Edinburgh counts down to the Scottish Parliament Election 2021 with the highest ever numbers of registered voters and postal votes

Elections staff verifying postal votes

With less than a week to go until the Scottish Parliament Election 2021, Edinburgh is gearing up to play its own part in the vote on 6 May.

Preparations are already well under way across the city’s 140 polling places and at the Royal Highland Centre, where the count will be held over two days (7 and 8 May).

Training is in progress for staff working on the day and the first postal votes are being processed.

More people than ever before are registered to vote in this election Edinburgh (401,321 people) and more than a quarter of these (102,138) have opted to vote by post – the largest number of postal votes of any Scottish local authority and the highest ever for the Capital.

And though registration for the electoral roll is now closed, citizens are still being urged to think carefully about their vote, to ensure they know when, where and how to vote on Thursday, 6 May and to return their postal vote in plenty of time.

Andrew Kerr, Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh Council and Returning Officer for the Edinburgh constituencies and the Lothian Region, said: 

We are entering the final days of preparation for the Scottish Parliament Election and anticipation is clearly beginning to build across the city.

Running an election in the Capital is no mean feat, and it’s thanks to a great deal of organisation and the hard work of our Elections Team and hundreds of count and polling staff to adapt to the additional restrictions due to the pandemic that things go to plan.

As we draw nearer to the day, I hope the public are making their own plans for voting, and ensuring they know when, where and how to have their say, remembering to put one cross on each paper on the day. On polling day there will be additional hygiene and distancing measures at polling places to keep voters and staff safe. These include a fresh pencil for each voter, protective screens for polling staff, one-way systems in some venues, additional ventilation and limits on the number of voters in polling places at any time.

This year we’ve got the largest electorate we’ve ever had for an election in Edinburgh (401,321 registered to vote) and more than a quarter of these (102,138 people) have opted for a postal vote – the highest number of postal votes we’ve ever had and more than any other Scottish local authority. If you’re voting this way please make sure you post it in plenty of time – they must be received by 10pm on Thursday 6 May.

As we count down the final few days until voting day on 6 May, we're counting up some of the key facts about Edinburgh’s vote:

  • 401,321: the number of people registered to vote in the Scottish Parliament Election 2021 in Edinburgh.  Of these 102,138 of these are postal voters. This is the highest electorate and number of postal votes ever for an election in Edinburgh and there are more people registered to vote by post in Edinburgh than in any other Scottish Council area.  
  • There are six constituencies in Edinburgh – Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh Eastern, Edinburgh Northern & Leith, Edinburgh Pentlands, Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh Western. The Lothian Region also includes the three constituencies Almond Valley, Linlithgow and Midlothian North & Musselburgh.
  • There are 33 individual candidates standing across Edinburgh’s constituencies. 18 parties and one independent are contesting the seven seats available for the Lothian Region, with a total of 94 candidates involved.
  • 140 buildings will be used as polling places on Thursday, 5 May, housing 352 polling stations.  Each station will have two ballot boxes – one for the lilac Constituency paper and one for the peach-coloured Region paper.   
  • This year, the Council will employ over 900 polling staff to assist the public to cast their vote – with one presiding officer and at least one polling assistant in each polling station.
  • The count will take place over two days (Friday 7 and Saturday 8 May), counting three constituencies on each day. Friday: Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh Western. Saturday: Edinburgh Eastern, Edinburgh Northern and Leith and Edinburgh Pentlands. The results of the regional list vote will be declared on Saturday 8 May.
  • Over the two-day count, there will be another 300 staff per day tallying votes.

Amongst the equipment used in Edinburgh this May will be:


  • 250,000 pencils*
  • 632 bottles of hand gel
  • 140 bottles of anti-bac spray
  • 140 blue rolls
  • 140 boxes of face masks
  • 140 boxes of gloves
  • 280 visors


  • 250 bottles of hand gel
  • 36 bottles of anti-bac spray
  • 36 blue rolls
  • 27 cleaning stations
  • 320 clear rubbish bags
  • 3,744 Glacier mints/fruits per day (served in individual cups for each staff member)
  • 660 post-it pads
  • 1068 rubber thimbles


  • 8526m² – the area of the count venue - Highland Hall at the Royal Highland Centre. This is bigger than the size of a professional football pitch. 
  • At the UK Parliamentary Election in December 2019 turnout in the Capital was high, at an average of 73% across Edinburgh’s five constituencies
  • Turnout for last Scottish Parliament election in 2016 was approx. 60%
  • Edinburgh accounts for around 8.7% of Scotland’s electorate – second highest in Scotland after Glasgow.
  • Three different types of polling booths are used in Edinburgh – aluminium, wood and cardboard.
  • Polls open at 7am and close at 10pm on 6 May.

*voters are encouraged to bring their own pencil, or can keep the single-use pencils provided at the polling places

Find out how, where and when to vote in the Scottish Parliament Election 2021.

Published: April 30th 2021