The Scottish general election, 2016 was held on Thursday, 5 May 2016 to elect 129 members to the Scottish Parliament. It was the fifth election held since the devolved parliament was established in 1999. It was the first parliamentary election in Scotland in which 16 and 17 year olds were eligible to vote, under the provisions of the Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Act. It was also the first time the three largest parties were led by women.
Parliament went into dissolution on 24 March 2016, allowing the official period of campaigning to get underway. Five parties had MSPs in the previous parliament: Scottish National Party (SNP) led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour Party led by Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Conservatives led by Ruth Davidson, Scottish Liberal Democrats led by Willie Rennie, Scottish Greens, led by their co-conveners Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman. Of those five parties, four changed their leader since the 2011 election.
During the campaign, a series of televised debates took place, including party leaders of the elected parties. BBC Scotland held the first leaders’ debate on 24 March, STV broadcast the next on 29 March, and BBC Scotland hosted the final debate on 1 May.
The Scottish National Party won the election and a third term in government, but fell two seats short of securing a second consecutive overall majority. The Conservatives saw a significant increase in support and replaced the Labour Party as the second-largest party and main opposition in the Scottish Parliament. This was the first time that Labour had finished in third place at a Scottish election in 98 years. The Scottish Greens won six seats on the regional list and overtook the Liberal Democrats, who remained on five seats.
Although the SNP had lost their majority, it was still by far the largest single party in the Scottish Parliament, with more than double the seats of the Conservatives. Accordingly, Sturgeon announced she would form a minority SNP government. She was voted in for a second term as First Minister on 17 May.