Scottish Government

The Scottish Government (Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba; Scots: Scots Govrenment) is the executive in Scotland for areas of public policy which are not reserved.[2] The government was established in 1999 as the Scottish Executive under the Scotland Act 1998, which created a devolved administration for Scotland in line with the result of the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution.[3] Following increasing use of the name "government" in place of "executive" during the first decade of the 21st century, its name was formally changed in law to Scottish Government by the Scotland Act 2012.

The government consists of cabinet secretaries, who attend cabinet meetings, and ministers, who do not. It is led by the first minister, who selects the cabinet secretaries and ministers with the approval of parliament.[4][5]

Scottish Government
Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba
Scots: Scots Govrenment
Scottish Government Logo
Established1 July 1999
LeaderFirst Minister
Appointed byFirst Minister approved by Parliament, ceremonially appointed by the Head of State
Main organScottish Cabinet
Responsible toParliament
Annual budget£40.3 billion (2018/19)[1]
HeadquartersSt Andrew's House, Calton Hill, Edinburgh


The Scottish Government holds executive over devolved and not explicitly reserved matters of the Scottish Parliament, which are powers not reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament by Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998, and the subsequent revisions of the devolution settlement by the Scotland Act 2012 and 2016.

Devolved matters that were decided upon by the Scotland Act 1998 included;[6]

In the aftermath of the referendum on independence, the Scotland Acts of 2012 and 2016 transferred executive powers to the Scottish Government over;[7]

The most prominent reserved matters that remain under the control of the United Kingdom Government and Parliament are;[8]

The members of the government have substantial influence over legislation in Scotland, putting forward the majority of bills that are successful in becoming Acts of the Scottish Parliament.[9]

Cabinet Secretaries, Junior Ministers & Law Officers

The government is led by the First Minister. The Scottish Parliament nominates one of its members to be appointed as First Minister by the Head of State.[10] He or she is assisted by various Cabinet Secretaries with individual portfolios, who are appointed by the First Minister with the approval of Parliament. Junior Ministers are similarly appointed to assist Cabinet Secretaries in their work. The Scottish Law officers, the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General, can be appointed without being a Member of the Scottish Parliament, however, they are subject to Parliament's approval and scrutiny. Law Officers are also appointed by the head of state on the recommendation of the First Minister.[10] Collectively, The First Minister, Cabinet Secretaries, Junior Ministers and the Law Officers are known as the "Scottish Ministers". The Scottish Government uses a government structure that has a dual executive structure of a Cabinet that invokes collective decision-making, as well as non-cabinet members as Junior Ministers. The title Cabinet Secretary means a member of the Government who partakes in Cabinet, whereas Junior Ministers assist Cabinet Secretaries but are not part of the Scottish Cabinet. The Cabinet Secretaries and Junior Ministers are:[11][12][13]

North side of Charlotte Square - NT2473 - geograph 3150908
Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland.
Scottish Cabinet, 2018
First Minister Sturgeon's reshuffled cabinet at Bute House, 2018.
The Scottish Government
Victoria Quay, a Scottish Government building in Leith, Edinburgh.
Cabinet Secretaries[14]
Portfolio Minister Image
First Minister The Right Hon.
Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Nicola Sturgeon 2017a (cropped)
Deputy First Minister
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
John Swinney MSP John Swinney, Deputy First Minister
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf MSP HumzaYousafMSP20110507
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Jeane Freeman OBE MSP JeaneFreemanMSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work Derek Mackay MSP Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution, Derek Mackay
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham MSP Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing
Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations Michael Russell MSP Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning (2)
Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell MSP Aileen Campbell
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson MSP Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson
Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley Anne Sommerville
Junior Ministers[14]
Portfolio Minister Image
Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd MSP Maree Todd MSP - May 2016
Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science Richard Lochhead MSP RichardLochhead MSP
Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn MSP JamieHepburnMSP20110511
Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy Kate Forbes MSP KateForbesMSP-May2016
Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee MSP IvanMcKeeMSP-May2016
Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham MSP AshDenhamMSP-May2016
Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development Ben Macpherson MSP BenMacphersonMSP-May2016
Minister for Older People and Equalities Christina McKelvie MSP ChristinaMcKelvieMSP20110510
Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon MSP MairiEvansMSP-May2016
Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing Joe FitzPatrick MSP JoeFitzPatrickMSP20110511
Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey MSP ClareHaugheyMSP-May2016
Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse MSP PaulWheelhouseMSP20110507
Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning Kevin Stewart MSP KevinStewartMSP20110507
Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans Graeme Dey MSP GraemeDeyMSP20110507
Law Officers
Portfolio Minister
Lord Advocate The Rt Hon James Wolffe QC
Solicitor General for Scotland Alison Di Rollo QC


Second Sturgeon government
Flag of Scotland.svg
8th Government of Scotland
Scottish Cabinet, 2018
2018 Cabinet gathered outside Bute House, Edinburgh
Date formed18 May 2016
People and organisations
Head of stateElizabeth II
Head of governmentNicola Sturgeon MSP
Deputy head of governmentJohn Swinney MSP
Total no. of ministers25 (including First Minister)
Member partySNP
Status in legislatureMinority
Opposition partiesScottish Conservatives
Scottish Labour
Scottish Greens
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Legislature term(s)5th Scottish Parliament
Budget(s)2016 budget
PredecessorFirst Sturgeon government

The Scottish Cabinet is the group of ministers who are collectively responsible for all Scottish Government policy. While parliament is in session, the cabinet meets weekly.[15] Normally meetings are held on Tuesday afternoons in Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister. The cabinet consists of the cabinet secretaries, excluding the Scottish Law Officers (the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General). The Lord Advocate attends meetings of the cabinet only when requested by the first minister, and he is not formally a member.[16]

The cabinet is supported by the Cabinet Secretariat, which is based at St Andrew's House.

Cabinet Sub-Committees

There are currently two sub-committees of Cabinet:[17]

  • Cabinet Sub-Committee on Legislation
    • Membership: the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, the Minister for Parliamentary Business, and the Lord Advocate.
  • Scottish Government Resilience Room (SGoRR) Cabinet Sub-Committee
    • Membership: Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Chair), the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing,the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment and the Lord Advocate.

For several years prior to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games there had been a third sub-committee of Cabinet:

  • Glasgow 2014 Legacy Plan Delivery Group
    • Membership: Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Chair), Minister for Community Safety, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, Minister for Environment, Minister for Housing and Communities, Minister for Public Health and Sport, Minister for Schools and Skills, and the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change.

Civil Service

Scottish Government also includes a civil service that supports the Scottish ministers. According to 2012 reports, there are 16,000 civil servants working in core Scottish Government directorates and agencies.[18] The civil service is a matter reserved to the British parliament at Westminster (rather than devolved to Holyrood): Scottish Government civil servants work within the rules and customs of Her Majesty's Civil Service, but serve the devolved administration rather than British government.[19]

Permanent Secretary

The permanent secretary is the most senior Scottish civil servant, leads the strategic board, and supports the first minister and cabinet. The current permanent secretary is Leslie Evans, who assumed the post in July 2015.

The permanent secretary is a member of Her Majesty's Civil Service, and therefore takes part in the permanent secretaries management group of the Civil Service[20] and is answerable to the most senior civil servant in Britain, the Cabinet Secretary (not to be confused with Scottish Government cabinet secretaries), for his or her professional conduct. He or she remains, however, at the direction of the Scottish ministers.


"Directorates" are the ministries of the Scottish Government. They serve to execute government policy. Unlike in the British government, cabinet secretaries, the equivalent of British government secretaries of state, do not lead the directorates, and have no direct role in their operation. Instead, the directorates are grouped together into six "Directorates General", each run by a senior civil servant who is titled a "Director-General". As of July 2017, there are six Directorates General:

Supporting these directorates are a variety of other corporate service teams and professional groups.[21]

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service serves as an independent prosecution service in Scotland, and is a ministerial department of the Scottish Government. It is headed by the Lord Advocate, who is responsible for prosecution, along with the procurators fiscal, under Scots law.

Strategic Board

The strategic board is composed of the permanent secretary, the six directors-general, two chief advisers (scientific and economic) and four non-executive directors. The board is responsible for providing support to the government through the permanent secretary, and is the executive of the Scottish civil service.[22]

Executive Agencies

To deliver its work, there are 9 executive agencies established by ministers as part of government departments, or as departments in their own right, to carry out a discrete area of work. These include, for example, the Scottish Prison Service and Transport Scotland. Executive agencies are staffed by civil servants.

There are two non-ministerial departments that form part of the Scottish administration, and therefore the devolved administration, but answer directly to the Scottish Parliament rather than to ministers: these are the General Register Office for Scotland and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Public Bodies

The Scottish Government is also responsible for a large number of non-departmental public bodies. These include executive NDPBs (e.g. Scottish Enterprise); advisory NDPBs (e.g. the Scottish Law Commission); tribunals (e.g. the Children's Panel and Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland); and nationalised industries (e.g. Scottish Water). These are staffed by public servants, rather than civil servants.

The Scottish Government is also responsible for some other public bodies that are not classed as non-departmental public bodies, such as NHS Boards, Visiting Committees for Scottish Penal Establishments or HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland.


The main building of the Scottish Government is St Andrew's House, which is located on Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Some other government departments are based at Victoria Quay in Leith, Saughton House on Broomhouse Drive, and Atlantic Quay on Broomielaw, Glasgow. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has its head offices, and the Lord Advocate's Chambers, at Chambers Street in central Edinburgh.

There are numerous other Edinburgh properties occupied by the Scottish Government. The Security Branch is based in the old Governor's House on the site of the former Calton Gaol, next door to St Andrew's House on Regent Road. The Government Car Service for Scotland also has its Edinburgh offices on Bonnington Road, in Leith. Other offices are scattered around central Edinburgh, including Bute House on Charlotte Square, the official residence of the first minister.

New St Andrew's House, above and behind Edinburgh's St James' Centre, was once a large Scottish Office building, which was occupied from 1973 until 1997, when the last remaining staff moved to Victoria Quay.

The first minister has use of the Scotland Office building, Dover House in Whitehall when necessary.[23]

The Scottish Government has a European Union representative office, located at Rond-Point Robert Schuman in Brussels, Belgium, which forms a part of the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union.[24] The Scottish Government also maintains offices within the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as the British Embassy in Berlin and has accredited representatives within the British Embassy in Beijing.

Entrance to Bute House

Entrance to Bute House

Name change

Scottish Executive logo (bilingual)
The Scottish Executive's original logo, shown with English and Scottish Gaelic caption. The logo was replaced in September 2007, with the name changed to "Scottish Government", and the Flag of Scotland used instead of the Royal Arms. The original logo is still used by the Scotland Office.

The original Scotland Act 1998 gave the name "Scottish Executive" as the legal term for the devolved government. In January 2001, the then First Minister Henry McLeish suggested changing the official name from "Scottish Executive" to "Scottish Government". The reaction from the British government and from some Labour Party members and Scottish Labour MPs was allegedly hostile.[25] This reaction was in contrast to a 2001 public survey by then-Labour chief whip Tom McCabe, which showed that only 29% of the Scottish public wanted the title Scottish Executive to remain.[26]

Scottish politicians, including the Labour first minister, had often referred to the executive as the "government" and this trend increased following the 2007 election, when the SNP took office and Labour were in opposition for the first time. On 2 September 2007, the SNP minority government announced that the Scottish Executive was to be retitled as the "Scottish Government".

The renaming was decided unilaterally by the minority government; as a consequence, the SNP was criticised by the three Unionist opposition parties for acting without allowing for parliamentary scrutiny, debate or approval of their plan. However, the term "Scottish Government" has since then become common currency among all of the political parties in Scotland and the rest of the UK.[27] The official Gaelic title, Riaghaltas na h-Alba, has always meant "Government of Scotland".

"Scottish Executive" remained the legal name under section 44(1) of the Scotland Act 1998 until 2 July 2012. Neither the Scottish Government nor the Scottish Parliament were able to change the legal name, as this required the British Parliament to amend the Scotland Act. Section 12(1) of the Scotland Act 2012, which came into effect on 3 July 2012, formally changed the legal title to "Scottish Government".

At the same time that the Scottish Government began to use its new name, a new emblem was adopted. The earlier version featured the old name and a version of the Royal Arms for Scotland, but without the motto, the helm, the mantling, the crest, the war-cry above the crest, or the flags of Scotland and England carried by the supporters. In the rendering used, both supporters appeared to be crowned with the Crown of Scotland, whereas in the Royal Arms, the Scottish unicorn is usually shown crowned with the Scottish Crown, and the English lion with St Edward's Crown.

In the September 2007 re-branding, this depiction of the Royal Arms was replaced by one of the Flag of Scotland.[28] In 2016, a refreshed version of the Scottish Government logo was launched and used on all government websites and letters of correspondence as part of the national Gaelic Language Plan.

List of Successive Scottish Governments

In the first two terms of the Scottish Parliament, the government was formed by a coalition of Labour and Liberal Democrats. In the three terms since the 2007 election, the Scottish National Party has held the largest number of seats and has formed a devolved government on its own. They formed the first majority government in 2011, lost the majority at the 2016 election, but remain as the largest party. The current First Minister is Nicola Sturgeon, who is the first woman to hold the post, and has served since 19 November 2014.

See also


  1. ^ "Budget (Scotland) Act 2018". The National Archives. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  2. ^ Jeffery, Charlie (2009). The Scottish Parliament 1999-2009: The First Decade. Luath Press. ISBN 1906817219.
  3. ^ "Scotland Act 1998". The National Archives. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  4. ^ "The First Minister of Scotland". The Scottish Government. 8 March 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  5. ^ "The Scottish Cabinet". The Scottish Government. 4 July 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  6. ^ "What is Devolution?". Scottish Parliament. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  7. ^ "What the Scottish Government does". Scottish Government. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Devolution settlement: Scotland". UK Government. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  9. ^ "How the Scottish Parliament Works". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  10. ^ a b "Appointment and Role". Office of the First Minister of Scotland. 5 February 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  11. ^ "FM nominates his cabinet" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  12. ^ "Changes to Scottish Government" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  13. ^ "Keith Brown named new Scottish transport minister". BBC News. 12 December 2010. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  14. ^ a b "New Cabinet appointed". Scottish Government News. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Guide to Collective Decision Making". Scottish Government. 12 November 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  16. ^ "Lord Advocate excluded from new Cabinet". The Scotsman. 22 May 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  17. ^ "Current Cabinet Sub-Committees". The Scottish Government. 13 December 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  18. ^ Peterkin, Tom (5 June 2013). "Independent Scotland civil service '£700m a year'". The Scotsman. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  19. ^ "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions". The Scottish Government. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  20. ^ "Permanent Secretary". The Scottish Government. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  21. ^ "Directorates". The Scottish Government. 23 August 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  22. ^ "Strategic Board". The Scottish Government. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  23. ^ "Dover House base for Scottish Secretary and Advocate General" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 8 March 1999. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  24. ^ "Scotland in the EU". The Scottish Government. 24 September 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  25. ^ Britten, Nick (10 January 2001). "Fury at bid to rename Scottish Executive". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 October 2013. Henry McLeish, the First Minister, threatened to set himself on a collision course with Tony Blair by wanting to rename the Executive the Scottish Government. The proposal caused an immediate split in Labour ranks and left McLeish facing allegations of arrogance and over-ambition. Scotland Office minister Brian Wilson said that the first minister should think carefully about using the term "government". He said: "Maybe they should take time to look at how other countries with two tiers of government handle this. Nobody in Germany has any difficulty distinguishing between the government and the devolved administrations."
  26. ^ "Scottish Executive renames itself". BBC News. 3 September 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  27. ^ Scottish Parliament. Official Report. 25 February 2010 Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "Annual Report and Accounts: 2009–10" (PDF). Accountant in Bankruptcy. 4 August 2010. p. 61. Retrieved 23 October 2013.

External links

Crofting Commission

The Crofting Commission (Scottish Gaelic: Coimisean na Croitearachd) took the place of the Crofters Commission (Scottish Gaelic: Coimisean nan Croitearan) on 1 April 2012 as the statutory regulator for crofting in Scotland. Based in Inverness, it is an executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government. The Commission comprises six Crofting Commissioners elected from geographic areas in the crofting counties, and three Commissioners appointed by the Scottish Government. The Convener is appointed from among Commission members. The Commission is supported by around 60 staff led by a Chief Executive.

The vision of the Commission is to be a guiding regulator that uses its powers to support the crofting system. Its purpose is to regulate the crofting system fairly and reasonably to protect it for future generations.

The first Crofters Commission was established in 1886 by the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act. The modern Crofters Commission was established by the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1955. The name of the Commission changed to the Crofting Commission in 2012 following the coming into force of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (Scottish Gaelic: Oifis an Ard-Ghnìomhachas agus Seirbheis Neach-casaid an Ard-Ghnìomhachas, Scots: Croun Office an Procurator Fiscal Service) is the independent public prosecution service for Scotland, and is a Ministerial Department of the Scottish Government. The department is headed by Her Majesty's Lord Advocate, who under the Scottish legal system is responsible for prosecution, along with the area procurators fiscal. In Scotland, virtually all prosecution of criminal offences is undertaken by the Crown. Private prosecutions are extremely rare.

The Service's responsibilities extend to the whole of Scotland, and include:

Investigation and prosecution of criminal offences

Investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths

The investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct by the police

Assessment and possession of bona vacantia

Assessment and possession of treasure troveThe Lord Advocate is assisted by the Solicitor General for Scotland, both Law Officers. The day-to-day running of the Service is done by the Crown Agent & Chief Executive and an executive board who are based in the service headquarters at Crown Office in Chambers Street, Edinburgh.

The Service employs both civil servants who carry out administrative and other duties and solicitors and advocates who represent the Crown in Court.

Directorates of the Scottish Government

The work of the Scottish Government is carried out by Directorates, each headed by a Director. The Directorates are grouped into a number of Directorates-General families, each headed by a Director-General. However, the individual Directorates are the building blocks of the system. The Directorates are further broken down into "Divisions" and then by teams. Divisions usually consist of 25-50 people. There is no direct correspondence between the political responsibilities of the Ministers in the Scottish Government and the Directorates, although in some cases there is considerable overlap. The Directorates are also responsible for a number of government agencies and non-departmental public bodies. Some government work is also carried out by Executive Agencies such as Transport Scotland, who sit outside the Directorates structure, but are also staffed by civil servants

The current system of Directorates was created by a December 2010 re-organisation. Prior to 2007 the Directorates were preceded by similar structures called "Departments" that no longer exist (although the word is still sometimes used in this context).The Office of the Permanent Secretary is headed by the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, who replaced Sir Peter Housden, in July 2015. The current structure of the directorates is given below.

Economy Directorates

The Scottish Government Economy Directorates are a group of civil service Directorates in the Scottish Government. They were rebranded as the Economy Directorates in July 2016, having previously been reorganised in December 2010 and then in June 2014.The individual Directorates within the DG (Director-General) Economy family (the Economy Directorates) report to the Director-General, Liz Ditchburn.

Education in Scotland

Education in Scotland is overseen by the Scottish Government and has a history of universal provision of public education, and the Scottish education system is distinctly different from those in the other countries of the United Kingdom. The Scotland Act 1998 gives the Scottish Parliament legislative control over all education matters, and the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 is the principal legislation governing education in Scotland. Traditionally, the Scottish system at secondary school level has emphasised breadth across a range of subjects, while the English, Welsh and Northern Irish systems have emphasised greater depth of education over a smaller range of subjects.

Following this, Scottish universities generally have courses a year longer (typically 4 years) than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK, though it is often possible for students to take more advanced specialised exams and join the courses at the second year. One unique aspect is that the ancient universities of Scotland issue a Master of Arts as the first degree in humanities. State schools are owned and operated by the local authorities which act as Education Authorities, and the compulsory phase is divided into primary school and secondary school (often called high school). Schools are supported in delivering learning and teaching by Education Scotland (formerly Learning and Teaching Scotland). There are also private schools across the country, although the distribution is uneven with such schools in 22 of the 32 Local Authority areas. At September 2011 the total pupil population in Scotland was 702,104, of which 31,425 pupils, or 4.5%, were being educated in independent schools.Qualifications at the secondary school and post-secondary (further education) level are provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, which is the national awarding and accrediting body in Scotland, and delivered through various schools, colleges and other centres. Political responsibility for education at all levels is vested in the Scottish Parliament and the Learning Directorate. Inspections and audits of educational standards are conducted by three bodies: Care Inspectorate inspects care standards in pre-school provision; Education Scotland (formerly Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education) for pre-school, primary, education, further and community education; with the Scottish office of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA Scotland) responsible for higher education.

In 2014, research by the Office for National Statistics found that Scotland was the most highly educated country in Europe and among the most well-educated in the world in terms of tertiary education attainment, above countries like Finland, Ireland and Luxembourg, with roughly 40% of Scots aged 16–64 educated to NVQ level 4 and above.

Executive agencies of the Scottish Government

Executive agencies are established by Ministers as part of Scottish Government departments, or as departments in their own right, to carry out a discrete area of work. Agencies are staffed by civil servants.

Executive agencies were first established following Sir Robin Ibbs' (then head of the Efficiency Unit) "Next Steps" Report in 1988. The intention was that they would take responsibility for, and bring a new, more customer-focused approach to, individual executive (service delivery) functions within government. This would leave their parent departments to concentrate on policy development, although this boundary can be very blurred.

Agencies are not to be confused with non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) such as Scottish Enterprise.

First Minister of Scotland

The First Minister of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Prìomh Mhinistear na h-Alba; Scots: Heid Meinister o Scotland) is the leader of the Scottish Government. The First Minister chairs the Scottish Cabinet and is primarily responsible for the formulation, development and presentation of Scottish Government policy. Additional functions of the First Minister include promoting and representing Scotland in an official capacity, at home and abroad, and responsibility for constitutional affairs, as they relate to devolution and the Scottish Government.The First Minister is a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) and nominated by the Scottish Parliament before being officially appointed by the monarch. Members of the Cabinet and junior ministers of the Scottish Government as well as the Scottish law officers, are appointed by the First Minister. As head of the Scottish Government, the First Minister is directly accountable to the Scottish Parliament for their actions and the actions of the wider government.

Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party is the current First Minister of Scotland.

Historic Environment Scotland

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) (Scottish Gaelic: Àrainneachd Eachdraidheil Alba) is an executive non-departmental public body responsible for investigating, caring for and promoting Scotland’s historic environment. HES was formed in 2015 from the merger of government agency Historic Scotland with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). Among other duties, Historic Environment Scotland maintains more than 300 properties of national importance including Edinburgh Castle, Skara Brae and Fort George.

Historic Scotland

Historic Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Alba Aosmhor) was an executive agency of the Scottish Office and later the Scottish Government from 1991 to 2015, responsible for safeguarding Scotland's built heritage, and promoting its understanding and enjoyment. Under the terms of a Bill of the Scottish Parliament published on 3 March 2014, Historic Scotland was dissolved and its functions were transferred to Historic Environment Scotland (HES) on 1 October 2015. HES also took over the functions of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

National Galleries of Scotland

National Galleries of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Gailearaidhean Nàiseanta na h-Alba) is the executive non-departmental public body that controls the three national galleries of Scotland and two partner galleries, forming one of the National Collections of Scotland.

The purpose of the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) was set out by an Act of Parliament in the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985. Its role is to care for, preserve and add to the objects in its collections, exhibit artworks to the public and to promote education and public enjoyment and understanding of the Fine Arts. It is governed by a Board of Trustees who are appointed by ministers of the Scottish Government.

National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Leabharlann Nàiseanta na h-Alba, Scots: Naitional Leebrar o Scotland) is the legal deposit library of Scotland and is one of the country's National Collections. Its main public building is in Edinburgh city centre on George IV Bridge, between the Old Town and the university quarter. This building is Category A listed. There is also a more modern building (1980s) in a residential area on the south side of the town centre, on Causewayside. This was built to accommodate some of the specialist collections, such as maps and science collections, and to provide extra large-scale storage. In 2016 a new public centre opened at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall providing access to the Library's digital and moving image collections.The National Library of Scotland holds 7 million books, 14 million printed items and over 2 million maps. The collection includes copies of the Gutenberg Bible, the letter which Charles Darwin submitted with the manuscript of Origin of Species, the First Folio of Shakespeare and numerous journals and other publications. It has the largest collection of Scottish Gaelic material of any library.

National Museums Scotland

National Museums Scotland (NMS; Scottish Gaelic: Taigh-tasgaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba) is an executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government. It runs the national museums of Scotland.

NMS is one of the country's National Collections, and holds internationally important collections of natural sciences, decorative arts, world cultures, science and technology, and Scottish history and archaeology.

National Records of Scotland

National Records of Scotland is a non-ministerial department of the Scottish Government. It is responsible for civil registration, the census in Scotland, demography and statistics, family history and the national archives and historical records.National Records of Scotland was formed from the merger of the General Register Office for Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland in 2011, and combines all the functions of the two former organisations.The offices of Registrar General for Scotland and Keeper of the Records of Scotland both continue, and are combined in the person of Paul Lowe, Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland

Public bodies of the Scottish Government

Public bodies of the Scottish Government are organisations that are funded by the Scottish Government. It is a tightly meshed network of executive and advisory non-departmental public bodies ("quangoes"); tribunals; and nationalised industries.

These public bodies are distinct from executive agencies of the Scottish Government, as they are not considered to be part of the Government and staff of public bodies are not civil servants.


Scotland (Scots: Scotland, Scottish Gaelic: Alba [ˈal̪ˠapə] (listen)) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, with a border with England to the southeast, and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. By inheritance in 1603, James VI, King of Scots, became King of England and King of Ireland, thus forming a personal union of the three kingdoms. Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England on 1 May 1707 to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain. The union also created a new Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England. In 1801, Great Britain itself entered into a political union with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (in 1922, the Irish Free State seceded from the United Kingdom, leading to the latter being renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland).Within Scotland, the monarchy of the United Kingdom has continued to use a variety of styles, titles and other royal symbols of statehood specific to the pre-union Kingdom of Scotland. The legal system within Scotland has also remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in both public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational, religious and other institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 union with England.In 1997, a Scottish Parliament was re-established, in the form of a devolved unicameral legislature comprising 129 members, having authority over many areas of domestic policy. The head of the Scottish Government is the First Minister of Scotland, who is supported by the Deputy First Minister of Scotland. Scotland is represented in the United Kingdom Parliament by 59 MPs and in the European Parliament by 6 MEPs. Scotland is also a member of the British–Irish Council, and sends five members of the Scottish Parliament to the British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly.Scotland is divided into 32 subdivisions, known as local authorities, or councils. Glasgow City is the largest subdivision in Scotland in terms of population, with Highland being the largest in terms of area. Limited self-governing power, covering matters such as education, social services and roads and transportation, is devolved from the Scottish Government to each subdivision.

Scottish Arts Council

The Scottish Arts Council (Scottish Gaelic: Comhairle Ealain na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Airts Cooncil) was a Scottish public body responsible for the funding, development and promotion of the arts in Scotland. The Council primarily distributed funding from the Scottish Government as well as National Lottery funds received via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The Scottish Arts Council was formed in 1994 following a restructuring of the Arts Council of Great Britain, but had existed as an autonomous body since a royal charter of 1967. In 2010 it merged with Scottish Screen to form Creative Scotland.

Scottish Screen

Scottish Screen was the national body for film and television in Scotland, established in April 1997. It took on the functions of the Scottish Film Council, the Scottish Film Production Fund, Scottish Screen Locations and Scottish Broadcast and Film Training, forming a unitary organisation.

Shadow Cabinet (Scottish Parliament)

Unlike the Westminster arrangement where there is an 'Official Opposition' to the government of the day, there is no such thing as an 'official' opposition to the Scottish Government. Instead, all parties that are not in government are merely 'opposition parties'. With the current Scottish Government being Scottish National Party (SNP), the four other main parties are all opposition parties and each will have a Shadow Cabinet composed of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) with a responsibility to shadow a government minister or area of government.

Parties are allowed to choose how their spokespersons are referred to. Named party spokespeople are not all Members of the Scottish Parliament.

Solicitor General for Scotland

Her Majesty's Solicitor General for Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Àrd-neach-lagha a' Chrùin an Alba) is one of the Law Officers of the Crown, and the deputy of the Lord Advocate, whose duty is to advise the Scottish Government on Scots Law. They are also responsible for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service which together constitute the Criminal Prosecution Service in Scotland.

Until 1999, when the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive were created, the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland advised Her Majesty's Government. Since their transfer to the Scottish Government, the British Government has been advised on Scots Law by the Advocate General for Scotland.

Her Majesty's Government
Northern Ireland Executive
Scottish Government
Welsh Government
Non-ministerial departments of the Scottish Government
Executive agencies of the Scottish Government
Executive non-departmental public bodies of the Scottish Government
Advisory non-departmental public bodies of the Scottish Government
Devolved tribunals
Reserved tribunals
Tribunal administration
Public Corporations of the Scottish Government
Member jurisdictions
Member bodies
Work areas
Representatives of states
Scotland articles


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