After an unpredictable year, the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary election concluded with a predictable result, a historic fourth term in Government for the SNP.

That the SNP would once again be the largest party at Holyrood was never in doubt. What kept two days of news coverage interesting, for me at least, was whether the party could replicate its 2011 success and reach a majority. The long slog was broken up by some highlights:

  • record voter turnout (63.6%)
  • the election of the first (@kaukabstewart) and then the second (@PamGosalMSP) women of colour in the Scottish Parliament’s 22-year history
  • and the election of the first permanent wheelchair user, also a woman (@GlasgowPam).

The will-they-won’t-they speculation ended earlier than billed when on Saturday evening it was confirmed the SNP would be one seat short of a majority.

As policy colleagues know, minority government can be an opportunity for influencers. Achieving change is often a numbers game. Over the last five years, many colleagues have perfected the knack of working across parties to achieve change. Changes the sector secured to the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 is one of many examples.

As the dust settled, we learned the most diverse group of MSPs in Holyrood’s history had been elected: 58 women (45% of the parliament) and six minority-ethnic MSPs. Still some way to go, but surely a positive for policy making.

The record number of women elected could also (hopefully) push for more family friendly policies within the Scottish Parliament itself. The expertise of Jenny Marra, Gail Ross, and Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell, was lost when all stood down to spend more time with their children. Change is needed.

In total, 25% of existing MSPs stood down including big hitters, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, and Constitution secretary Mike Russell. As a result, a third of MSPs are new to the Scottish Parliament (42 out of 129), an opportunity to form new relationships and alliances. (An up-to-date list is available at the Current Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) | Scottish Parliament Website).

So where to from here? In the next week MSPs will elect a First Minister (18 May). The First Minister and Party Leaders will then nominate Ministers and Shadow Ministers. Time to dust off the manifestos and remind the parties of their commitments to your priorities.