PEOPLE who are shielding will be sent advice on their options for voting as Scotland prepares for its “Covid election”.

The mailing is being prepared by the Electoral Commission and Chief Medical Officer as part of a drive to encourage people to think about how they want to cast their ballot in May.

The number using postal votes is expected to significantly rise compared to the General Election in December 2019, with a deadline for registering on April 6.

Nearly four in 10 Scots have said they would prefer to vote by post, according to the latest research from the Electoral Commission.

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However most respondents – 77% – said they would feel safe going in person to vote with appropriate hygiene measures and physical distancing in place.

Only around 1% of those surveyed said they would appoint someone to vote on their behalf.

Plans for polling stations include everything from physical distancing to having “single-use” pencils available for voters.

Last week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it will not be “an election as normal”.

She said: “My view on this, and it has been my view all along, is that if it is at all possible, the election should go ahead.

“Because we live in a democracy and it is right that people – perhaps even more so in a crisis – get the chance to cast their verdict on the government that is running the country.

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“I think it is important that democracy happens.

“We’re not all going to be campaigning in the way we normally do, chapping on people’s doors. Maybe in the later stages more of that will be possible, but right now that is not possible.

“There will be arrangements that have to be made for the safe conduct of voting and counting.”

It has also emerged that full results from the upcoming Scottish Parliament election may take days to be announced after a decision was made not to count votes overnight.

The counting of ballots usually begins when polls close at 10pm, with this year’s vote set to take place on Thursday, May 6, subject to any coronavirus restrictions which may be in place at the time. But local authority areas will not begin the process of counting until between 9am and 10am the next day, following a decision from Malcolm Burr, convener of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland.

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As part of contingency plans for the election, the Scottish Parliament’s official dissolution has been postponed until May 5 to allow MSPs to reconvene for an emergency session if the Covid crisis means changes to the vote are needed.

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “Work is well under way to encourage people to think about their options for how they want to vote in May.

“Over the last couple of weeks every house in Scotland has received a letter from their electoral registration office to confirm who in that household is registered for a postal vote and to advise them what to do if they want to register for a postal vote.

“The Commission is also working with the Chief Medical Officer on a mailing list that will go out to all shielders in Scotland to advise them on their options for voting in the Scottish Parliament election.”