Most people in the upcoming Scottish Parliament election will end up voting for one of the ‘Big Five’ parties – the SNP, the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems or the Greens.
However, there are dozens of other smaller parties all vying for people’s votes on May 6.
Some of these smaller parties focus on a specific issue they are passionate about, such as protecting animal rights or aiming for gender equality in the workplace.
There are also some parties whose sole aim is to make sure the SNP either gets a majority or does not.
Here, we take a look at just some of these smaller parties.
Action for Independence/Gniomh Airson Neo-Eisimeileachd
The Action for Independence Party aims to maximise the number of pro-independence MSPs at Holyrood by ensuring the SNP stands unopposed in every constituency.
It wants to encourage potential independence supporters who would not normally vote SNP to do so in the upcoming election.
As the SNP won the majority of the constituency seats available at the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, Action for Independence will only field candidates in the regional lists, to try to win as many seats as possible for independence, and will go on to build an alliance with as many Yes parties and groups as possible in a bid to secure independence for Scotland.
Abolish the Scottish Parliament Party
It says it wants to maximise unionist votes in the regional lists to stop the SNP winning the election, and will oppose SNP policies such as minimum unit pricing, the named person scheme, and a second independence referendum.
It states the £100 million it costs to run Holyrood each year should be spent on education and the NHS instead.
If the Scottish Parliament was to be abolished, Abolish the Scottish Parliament Party says the Scottish Grand Committee would reconvene every two months at Parliament House in Edinburgh for Scotland-only issues instead, and the Scottish Office would deliver funding, infrastructure and services in Scotland, as it did in pre-devolution times.
It also wants to see the number of Scottish MPs elected to Westminster increased from 59 to 74 on a proportional representation system rather than first past the post, and wants to decentralise Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
All For Unity Party
It will field candidates in the regional lists in a bid to make sure the SNP does not win a majority, and wants to help create a cross-party alliance against independence.
It encourages tactical voting and on its website it lists which party to vote for in each constituency to stop the SNP winning the seat.
If elected, All for Unity candidates would sit as independent MSPs at Holyrood and will be in favour of the union.
Animal Welfare Party
The Animal Welfare Party wants to promote animal rights, halt the climate crisis, improve human health, and save NHS funds by having everyone transition to a plant-based diet.
It wants to redirect farming subsidies away from animal agriculture and the fisheries industry into plant-based agriculture, and phase out farming practices that are harmful to animals or biodiversity.
The party also wants to ban the use of animals in scientific research, toxicity testing, education and entertainment such as horse racing, as well as banning trapping, snaring, hunting and shooting animals.
It also wants to end badger culling, strengthen the fox hunting ban, end live animal exports and reduce journey times for animals travelling to slaughter – it also wants to end all slaughter without prior stunning and introduce independently monitored CCTV to slaughterhouses.
For those who are convicted of animal abuse, the Animal Welfare Party wants the penalties increased to a maximum custodial sentence of 10 years, and to introduce companion animal licensing, which would include a minimum age for licence holders and a responsible animal care certificate.
Independence for Scotland Party
The Independence for Scotland Party wants to create a pro-independence majority in Holyrood and has a number of regional list candidates in the 2021 election.
If elected it says its first action will be to call for a vote to proceed with a second independence referendum.
Party members reject the use of nuclear weapons, are anti-fracking and oppose ‘self ID’, which would allow trans people to legally change their gender without a medical diagnosis.
It also wants to reassess the armed forces, education, health and farming to better suit an independent Scotland, and wants to promote walking, cycling and public transport, as well as infrastructure in the Highlands.
It wants a central bank and Scotland’s own currency, and for an independent Scotland to join the European Free Trade Association with a similar deal to Switzerland, and the Nordic Council.
Although it wants an independent Scotland to be a member of the UN and to participate in UN peacekeeping missions, Scotia Future would say no to deploying Scottish troops abroad without permission from the Scottish Government.
It wants to create a state-owned energy company called Alba Energy that will develop the oil and gas industry to pursue a green deal, and wants a national housing corporation to borrow against rents to build high-quality, publicly rented accommodation, and to resettle rural Scotland by creating a Highlands and Islands Commission.
It wants to make satire and general commentary protected under Scots Law and wants a full review of the care programme.
Scotia Future also wants an independent Scotland to hold a referendum on whether it has an elected or hereditary head of state, and wants employees to be able to have a share in decision making.
Scottish Libertarian Party
The Scottish Libertarian Party says it wants to focus on free markets, free speech and free people.
Its first priority will be to immediately end all lockdowns, the wearing of face masks and social distancing, and it would say no to mandatory vaccinations and health passports.
It wants to reduce tax so it only covers what cannot be run privately, such as the military, courts and the police, with people encouraged to access privately-funded alternatives to things like healthcare and education.
The Libertarians want to see Scotland move on from the 2014 and 2016 referenda, although it adds it would like to see more powers devolved to Scotland.
In education, the party wants reform to open up communication between parents and teachers, make it easier for children to transfer schools, support parents who want to remove their children from state education, and devolve powers to individual schools.
To help avert the climate crisis the Libertarians is against the use of single-use plastics, wants to increase recycling, use hemp, encourage ocean clean-ups, and promote the use of cruelty-free products.
It wants to abolish any quotas and “special privileges” on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and class, and wants immigration to be controlled to prevent foreign nationals who pose a threat to security, health or property from coming into Scotland; it also rejects foreign nationals receiving welfare support.
It wants to decentralise Police Scotland and have more drug laws devolved to Scotland.
Scottish Socialist Party
The Scottish Socialist Party was founded in 1999 and aims for an independent, socialist Scotland that puts people and planet before profit.
It describes itself as anti-capitalist, pro-independence and working-class.
The socialists want a publicly-owned national care service, to scrap council tax and build 100,000 council homes every year.
It wants to introduce a £12 minimum wage for everyone over 16, guaranteed minimum and maximum working hours, a ban on zero-hours contracts and to introduce a four-day working week with five days’ pay.
The party wants to open up land to community ownership and public control, to cap multiple home ownership, and end unsecured work, in a bid to close the gender pay gap.
It is one of the few smaller political parties to have a dedicated policy section to LGBT+ voters, and some of its LGBT+ policies include emergency action on homelessness, enshrining pension rights into law, guaranteed funding for youth groups and to have LGBT+ officers in local government.
The party wants to tackle racism with socialism, wants free public transport, a publicly-owned economy, and guaranteed full average wages for those unable to go to work during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Scottish Socialist Party has not been able to put forward any candidates for the 2021 election due to the cost and the coronavirus restrictions.
The Alba Party
The Alba Party was set up in March 2020 by former first minister Alex Salmond, and has already seen some high-profile names defect from the SNP.
Neale Hanvey MP, Kenny MacAskill MP, former MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Fraserburgh councillor Brian Topping, who was the longest-standing SNP councillor in Scotland, have all joined the newly-formed Alba Party.
As the SNP secured most of the constituency seats in the 2016 Scottish election, Alba will only stand in the regional lists, in a bid to boost the number of pro-independence MSPs elected to Holyrood.
It is anticipating winning around 20-25% of the vote on May 6 by attracting half of the SNP list votes, with the aim of getting up to 25 Alba MSPs and a majority of more than 40 MSPs who are pro-independence.
The Communist Party of Great Britain
The Communist Party is a revolutionary political group that wants to end capitalism and build a communist society free from exploitation and oppression.
It was formed in 1920 and wants to win the biggest possible working-class representation.
The party says workers should be readied to make revolution, peacefully or forcibly, and wants to use militant methods to achieve a federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales, a united federal Ireland, and a United States of Europe.
The party is against imperialist wars and the use of nuclear and biological warfare and weapons of mass destruction, but says it will support revolutionary civil wars for socialism.
If elected, the Communist Party would like to introduce free public transport, abolish overtime, extend the NHS, nationalise the pharmaceutical industry, legalise euthanasia, prostitution and recreational drugs, and establish a secular state.
Women’s Equality Party
It wants equal representation in politics, business, industry and working life, equal pay, and equal parenting and care giving.
The party also wants to end violence against women and have physical and sexual violence recognised as a public health problem.
It also wants to address the way women are portrayed in the media.
In health, it wants to transform medical research to include women and to establish a research institute for medical research on women.
It wants all GP practices to have at least one female GP, for every school to have a mental health nurse, to reverse cuts to specialist sexual and reproductive health, and have cervical screening offered to all women, trans men and intersex people.
The Women’s Equality Party also wants a fully-funded NHS fertility treatment service and for pre-menopausal women to be offered egg freezing before starting damaging cancer treatment.
It wants to protect women taking sick leave because of menstruation or menopause, and to give women equal access to sterilisation as a permanent contraception method.
In education, the party wants to boost sex education in schools and provide equal opportunities and career prospects for all children.
The Scottish Family Party
The Scottish Family Party wants to support families and create a culture where parenthood is celebrated as a higher calling than a career.
It wants to promote marriage and says no to civil partnerships. If elected, the party wants child benefit payments to be increased and for those without dependent children to pay more tax.
In education, the party wants to abandon the Curriculum for Excellence, move SQA exams from May to June, and introduce a national certificate in character qualities such as good manners, punctuality, personal presentation and trustworthiness.
It wants schools to promote teetotalism and family planning, and wants to withdraw a number of topics from sex education, including pornography, LGBT and gender fluidity.
The party adds that under 16s should not be granted medical confidentiality, should not receive transgender treatments and should not be allowed abortions without parents being informed.
It wants to repeal the smacking ban, opposes abortion, euthanasia, opt-out organ donation, hate crime legislation and the harassment section of the Equality Act.
The Scottish Family Party also does not want to reduce the gender pay gap, as it says it reflects “natural differences” between men and women.
It wants domestic abuse laws to not cover psychological abuse, for NHS fertility treatment to be limited to heterosexual couples only and for married heterosexual couples to be given preference in adoption, and to promote care at home over care homes.
The party says it is prepared to welcome refugees to Scotland but wants to see immigration controlled.
The main aim of Freedom Alliance is to oppose coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions, and was set up last year in response to the global pandemic.
It also wants to defend the rights of citizens who do not want a coronavirus vaccine.
It says it wants personal liberty, sovereignty and human rights, and rejects all forms of governmental restrictions, adding the only time the state authority should intervene in a person’s life is when they have been found guilty of a criminal offence.
Reform UK, previously known as the Brexit Party, is led by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Richard Tice.
Although the party was set up to campaign for a clean-break Brexit, the party now wants to focus on taking on “bloated institutions and major vested interests” such as the House of Lords, the BBC, the way people vote, law and order, and immigration.
The party says the most pressing issue is to challenge the government’s response to coronavirus, and says people need to learn to live with the virus rather than hide in fear.
Social Democratic Party
The Social Democratic Party says it wants to focus on growth and renewal, including increasing funding for the NHS, particularly in mental health, setting up a national care services, and issue national insurance ID cards to make sure health services are provided.
It also wants to build 300,000 new council houses over 10 years, reduce income tax and abolish basic rate income tax for under 21s and overhaul the social security system such as Universal Credit, to make sure there are no negative impacts on claimants, taxpayers or businesses.
The party supports a points-based immigration system, wants to introduce an annual cap on immigration, and for immigrants to pledge to adhere to “contemporary British values”.
It is pro-nuclear weapons and wants to increase spending on intelligence in bid to combat terrorism and cyber warfare, and nationalise the railway.
The Social Democratic Party also wants all state schools to take part in a ‘daily mile’ exercise programme and for the sale of sweets and sugary drinks to be banned on campuses.
It also says no to self-ID, where a trans person could legally change their gender without a medical diagnosis, and says no to drug-based medical intervention for gender dysphoria for anyone under 18.