THEY say 24 hours is a long time in politics.

With that in mind, voters can expect plenty of twists and turns – and, perhaps, more than a smattering of barbed comments – over the next five weeks as candidates in the Scottish Parliament election go toe-to-toe for some ballot boxing.

The starting pistol in the race for Renfrewshire seats at Holyrood was fired last week, with tens of thousands of local residents set to cast their vote on Thursday, May 6.

Renfrewshire will elect one MSP from each of its three constituencies – Renfrewshire South, Renfrewshire North & West and Paisley – to serve a five-year term until 2026.

All three constituencies were won by the SNP in the last Scottish Parliament election in 2016.

The Renfrewshire South seat straddles both Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire, covering Johnstone, Lochwinnoch, Howwood, Kilbarchan and Barrhead, as well as parts of Neilston, Linwood and Elderslie.

East Renfrewshire councillor Paul O’Kane has been selected by Labour to contest the seat for a second time after he lost out to the SNP’s Tom Arthur in 2016.

The Gazette: Johnstone-based politician Tom Arthur hopes to retain his Renfrewshire South seatJohnstone-based politician Tom Arthur hopes to retain his Renfrewshire South seat

Conservative candidate Derek Stillie hopes to turn the constituency blue for the first time since it was created in 2011, while Christine Cosh will stand for the Liberal Democrats.

Renfrewshire councillor Andy Doig will also be standing for his new pro-indy party Scotia Future, which will push for Scotland to be separate from both the UK and the EU.

Residents in Renfrew, Erskine, Bridge of Weir and Bishopton, as well as Kilmacolm and Quarrier’s Village, will be voting in the Renfrewshire North & West constituency.

The winner will be taking over from shamed MSP Derek Mackay, who has been representing the seat as an Independent following his suspension by the SNP last year after it emerged he had sent 270 messages to a schoolboy on social media.

SNP councillor Natalie Don will battle it out with Johanna Baxter, of Labour, Julie Pirone, of the Scottish Conservatives, and Ross Stalker, of the Lib Dems.

Elsewhere, George Adam is hoping to be elected as Paisley’s MSP for a third time, but faces competition from Neil Bibby, of Labour, and Russell Findlay, of the Scottish Conservatives.

The Gazette: George Adam won the Paisley seat in 2016George Adam won the Paisley seat in 2016

Renfrewshire is also in the West Scotland electoral region, with voters being asked to cast a separate vote to elect list MSPs, of which there are seven from this region.

It means people have two votes to cast on May 6 – one to choose who represents their constituency and the other to select which party represents their wider region.

So, why should you bother voting? Well, every vote cast will influence decisions made in key devolved areas such as health, housing and education, which are likely to directly affect you, as well as your family, friends and neighbours.

The turnout for the last election in all three constituencies in Renfrewshire was roughly 60 per cent, which means the views of around four in 10 of all Renfrewshire residents on these important issues have not been represented in the Scottish Parliament.

If you’ve never voted before, have moved house or changed your name recently, you need to register by Monday, April 19, in order to be eligible.

This includes 16 and 17-year-olds, who are eligible to vote in the upcoming election, and foreign nationals living in Renfrewshire who will be voting for the first time.

The Gazette: Derek Mackay is standing down as a MSPDerek Mackay is standing down as a MSP

There are three ways to vote: in person at a polling station, by postal vote or by nominating someone to vote for you.

Those wishing to vote by post need to register for this method by 5pm on Tuesday, April 6, while anyone wishing to vote by proxy must register by Tuesday, April 27.

For those voting in person, there will be a number of measures put in place to keep people safe.

Voters must wear a face covering at all times, unless they are exempt, and should use the hand sanitiser provided when entering and leaving the polling station.

They will also be encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil to mark their ballot papers but clean pencils will be available.

A number of polling stations across the region have also changed locations, due to either availability or the venue not being able to meet Covid-19 guidelines.

May 6 will be an in-service day for Renfrewshire schools, so pupils will not be affected by polling stations being stationed there.

The Gazette: Sandra Black will have a key role in the election as returning officer for RenfrewshireSandra Black will have a key role in the election as returning officer for Renfrewshire

Votes will be totted up at Braehead Arena, in Renfrew, for the area’s three constituencies and the West Scotland region but the results will not be revealed overnight.

The count will instead take place over the following two days, with final results expected to emerge at some point on Saturday, May 8.

Sandra Black, returning officer for Renfrewshire, told The Gazette: “It’s important that anyone wishing to vote in the Scottish Parliament election in May is registered to vote.

“I would encourage to everyone to double check their poll card when they receive it in the coming weeks.”

You can find more information about the election by visiting

Make sure you get The Gazette each week between now and May 6 for detailed coverage of the battle to win the Renfrewshire constituencies.