National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Electoral Statistics - Scotland 1st December 2015

Electoral Statistics - Scotland 1st December 2015


This report gives statistics on the 2016 Electoral Register which came into effect on 1 December 2015.  For the last two years the reference date was changed to 10 March 2014 and 2 March 2015 to facilitate the change to a system of Individual Electoral Registration, but this has now been changed back to 1st December. Further information available on the Electoral Commission website. 

The tables provide data on the people who are registered to vote in UK Parliamentary elections (59 constituencies), Scottish Parliamentary elections (73 constituencies and 8 regions), for Local Government elections (32 council areas and 353 electoral wards), and for the European Parliamentary elections.

The statistics in this publication are used by government to inform electoral policy, in the work of the Boundary Commission for Scotland for constituency design, and by political parties and members of the UK and the Scottish Parliament, local government, academics and members of the public with an interest in the political process.  


Table 1 shows that between March 2015 and December 2015:

  • The number of UK Parliamentary electors in Scotland dropped by 138,542 (3.4 per cent) to 3,896,852, the first drop in the size of the UK parliamentary electorate in Scotland since 2009.
  • The number of registered Local Government and Scottish Parliament electors in Scotland dropped by 101,968 (2.5 per cent) to 4,029,958, also the first reduction in the electorate since 2009.

Figure 1 shows the patterns in Scottish electorates since 2001. There has recently been a drop in all the electorates. This is mainly due to the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER), which has affected the registration of students in particular. Prior to the introduction of IER, block registration was permitted particularly for student in halls of residence, but this practice has now been discontinued. IER has essentially made individuals responsible for their own registration, and many students have not yet taken this up. An additional factor in the past year has been the introduction of a lower voting age of 16 and above for local government and Scottish Parliament elections. Due to the timing of this change in legislation, and the timing of the canvass, this has only had a limited effect on the electorate thus far, but it is expected that this will be more fully taken up in 2016.

Figure 1: Scottish Electorates since 2001

Figure 1: Scottish Electorates since 2001

Table 2 shows that on 1 December 2015, the largest UK Parliamentary constituency in Scotland was Linlithgow and East Falkirk with 83,593 people registered to vote and the smallest was Na h-Eileanan an Iar with 20,887 people. The constituency with the smallest electorate on mainland Scotland was Caithness, Sutherland and Ross (45,898 electors).

There has been a drop in the local government electorate across most council areas in Scotland since the last reference date (March 2015). The largest drops are evident in the areas with large student populations, such as Aberdeen, Dundee Edinburgh and Glasgow - having drops of around four per cent in their electorates. Overall the most recent Scottish Parliament and local government electorate (4,029,958 electors) is higher than it was at the time of the last Scottish Parliamentary election in 2011 (3,985,161 electors) (Table 3). The next local government election in Scotland is due in 2017.

The average number of electors in the 73 Scottish Parliamentary constituencies dropped by around 1,397 between March 2015 and December 2015. The largest and smallest constituencies were Linlithgow (69,980 electors) and the Orkney Islands (16,705 electors) respectively. The constituency with smallest electorate on mainland Scotland is Renfrewshire South with 48,120  (refer to Table 4 and Table 5). The next Scottish Parliamentary election is due on 5 May 2016.

Table 6 shows the electorates in the 353 wards in Scotland by council area. The average Electoral Ward in Scotland had 11,416 electors (and 60 attainers), although the numbers vary widely according to the number of councillors representing the ward, and other local considerations. Note that attainers this year are those who will reach the age of 16 during the currency of the Register while attainers in previous years were those who would reach the age of 18. The number of young voters (and attainers) is expected to increase in advance of the Scottish Parliamentary election in May 2016. 

European Parliamentary election

A European Parliamentary election took place on 22 May 2014 and the next is not due until 2019. As of 1 December 2015, 3 896,805 people were registered to vote in a European Parliamentary– a decrease of 3.7 per cent.


All statistical publications