Rock Your Vote - Why and How to Vote in Scotland's Local Elections

This guide has been developed to explain why it is important to use your vote as an LGBT young person and show you the steps involved in voting. 

Local Council elections take place across Scotland on Thursday 4th of May

You need to register your vote by 17th of April.

16 and 17 year olds can vote in this local council election for the first time!

Why Vote?

Voting is the way we choose those who represent us, make decisions on our behalf and how we hold them to account for those decisions.

The difference you can make!

It’s really important that as many young people as possible register and use their vote. Only by voting and lobbying for change can we hope to make lasting and positive change on the lives of young people. We understand though that some young people may not think there is any point in voting, or are just not interested. So, we’ve pulled together this list of important reasons why YOU should vote!

Why local government matters and the impact it can have on young people

On May 4th of this year, local government elections will take place in Scotland across the 32 local authority areas. Each local authority is governed by a council. The council is made up of councilors directly elected by the residents of the area they represent (referred to as a council ward). Each ward has three or four councilors. In total within Scotland, there are 1,223 elected councilors who are normally elected every 4 years. 

Local authorities have a number of powers and duties set out by legislation

  • Mandatory duties - such as providing schooling for 5-16 year olds and social work services;

  • Permissive powers - such as economic development in business support and employability and the development of  recreation services such as leisure and sport activities

  • Regulatory powers - such as trading standards for business, environmental health and licensing laws for taxis etc.

While things like education, policy making and service delivery may seem a world away from the issues you care about they are going to have a direct affect on your life, and the lives of your friends.

Through voting in the local elections in May you can help shape Scotland for the next five years.

Local councillors are responsible for 4 areas:

  •  Representing their ward - representing and meeting with the residents and interest groups within their ward and dealing with issues that they raise. Councillors may also attend, where appropriate, community council meetings and serve on forums through which local issues can be discussed between elected members, council officers and the wider community.

  • Executive decision-making - Councillors attend full meetings of the council, and some councillors may have decision making  roles in relation to policy making, delivery of services and use of resources.

  • Scrutiny of decisions taken by others within a local authority - Councillors may also serve on scrutiny panels or committees - They scrutinise existing policies and service delivery. Such groups may make recommendations to the Council Executive or to full council meetings.

  • Regulatory functions - some council committees, such as those which deal with planning and licensing applications in their local authority.

If you can, you should!

This will be the first time in Scotland that 16-17 year olds can vote in local government elections and have their say in shaping and developing decisions made about their local areas.

The deadline for registering to vote in the upcoming elections is April 17th and elections will run on May 4th.

You can find out more about all the different candidates campaigning for your vote by doing some quick research on your local authority’s website. Listen to what they are saying, ask questions of them and decide who best represents what you stand for

Registering to Vote and What to Expect on the Day

How to Rock Your Vote


You can vote in the general election and the Scottish parliament elections if you are 16 years of age or over. The first thing you need to do is REGISTER to vote. You need to fill in a registration form to get registered. A form is sent to every home in each autumn, but you can register at any time. You should make sure to register when you move house. You can download a registration form and find out more about registering to vote at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

Polling Card

If you are on the register of electors you will be sent a POLLING CARD just before the election. This tells you where, when and how to vote. You don’t need the polling card with you to vote, but do keep it till polling day.

Heading to Vote

On the day of the election, you need to go to the POLLING STATION. This will be somewhere near where you live, usually a school or local hall and the polling station’s address will be listed on your polling card. There will be staff in the polling station when you get there; they will ask for your name and address to check you are on the register.

Staff at the polling station will give you your BALLOT PAPER. This paper is a list of all the people or parties that you van vote for. You may be given more than one of these ballot papers if there is more than one election happening on the same day.

Take your ballot paper into the POLLING BOOTH, so that no one can see how you vote. Depending on the election there are different ways of voting. In the booth there will be instructions on how to mark your ballot paper, or staff in the polling station can help (although they are not allowed to help you decide or discuss political choices with you) Make sure you don’t write anything else on your ballot paper or your vote may not be counted. Fold your ballot paper in half and then put it in the BALLOT BOX. If you aren’t sure what to do, ask staff at the polling station.

Postal Votes

If you can’t make it to the polling station and want to vote by post instead you need to fill in a postal vote application form before the election by April 19th. For more information or to download a postal vote registration form please visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

When the voting is over all the votes across the country are counted. Dependent on the type of election the winner or winners will be those who have the most votes or the greatest proportion of votes. Results of the elections will be announced on the radio, on the television, online and in the newspapers.

How to Vote Video


Useful Links

  • Scottish Youth Parliament –


  • Bite The Ballot


  • Electoral Roll


Download this guide