MINISTERS are "confident" the Scottish Parliament elections will go ahead on May 6 but the results may not be known for days.

Parliamentary business minister Graeme Dey told MSPs it "seems inevitable" that the results will take longer to arrive.

He said it is expected "most counting will occur over the Friday and the Saturday following polling day" on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Mr Dey said leafleting could start on March 15, subject to the easing of restrictions, while face-to-face doorstep campaigning could begin on April 5.

The latter will depend on whether the infection rate as an average across Scotland has fallen to 50 per 100,000 or less.

If the infection rate in a specific council area exceeds 100 per 100,000, then canvassing will be suspended in that area.

Mr Dey said: "I can confirm that under the stay at home regulations, it is permitted for candidates and agents to travel to the constituency as necessary, as this is work or volunteering that cannot be done from home.

"It has also been suggested that the leadership of each party should also be able to travel to any given constituency.

"That is something we are looking at, though we should bear in mind that the regulations currently prevent all of us from leaving home and travelling between local authorities for work that can be done from home."

Activities such as street stalls and physical hustings will not be able to go ahead.

The deadline for applying for a postal vote has been moved to April 6.

Mr Dey said research suggests up to 40 per cent of the electorate could choose postal voting.

He said: “An enormous amount of work has taken place across our electoral community to ensure that the election in May can be conducted safely.

"It is as a result of the hard work of electoral professionals over the course of the winter that I am confident the election can go ahead on May 6.

“It is fundamental for a democracy to hold scheduled elections, provided it is safe to do so.

"This parliament has sat for a year longer than originally intended and many countries have already held elections successfully during the pandemic.

“It is also the case that eight local government by-elections were held in Scotland over October and November safely and fairly.

“I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those involved in preparations for polling and the counting of votes and also members of political parties across the parliament who continue to engage constructively in the lead up to the election.”

Malcolm Burr, convener of the Electoral Management Board, said: “Returning officers take the management of all elections very seriously. 

"On May 6, we will be just as committed to ensuring the safety of voters, candidates, staff, and others as we are to ensuring the integrity of the electoral process.

“There will be challenges caused by the pandemic, but with the right planning, support from public health officials, guidance from the Electoral Commission and the directions to returning officers and electoral registration officers, a safe and well-run election can take place with results in which voters can have confidence.”