CONTINGENCY plans are being drawn up in case next year's Holyrood election cannot go ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said it is "appropriate" alternative measures are looked at in case the election is not "practical".

However he said the Scottish Government's priority is to ensure the election can take place on May 6 as timetabled.

His comments came after the Sunday Mail reported discussions are under way between ministers, political parties and the Electoral Commission over possible contingency plans.

This could see the date pushed back to October, the newspaper reported, or a 100 per cent postal vote held instead.

Next year's election is set to prove crucial in the battle over whether there should be a second independence referendum.

If the SNP secures a majority, the pressure on the UK Government to agree to another poll will be intense.

Asked about the election on the BBC's Politics Scotland, Mr Swinney said there is "a bit of uncertainty about the period that lies ahead".

He said: "The Government's plan and Parliament's plan is that the election should take place as scheduled on the first Thursday in May.

"Obviously there are some contingencies being looked at by Parliament, by all parties.

"We'll continue to discuss those issues because it's vital that we have that democratic process to enable Scotland to choose their government.

"Certainly from the Government's point of view, we want the election in May to go ahead as timetabled already."

He added: "The Government's priority is to make sure the election can take place as timetabled in May.

"I think people would expect that. It's the moment in the electoral cycle where parliament should be reelected.

"The public should have their choice about who should represent them in Parliament.

"I think it's important that we focus on that as the timetabled priority for the people to decide.

"And obviously it's appropriate that there would be contingencies in case that is not practical.

"But the Government's priority is to make sure the elections take place in May as scheduled and we're working towards that objective."

If the election were to go ahead while coronavirus was not fully under control, questions have been raised about the ability of party members and supporters to canvas for votes.

Safety issues around how the public could cast their ballots have also been raised.

SNP MSP Alex Neil, a former Scottish Government minister, told the Sunday Mail the beginning of December "is about the last opportunity you'd have to postpone the election".