Election reform bill extends period between parliamentary and local government to five years

The Scottish government has published legislation to extend the period between parliamentary and local government elections from four to five years.

The Scottish Elections (Reform) Bill proposes a series of reforms in time for the Scottish Parliament election in 2021 and local government elections in 2022.

Although MSPs elected to Holyrood in 2016 and councillors elected in the 2017 Scottish local government elections are serving five-year terms, the move is intended to avoid potential clashes with a UK general election.

The law remains that MSPs and councillors will serve four years – changing to a five-year term is likely to remove the potential for conflicting election dates in the future.

The legislation also enables all 14-year-olds to register ahead of attaining voting age and prohibits people from people voting in more than one area in local elections – mirroring the law in Scottish and UK Parliament elections.

It also gives the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland – to be renamed Boundaries Scotland – more flexibility in reviewing boundaries and a greater role for the Scottish Parliament in considering its recommendations.

The bill reforms electoral practices, extending the Electoral Management Board for Scotland’s (EMB) role to Scottish Parliament elections.

Government Business and Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said: “This bill invites debate over how Scotland runs its local and national elections.

“The proposal to extend parliamentary and council terms to five years is fully intended to prompt discussion and investigation - it is my hope that we can find a robust consensus on the issue.

“It also provides a basis on which the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee can take evidence.

“Overall the bill, using powers under the Scotland Act 2016, will make a range of substantial improvements to critical areas of our civic and national life.”