However, MSPs will remain subject to the MSP Code of Conduct in terms of their use of Parliamentary privileges and resources during this period, meaning that it will be possible for the new Parliament to consider any complaints against a successful candidate who was alleged to have abused their position as a sitting MSP in this period.

25.This provision also has implications for the “regulated period” for campaign expenditure for an election under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which covers expenditure by political parties and others in the run up to a poll date. The regulated period is split into the “long” and “short” campaigns, each having different rules for the recording of expenditure for the purposes of returns that require to be submitted to the Electoral Commission. The long campaign will commence on 6 January 2021. The short campaign commences the day after a person becomes a candidate – by the operation of section 7(2) of the Act, the short campaign is expected to commence on 26 March 2021.

26.Paragraph 1(2) of schedule 1 of the 2015 Order links the supply of electoral registers, by electoral registration officers to local authority returning officers, to the date of dissolution. Section 7(3) of the Act changes this to 27 working days before the election takes place. If the election were to be postponed, the duty on electoral registration officers to supply the register as soon as practicable after that date would be reactivated.

27.For the purpose of calculating the dates mentioned in this section, the Scottish Parliamentary Election Rules are set out in schedule 2 of the 2015 Order, with paragraph 2 the relevant provision on the computation of time.

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