VOTING in the SNP leadership race ends at noon today with the winner of expected to be announced just after 2pm.

The five week party contest is officially just the first stage in the appointment of Scotland's sixth First Minister with the winner becoming the SNP's nominee for the role. A new blog by a Scottish Parliament researcher sets out the details of the process.

READ MORE: SNP confirm timing and venue of leadership contest winner announcement

Shortly after the announcement of a new SNP leader, it is expected that Nicola Sturgeon will formally tender her resignation as First Minister of Scotland to the King. This is a requirement under section 45(2) of the Scotland Act 1998.

Section 46 of the Act provides that where the First Minister tenders their resignation to the King the Scottish Parliament is required to nominate one of its members for appointment as the new First Minister. The Parliament is given 28 days (unless certain specified intervening circumstances arise) from the date of resignation to do so and the Presiding Officer then recommends to the King that that person be appointed as First Minister. 

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Holyrood's Parliamentary Bureau has already allocated time for the selection of a nominee to be appointed as First Minister.

Business motion S6M-08322, lodged on 21 March 2023 and agreed in the Chamber on 22 March 2023, indicated that the Parliament will select a new First Minister on the afternoon of Tuesday 28 March.

It is expected that all the opposition parties will nominate their own candidates to become First Minister with, for instance, the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour putting forward their leaders, Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar respectively.

Ahead of the vote, the Presiding Officer announces the names of the candidate or candidates and the nominee is then selected in accordance with Rule 11.10 ‘Selection of the First Minister’.

Each MSP has one vote when selecting a nominee for appointment as First Minister unless a second round of voting is required.

Where there is only one candidate nominated to be appointed as First Minister, the candidate is selected “if a simple majority of votes in the candidate’s favour is obtained.” The same applies in instances where there are two candidates in a round of voting.

READ MORE: Scotland's First Minister: New era dawns as election ends today

If there are more than two candidates in a round of voting then a candidate can be successful where the number of votes for them exceeds the total number of votes cast for all of the other candidates.  If this does not happen, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated (or they withdraw) and further voting continues. In instances where candidates receive the same number of votes, no candidate is selected and a further selection process is set.

There is no specified limit on the number of rounds of voting which can occur.

The SNP having 64 MSPs, the Tories 31, Labour 22, the Scottish Greens seven and Lib Dems four.

It is unclear whether the Scottish Greens, who are in a partnership arrangement with the SNP in Holyrood, will put forward one of their co-leaders Patrick Harvie or Lorna Slater, as their own nominee for First Minister.

Should the Scottish Greens not back the SNP nominee it is unlikely, however, to scupper the chances of the SNP nominee winning as political differences and parliamentary arithmetic suggests Mr Ross would not be in a position to gain sufficient support across Holyrood.

In 2007 when the SNP did not have a majority in Holyrood, Alex Salmond was elected in the second round of voting.

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie and Nicol Stephen, the Lib Dem leader, were both eliminated in the first round.

Mr Salmond beat Scottish Labour leader Jack McConnell in the second round of voting.

Once the Scottish Parliament has agreed a candidate for nomination as First Minister (the official title is First Minister and Keeper of the Scottish Seal), the Presiding Officer recommends to the King that the member be appointed. The First Minister is then appointed by Royal Warrant and is expected to be sworn in at the Court of Session on Wednesday.

The appointment is made by Royal Warrant. The Warrant is presented to the Lord President in the Court of Session when the First Minister is sworn in.

The following day the First Minister is expected to unveil the new Cabinet and appear in the Scottish Parliament for First Minister's Questions, for the first time.

Parliamentary time has also been allocated this Thursday for the appointment of ministers and junior ministers.