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What is an imprint?

Imprints help voters understand who is trying to influence them. An imprint provides information on who has published the political or campaign material.

Printed campaign material for candidates has required an imprint for many years. National party and referendum campaigns have also been required to show imprints on printed campaign material since 2007.

Until now only print-based campaign material was covered by the imprint requirements, although the Electoral Commission recommended as best practice non-print campaign material should also include an imprint.

Digital imprints

Digital imprint requirements were introduced in Scotland for the 2014 independence referendum. These were extended to all devolved Scottish elections 2020.

The Elections Act 2022 introduced a digital imprint regime for all other elections. This came into force from 1 November 2023. Digital material includes online ads, social media posts, websites, and electronic billboards.

Paid for digital campaign material will be required to have an imprint.

Material that has not been paid for, for example social media posts or sharing something online, is called organic material, and may need an imprint. It will need an imprint if it is published by a candidate or registered campaigner (or on their behalf) during an election campaign and is encouraging people to vote in a particular way. If someone is not a candidate, elected representative or campaigner and they publish organic material on their own behalf, it will not need an imprint.

Sharing something that already has an imprint is unlikely to need a new imprint. Something shared that has been altered in some way, may need a new imprint added by the person sharing the material.

The digital imprint requirements differ for elections to the Scottish Parliament and local elections in Scotland.

Imprint guidance

Statutory guidance has been produced by the Electoral Commission for the new digital imprint requirements introduced by the Elections Act 2022. Non-statutory guidance exists on the Commission’s website for print imprints and for the separate digital imprint regime that operates for devolved elections in Scotland.

This briefing outlines the requirements for imprints and gives background to the introduction of digital imprints. The information is based on the guidance mentioned above but should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it.

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