The Scottish Parliament (Scottish Gaelic: Pàrlamaid na h-Alba; Scots: The Scots Pairlament) is the devolved unicameral legislature of Scotland. Located in the Holyrood area of the capital city, Edinburgh, it is frequently referred to by the metonym Holyrood.
The Parliament is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), elected for four-year terms under the additional member system: 73 MSPs represent individual geographical constituencies elected by the plurality ("first past the post") system, while a further 56 are returned from eight additional member regions, each electing seven MSPs. The most recent general election to the Parliament was held on 5 May 2016, with the Scottish National Party winning a plurality.
The original Parliament of Scotland was the national legislature of the independent Kingdom of Scotland, and existed from the early 13th century until the Kingdom of Scotland merged with the Kingdom of England under the Acts of Union 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. As a consequence, both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England ceased to exist, and the Parliament of Great Britain, which sat at Westminster in London was formed.
Following a referendum in 1997, in which the Scottish electorate voted for devolution, the powers of the devolved legislature were specified by the Scotland Act 1998. The Act delineates the legislative competence of the Parliament – the areas in which it can make laws – by explicitly specifying powers that are "reserved" to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate in all areas that are not explicitly reserved to Westminster. The British Parliament retains the ability to amend the terms of reference of the Scottish Parliament, and can extend or reduce the areas in which it can make laws. The first meeting of the new Parliament took place on 12 May 1999. The competence of the Scottish Parliament has been amended numerous times since then, most notably by the Scotland Act 2012 and Scotland Act 2016, with some of the most significant changes being the expansion of the Parliament's powers, especially over taxation and welfare.
Pàrlamaid na h-Alba
|Founded||12 May 1999|
|Preceded by||Estates of Parliament (pre-1707)|
UK Parliament (pre-devolution)
since 12 May 2016
|Additional Member System|
|5 May 2016|
|6 May 2021 or earlier|
Before the Treaty of Union 1707 united the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England into a new state called "Great Britain", Scotland had an independent parliament known as the Parliament of Scotland. Initial Scottish proposals in the negotiation over the Union suggested a devolved Parliament be retained in Scotland, but this was not accepted by the English negotiators.
For the next three hundred years, Scotland was directly governed by the Parliament of Great Britain and the subsequent Parliament of the United Kingdom, both seated at Westminster, and the lack of a Parliament of Scotland remained an important element in Scottish national identity. Suggestions for a 'devolved' Parliament were made before 1914, but were shelved due to the outbreak of the First World War. A sharp rise in nationalism in Scotland during the late 1960s fuelled demands for some form of home rule or complete independence, and in 1969 prompted the incumbent Labour government of Harold Wilson to set up the Kilbrandon Commission to consider the British constitution. One of the principal objectives of the commission was to examine ways of enabling more self-government for Scotland, within the unitary state of the United Kingdom. Kilbrandon published his report in 1973 recommending the establishment of a directly elected Scottish Assembly to legislate for the majority of domestic Scottish affairs.
During this time, the discovery of oil in the North Sea and the following "It's Scotland's oil" campaign of the Scottish National Party (SNP) resulted in rising support for Scottish independence, as well as the SNP. The party argued that the revenues from the oil were not benefitting Scotland as much as they should. The combined effect of these events led to Prime Minister Wilson committing his government to some form of devolved legislature in 1974. However, it was not until 1978 that final legislative proposals for a Scottish Assembly were passed by the United Kingdom Parliament.
Under the terms of the Scotland Act 1978, an elected assembly would be set up in Edinburgh provided that a referendum be held on 1 March 1979, with at least 40% of the total electorate voting in favour of the proposal. The 1979 Scottish devolution referendum failed: although the vote was 51.6% in favour of a Scottish Assembly, with a turnout of 63.6%, the majority represented only 32.9% of the eligible voting population.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, demand for a Scottish Parliament grew, in part because the government of the United Kingdom was controlled by the Conservative Party, while Scotland itself elected relatively few Conservative MPs. In the aftermath of the 1979 referendum defeat, the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly was initiated as a pressure group, leading to the 1989 Scottish Constitutional Convention with various organisations such as Scottish churches, political parties and representatives of industry taking part. Publishing its blueprint for devolution in 1995, the Convention provided much of the basis for the structure of the Parliament.
Devolution continued to be part of the platform of the Labour Party which, in May 1997, took power under Tony Blair. In September 1997, the Scottish devolution referendum was put to the Scottish electorate and secured a majority in favour of the establishment of a new devolved Scottish Parliament, with tax-varying powers, in Edinburgh. An election was held on 6 May 1999, and on 1 July of that year power was transferred from Westminster to the new Parliament.
Since September 2004, the official home of the Scottish Parliament has been a new Scottish Parliament Building, in the Holyrood area of Edinburgh. The Scottish Parliament building was designed by Spanish architect Enric Miralles in partnership with local Edinburgh Architecture firm RMJM which was led by Design Principal Tony Kettle. Some of the principal features of the complex include leaf-shaped buildings, a grass-roofed branch merging into adjacent parkland and gabion walls formed from the stones of previous buildings. Throughout the building there are many repeated motifs, such as shapes based on Raeburn's Skating Minister. Crow-stepped gables and the upturned boat skylights of the Garden Lobby, complete the unique architecture. Queen Elizabeth II opened the new building on 9 October 2004.
In March 2006, one of the Holyrood building's roof beams slipped out of its support and was left dangling above the back benches during a debate. The debating chamber was subsequently closed, and MSPs moved to The Hub for one week, whilst inspections were carried out. During repairs, all chamber business was conducted in the Parliament's committee room two.
While the permanent building at Holyrood was being constructed, a temporary home for the Parliament was found in Edinburgh. The General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland on the Royal Mile was chosen to host the Parliament. Official photographs and television interviews were held in the courtyard adjoining the Assembly Hall, which is part of the School of Divinity of the University of Edinburgh. This building was vacated twice to allow for the meeting of the Church's General Assembly. In May 2000, the Parliament was temporarily relocated to the former Strathclyde Regional Council debating chamber in Glasgow, and to the University of Aberdeen in May 2002.
After each election to the Scottish Parliament, at the beginning of each parliamentary session, Parliament elects one MSP to serve as Presiding Officer, the equivalent of the speaker in other legislatures, and two MSPs to serve as deputies. The Presiding Officer (currently Ken Macintosh) and deputies (currently Linda Fabiani and Christine Grahame) are elected by a secret ballot of the 129 MSPs, which is the only secret ballot conducted in the Scottish Parliament. Principally, the role of the Presiding Officer is to chair chamber proceedings and the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. When chairing meetings of the Parliament, the Presiding Officer and his/her deputies must be politically impartial. During debates, the Presiding Officer (or the deputy) is assisted by the parliamentary clerks, who give advice on how to interpret the standing orders that govern the proceedings of meetings. A vote clerk sits in front of the Presiding Officer and operates the electronic voting equipment and chamber clocks.
As a member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, the Presiding Officer is responsible for ensuring that the Parliament functions effectively and has the staff, property and resources it requires to operate. Convening the Parliamentary Bureau, which allocates time and sets the work agenda in the chamber, is another of the roles of the Presiding Officer. Under the Standing Orders of the Parliament the Bureau consists of the Presiding Officer and one representative from each political party with five or more seats in the Parliament. Amongst the duties of the Bureau are to agree the timetable of business in the chamber, establish the number, remit and membership of parliamentary committees and regulate the passage of legislation (bills) through the Parliament. The Presiding Officer also represents the Scottish Parliament at home and abroad in an official capacity.
The Presiding Officer controls debates by calling on members to speak. If a member believes that a rule (or standing order) has been breached, he or she may raise a "point of order", on which the Presiding Officer makes a ruling that is not subject to any debate or appeal. The Presiding Officer may also discipline members who fail to observe the rules of the Parliament.
The Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, supported by the Minister for Parliamentary Business, is responsible for steering the Scottish Government's executive business through Parliament.
The debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament has seating arranged in a hemicycle, a design which is common across European legislatures, intended to encourage consensus and compromise. There are 131 seats in the debating chamber. Of the total 131 seats, 129 are occupied by the Parliament's elected MSPs and two are seats for the Scottish Law Officers—the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland, who are not elected members of the Parliament but are members of the Scottish Government. As such, the Law Officers may attend and speak in the plenary meetings of the Parliament but, as they are not elected MSPs, cannot vote.
Members are able to sit anywhere in the debating chamber, but typically sit in their party groupings. The First Minister, Scottish cabinet ministers and Law officers sit in the front row, in the middle section of the chamber. The largest party in the Parliament sits in the middle of the semicircle, with opposing parties on either side. The Presiding Officer, parliamentary clerks and officials sit opposite members at the front of the debating chamber.
In front of the Presiding Officers' desk is the parliamentary mace, which is made from silver and inlaid with gold panned from Scottish rivers and inscribed with the words: Wisdom, Compassion, Justice and Integrity. The words There shall be a Scottish Parliament, which are the first words of the Scotland Act, are inscribed around the head of the mace, which has a ceremonial role in the meetings of Parliament, representing the authority of the Parliament to make laws. Presented to the Scottish Parliament by the Queen upon Parliament's official opening in July 1999, the mace is displayed in a glass case, suspended from the lid. At the beginning of each sitting in the chamber, the lid of the case is rotated so that the mace is above the glass, to symbolise that a full meeting of the Parliament is taking place.
Parliament typically sits Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from early January to late June and from early September to mid December, with two-week recesses in April and October. Plenary meetings in the debating chamber usually take place on Wednesday afternoons from 2 pm to 6 pm and on Thursdays from 9:15 am to 6 pm. Chamber debates and committee meetings are open to the public. Entry is free, but booking in advance is recommended due to limited space. Parliament TV is a webcast and archive of Parliamentary business back to 2012. and on the BBC's parliamentary channel BBC Parliament. Proceedings are also recorded in text form, in print and online, in the Official Report, which is the substantially verbatim transcript of parliamentary debates.
Since September 2012, the first item of business on Tuesday afternoons is usually Time for Reflection at which a speaker addresses members for up to four minutes, sharing a perspective on issues of faith. This contrasts with the formal style of "Prayers", which is the first item of business in meetings of the House of Commons. Speakers are drawn from across Scotland and are chosen to represent the balance of religious beliefs according to the Scottish census. Invitations to address Parliament in this manner are determined by the Presiding Officer on the advice of the parliamentary bureau. Faith groups can make direct representations to the Presiding Officer to nominate speakers. Before September 2012, Time for reflection was held on Wednesday afternoons.
The Presiding Officer (or Deputy Presiding Officer) decides who speaks in chamber debates and the amount of time for which they are allowed to speak. Normally, the Presiding Officer tries to achieve a balance between different viewpoints and political parties when selecting members to speak. Typically, ministers or party leaders open debates, with opening speakers given between 5 and 20 minutes, and succeeding speakers allocated less time. The Presiding Officer can reduce speaking time if a large number of members wish to participate in the debate. Debate is more informal than in some parliamentary systems. Members may call each other directly by name, rather than by constituency or cabinet position, and hand clapping is allowed. Speeches to the chamber are normally delivered in English, but members may use Scots, Gaelic, or any other language with the agreement of the Presiding Officer. The Scottish Parliament has conducted debates in the Gaelic language.
Each sitting day, normally at 5 pm, MSPs decide on all the motions and amendments that have been moved that day. This "Decision Time" is heralded by the sounding of the division bell, which is heard throughout the Parliamentary campus and alerts MSPs who are not in the chamber to return and vote. At Decision Time, the Presiding Officer puts questions on the motions and amendments by reading out the name of the motion or amendment as well as the proposer and asking "Are we all agreed?", to which the chamber first votes orally. If there is audible dissent, the Presiding Officer announces "There will be a division" and members vote by means of electronic consoles on their desks. Each MSP has a unique access card with a microchip which, when inserted into the console, identifies them and allows them to vote. As a result, the outcome of each division is known in seconds.
The outcome of most votes can be predicted beforehand since political parties normally instruct members which way to vote. Parties entrust some MSPs, known as whips, with the task of ensuring that party members vote according to the party line. MSPs do not tend to vote against such instructions, since those who do are unlikely to reach higher political ranks in their parties. Errant members can be deselected as official party candidates during future elections, and, in serious cases, may be expelled from their parties outright. Thus, as with many Parliaments, the independence of Members of the Scottish Parliament tends to be low, and backbench rebellions by members who are discontent with their party's policies are rare. In some circumstances, however, parties announce "free votes", which allows Members to vote as they please. This is typically done on moral issues.
Immediately after Decision Time a "Members Debate" is held, which lasts for 45 minutes. Members Business is a debate on a motion proposed by an MSP who is not a Scottish minister. Such motions are on issues which may be of interest to a particular area such as a member's own constituency, an upcoming or past event or any other item which would otherwise not be accorded official parliamentary time. As well as the proposer, other members normally contribute to the debate. The relevant minister, whose department the debate and motion relate to "winds up" the debate by speaking after all other participants.
Much of the work of the Scottish Parliament is done in committee. The role of committees is stronger in the Scottish Parliament than in other parliamentary systems, partly as a means of strengthening the role of backbenchers in their scrutiny of the government and partly to compensate for the fact that there is no revising chamber. The principal role of committees in the Scottish Parliament is to take evidence from witnesses, conduct inquiries and scrutinise legislation. Committee meetings take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning when Parliament is sitting. Committees can also meet at other locations throughout Scotland.
Committees comprise a small number of MSPs, with membership reflecting the balance of parties across Parliament. There are different committees with their functions set out in different ways. Mandatory Committees are committees which are set down under the Scottish Parliament's standing orders, which govern their remits and proceedings. The current Mandatory Committees in the fourth Session of the Scottish Parliament are: Public Audit; Equal Opportunities; European and External Relations; Finance; Public Petitions; Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments; and Delegated Powers and Law Reform.
Subject Committees are established at the beginning of each parliamentary session, and again the members on each committee reflect the balance of parties across Parliament. Typically each committee corresponds with one (or more) of the departments (or ministries) of the Scottish Government. The current Subject Committees in the fourth Session are: Economy, Energy and Tourism; Education and Culture; Health and Sport; Justice; Local Government and Regeneration; Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment; Welfare Reform; and Infrastructure and Capital Investment.
A further type of committee is normally set up to scrutinise private bills submitted to the Scottish Parliament by an outside party or promoter who is not a member of the Scottish Parliament or Scottish Government. Private bills normally relate to large-scale development projects such as infrastructure projects that require the use of land or property. Private Bill Committees have been set up to consider legislation on issues such as the development of the Edinburgh Tram Network, the Glasgow Airport Rail Link, the Airdrie-Bathgate Rail Link and extensions to the National Gallery of Scotland.
The Scotland Act 1998, which was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and given royal assent by Queen Elizabeth II on 19 November 1998, governs the functions and role of the Scottish Parliament and delimits its legislative competence. The Scotland Act 2012 and the Scotland Act 2016 extended the devolved competencies. For the purposes of parliamentary sovereignty, the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster continues to constitute the supreme legislature of Scotland. However, under the terms of the Scotland Acts, Westminster agreed to devolve some of its responsibilities over Scottish domestic policy to the Scottish Parliament. Such "devolved matters" include education, health, agriculture and justice. The Scotland Act 1998 enabled the Scottish Parliament to pass primary legislation on these issues. A degree of domestic authority, and all foreign policy, remain with the UK Parliament in Westminster. The Scottish Parliament has the power to pass laws and has tax powers. Another of the roles of the Parliament is to hold the Scottish Government to account.
The specific devolved matters are all subjects which are not explicitly stated in Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act as reserved matters. All matters that are not specifically reserved are automatically devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Most importantly, this includes agriculture, fisheries and forestry, economic development, education, environment, food standards, consumer advocacy, health, home affairs, legal system, courts, legal profession, police and fire services, prisons, control of air guns, local government, sport and the arts, many aspects of transport (including rail franchising), training, tourism, research and statistics, social work, and some powers over social security. In terms of tax powers, the Scottish Parliament has full control over income tax rates and thresholds on all non-savings and non-dividend income liable for tax by taxpayers resident in Scotland. The Scottish Parliament also has full control over Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Scottish Landfill Tax.
Reserved matters are subjects that are outside the legislative competence of the Scotland Parliament. The Scottish Parliament is unable to legislate on such issues that are reserved to, and dealt with at, Westminster (and where Ministerial functions usually lie with UK Government ministers). These include broadcasting policy, civil service, common markets for UK goods and services, constitution, electricity, coal, oil, gas, nuclear energy, defence and national security, drug policy, employment, foreign policy and relations with Europe, welfare, reserved tax powers, most aspects of transport safety and regulation, National Lottery, protection of borders, most aspects of social security and stability of UK's fiscal, economic and monetary system.
Members of the public take part in Parliament in two ways that are not the case at Westminster: a public petitioning system, and cross-party groups on policy topics which the interested public join and attend meetings of, alongside MSPs. The Parliament is able to debate any issue (including those reserved to Westminster) but is unable to make laws on issues that are outside its legislative competence.
Bills can be introduced to Parliament in a number of ways; the Scottish Government can introduce new laws or amendments to existing laws as a bill; a committee of the Parliament can present a bill in one of the areas under its remit; a member of the Scottish Parliament can introduce a bill as a private member; or a private bill can be submitted to Parliament by an outside proposer. Most draft laws are government bills introduced by ministers in the governing party (or parties). Bills pass through Parliament in a number of stages before receiving royal assent, whereupon they become Acts of the Scottish Parliament.
The party, or parties, that hold the majority of seats in the Parliament forms the Scottish Government. In contrast to many other parliamentary systems, Parliament elects a First Minister from a number of candidates at the beginning of each parliamentary term (after a general election). Any member can put their name forward to be First Minister, and a vote is taken by all members of Parliament. Normally, the leader of the largest party is returned as First Minister, and head of the Scottish Government. Theoretically, Parliament also elects the Scottish Ministers who form the government of Scotland and sit in the Scottish cabinet, but such ministers are, in practice, appointed to their roles by the First Minister. Junior ministers, who do not attend cabinet, are also appointed to assist Scottish ministers in their departments. Most ministers and their juniors are drawn from amongst the elected MSPs, with the exception of Scotland's Chief Law Officers: the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General. Whilst the First Minister chooses the ministers – and may decide to remove them at any time – the formal appointment or dismissal is made by the Sovereign.
Under the Scotland Act 1998, ordinary general elections for the Scottish Parliament are held on the first Thursday in May every four years (1999, 2003, 2007 and so on). The date of the poll may be varied by up to one month either way by the Monarch on the proposal of the Presiding Officer. If the Parliament itself resolves that it should be dissolved (with at least two-thirds of the Members voting in favour), or if the Parliament fails to nominate one of its members to be First Minister within 28 days of a General Election or of the position becoming vacant, the Presiding Officer proposes a date for an extraordinary general election and the Parliament is dissolved by the Queen by royal proclamation. Extraordinary general elections are in addition to ordinary general elections, unless held less than six months before the due date of an ordinary general election, in which case they supplant it. The following ordinary election reverts to the first Thursday in May, a multiple of four years after 1999 (i.e., 5 May 2011, 7 May 2015, etc.).
Several procedures enable the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise the Government. The First Minister or members of the cabinet can deliver statements to Parliament upon which MSPs are invited to question. For example, at the beginning of each parliamentary year, the First Minister delivers a statement to the chamber setting out the Government's legislative programme for the forthcoming year. After the statement has been delivered, the leaders of the opposition parties and other MSPs question the First Minister on issues related to the substance of the statement.
Parliamentary time is also set aside for question periods in the debating chamber. A "General Question Time" takes place on a Thursday between 11:40 a.m. and noon where members can direct questions to any member of the Scottish Government. At 2:30 pm, a 40-minute-long themed "Question Time" takes place, where members can ask questions of ministers in departments that are selected for questioning that sitting day, such as health and justice or education and transport. Between noon and 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays, when Parliament is sitting, First Minister's Question Time takes place. This gives members an opportunity to question the First Minister directly on issues under their jurisdiction.
Members who wish to ask general or themed questions, or questions of the First Minister, must lodge them with parliamentary clerks beforehand and selections are made by the Presiding Officer. Written questions may also be submitted by members to ministers. Written questions and answers are published in the Official Report.
Elections for the Scottish Parliament were amongst the first in Britain to use a mixed member proportional representation (MMP) system. The system is a form of the additional member method (AMS) of proportional representation, and is better known as such in Britain. Under the system, voters are given two votes: one for a specific candidate and one for a political party.
Of the 129 MSPs, 73 are elected to represent first past the post constituencies and are known as "Constituency MSPs". Voters choose one member to represent the constituency, and the member with most votes is returned as a constituency MSP. The 73 Scottish Parliament constituencies shared the same boundaries as the UK Parliament constituencies in Scotland, prior to the 2005 reduction in the number of Scottish MPs, with the exception of Orkney and Shetland which each return their own constituency MSP. Currently, the average Scottish Parliament constituency comprises 55,000 electors. Given the geographical distribution of population in Scotland, this results in constituencies of a smaller area in the Central Lowlands, where the bulk of Scotland's population live, and much larger constituency areas in the north and west of the country, which have a low population density. The island archipelagos of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles comprise a much smaller number of electors, due to their dispersed population. If a Constituency MSP resigns from Parliament, this triggers a by-election in his or her constituency, where a replacement MSP is returned from one of the parties by the plurality system.
The remaining 56 MSPs, called "List MSPs", are elected by an additional members system, which seeks to make the overall results more proportional, countering any distortions in the constituency results. Seven List MSPs are elected from each of eight electoral regions, of which constituencies are sub-divisions:
Each political party draws up a list of candidates standing in each electoral region, from which the List MSPs are elected. When a List MSP resigns, the next person on the resigning MSPs' party's list takes the seat.
The total number of seats in the Parliament are allocated to parties proportionally to the number of votes received in the second vote of the ballot using the d'Hondt method. For example, to determine who is awarded the first list seat, the number of list votes cast for each party is divided by one plus the number of seats the party won in the region (at this point just constituency seats). The party with the highest quotient is awarded the seat, which is then added to its constituency seats in allocating the second seat. This is repeated iteratively until all available list seats are allocated. As the allocation of seats to parties mirrors the popular vote, it is commonplace for the most successful party in the election not to win an outright majority of the seats, thereby requiring them to seek some form and level of cross-party support for their initiatives in government. Nonetheless, the 2011 election saw the SNP become the first–and to date, only–party to win a majority government.
As in the House of Commons, a number of qualifications apply to being an MSP. Such qualifications were introduced under the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 and the British Nationality Act 1981. Specifically, members must be over the age of 18 and must be a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, one of the countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, a citizen of a British overseas territory, or a European Union citizen resident in the UK. Members of the police and the armed forces are disqualified from sitting in the Scottish Parliament as elected MSPs, and similarly, civil servants and members of foreign legislatures are disqualified. An individual may not sit in the Scottish Parliament if he or she is judged to be insane under the terms of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.
The next Scottish Parliament election is due to be held on Thursday 6 May 2021. Under the Scotland Act 1998, an ordinary general election to the Scottish Parliament would normally have been held on the first Thursday in May four years after the 2016 election, i.e. in May 2020. This would have clashed with the proposed date of the 2020 United Kingdom general election, but later became a moot point after the latter was brought forward to 2017. In November 2015, the Scottish Government published a Scottish Elections (Dates) Bill, which proposed to extend the term of the Parliament to five years. That Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 25 February 2016 and received Royal Assent on 30 March 2016, setting the new date for the election as 6 May 2021, with subsequent elections every four years after that.
As with all elections in the UK, Irish and qualifying Commonwealth citizens are entitled to vote. Unlike elections to the Westminster parliament, citizens of other non-Commonwealth EU member states who are resident in Scotland are entitled to vote in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Overseas electors on Scottish electoral registers are not allowed to vote in Scottish Parliament elections. From the 2016 election, the franchise for Scottish Parliament elections was expanded to include 16 and 17-year olds.
|Party||Constituencies||Regional additional members||Total seats|
The resignation of Henry McLeish as First Minister, brought on by an office expenses scandal, generated controversy in the first years of the Scottish Parliament. Various academics have written on how the Scottish Parliament can be improved as a governing institution.
A procedural consequence of the establishment of the Scottish Parliament is that Scottish MPs sitting in the UK House of Commons have been able to vote on domestic legislation that applies only to England, Wales and Northern Ireland – whilst English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Westminster MPs are unable to vote on the domestic legislation of the Scottish Parliament. This phenomenon is known as the West Lothian question and has led to criticism. Following the Conservative victory in the 2015 UK election, standing orders of the House of Commons were changed to give MPs representing English constituencies a new "veto" over laws only affecting England, known as English votes for English laws.
The first election to the devolved Scottish Parliament, to fill 129 seats, took place on 6 May 1999. Following the election, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats formed the Scottish Executive, with Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Donald Dewar becoming First Minister.
The Scottish Parliament was created after a referendum on devolution took place on 11 September 1997 in which 74.3% of those who voted approved the idea. The Scotland Act (1998) was then passed by the UK Parliament which established the devolved Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive. The parliament was elected using Mixed member proportional representation, combining 73 (First-past-the-post) constituencies and proportional representation with the 73 constituencies being grouped together to make eight regions each electing seven additional members to make a total of 129. This meant that it would be unlikely for any party to gain a majority of seats in the new parliament and either minority or coalition Scottish Executives would have to be formed.
The first general election to the Scottish Parliament overall produced few surprises with the Labour Party still enjoying high popularity following their landslide victory in the 1997 UK general election as widely expected was the largest party winning 56 seats, mostly in their traditional Central Belt heartlands, which was nine seats short of an overall majority. Labour formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, who won 17 seats. The Scottish National Party (SNP) had done well in opinion polls running up to the election, gaining 40% in some approval ratings, but this level of support was not maintained. The SNP were the second largest party with 35 seats, which still represented their best performance since the October 1974 UK general election. The Conservative Party, still recovering from their wipeout in the 1997 UK general election across Scotland, failed to win a single constituency seat but did manage to win 18 seats through the Additional Member System.
The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the Greens picked up unexpected additional member seats. Robin Harper became the first ever elected Green parliamentarian in the history of the United Kingdom. Dennis Canavan, who had failed to become an approved Labour candidate, won the Falkirk West constituency as an independent candidate.
Following the election the new parliament met in the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh for the very first time on Wednesday 12 May 1999 although the actual devolution of powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament did not take place until midnight on Thursday 1 July 1999, almost two months later.
For a full list of MSPs elected, see Members of the Scottish Parliament, 1999-2003. For lists of constituencies and regions, see Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions.2003 Scottish Parliament election
The Scottish Parliament election, 2003, was the second election of members to the Scottish Parliament. It was held on 1 May 2003 and it brought no change in terms of control of the Scottish Executive. Jack McConnell, the Labour Party Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), remained in office as First Minister and the Executive continued as a Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition. As of 2019, it remains the last general election victory for the Scottish Labour Party.
The results also showed rises in support for smaller parties, including the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and declines in support for the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party (SNP). The Conservative and Unionist Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats each polled almost exactly the same percentage of the vote as they had in the 1999 election, with each holding the same number of seats as before.
Three independent MSPs were elected: Dennis Canavan, Margo MacDonald and Jean Turner. John Swinburne, leader of the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party, was also elected. This led to talk of a "rainbow" Parliament, but the arithmetic meant that the coalition of Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrats could continue in office, which they did until the 2007 election.
The decline in support for the SNP was viewed by some as a rejection of the case for Scottish independence. Others argued against this, pointing out that the number of MSPs in favour of independence actually rose because most of the minor parties such as the SSP share this position with the SNP.2007 Scottish Parliament election
The 2007 Scottish Parliament election was held on Thursday 3 May 2007 to elect members to the Scottish Parliament. It was the third general election to the devolved Scottish Parliament since it was created in 1999. Local elections in Scotland fell on the same day.
The Scottish National Party emerged as the largest party with 47 seats, closely followed by the incumbent Scottish Labour Party with 46 seats. The Scottish Conservatives won 17 seats, the Scottish Liberal Democrats 16 seats, the Scottish Green Party 2 seats and one Independent (Margo MacDonald) was also elected. The SNP initially approached the Lib Dems for a coalition government, but the Lib Dems turned them down. Ultimately, the Greens agreed to provide the numbers to vote in an SNP minority government, with SNP leader Alex Salmond as First Minister.The Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party, which won seats in the 2003 election, lost all of their seats. Former MSP Tommy Sheridan's new party, Solidarity, also failed to win any seats. Campbell Martin and Dr Jean Turner both lost their seats, and Dennis Canavan and Brian Monteith retired.2011 Scottish Parliament election
The 2011 Scottish Parliament election was held on Thursday, 5 May 2011 to elect 129 members to the Scottish Parliament.
The election delivered the first majority government since the opening of Holyrood, a remarkable feat as the Additional Member System used to elect MSPs was originally implemented to prevent any party achieving an overall parliamentary majority. The Scottish National Party (SNP) won 69 seats, the most the party has ever held at either a Holyrood or Westminster election, allowing leader Alex Salmond to remain First Minister of Scotland. The SNP gained 32 constituencies, twenty two from the Scottish Labour Party, nine from the Scottish Liberal Democrats and one from the Scottish Conservatives. Such was the scale of their gains that, of the 73 constituencies in Scotland, only 20 came to be represented by MSPs of other political parties. The Scottish Labour Party lost seven seats and suffered their worst election defeat in Scotland since 1931, with huge losses in their traditional Central Belt constituencies and for the first time having to rely on the regional lists to elect members within these areas. They did, however, remain the largest opposition party. Party leader Iain Gray announced his resignation following his party's disappointing result. The Scottish Liberal Democrats were soundly defeated; their popular vote share was cut in half and their seat total reduced from 17 to 5. Tavish Scott announced his resignation as party leader shortly after the election. For Scottish Conservatives, the election proved disappointing as their popular vote dropped slightly and their number of seats fell by 2, with party leader Annabel Goldie also announcing her resignation.During the campaign, the four main party leaders engaged in a series of televised debates, as they had in every previous general election. These key debates were held on 29 March (STV), 1 May (BBC), and 3 May (STV). The results of the election were broadcast live on BBC Scotland and STV, on the night of the election.
It was the fourth general election since the devolved parliament was established in 1999 and was held on the same day as elections to the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly, as well as English local elections and the UK-wide referendum on the alternative vote.2016 Scottish Parliament election
The Scottish parliament election, 2016 was held on Thursday, 5 May 2016 to elect 129 members to the Scottish Parliament. It was the fifth election held since the devolved parliament was established in 1999. It was the first parliamentary election in Scotland in which 16 and 17 year olds were eligible to vote, under the provisions of the Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Act. It was also the first time the three largest parties were led by women.
Parliament went into dissolution on 24 March 2016, allowing the official period of campaigning to get underway. Five parties had MSPs in the previous parliament: Scottish National Party (SNP) led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour Party led by Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Conservatives led by Ruth Davidson, Scottish Liberal Democrats led by Willie Rennie, Scottish Greens, led by their co-conveners Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman. Of those five parties, four changed their leader since the 2011 election.
During the campaign, a series of televised debates took place, including party leaders of the elected parties. BBC Scotland held the first leaders’ debate on 24 March, STV broadcast the next on 29 March, and BBC Scotland hosted the final debate on 1 May.
The Scottish National Party won the election and a third term in government, but fell two seats short of securing a second consecutive overall majority. The Conservatives saw a significant increase in support and replaced the Labour Party as the second-largest party and main opposition in the Scottish Parliament. This was the first time that Labour had finished in third place at a Scottish election in 98 years. The Scottish Greens won six seats on the regional list and overtook the Liberal Democrats, who remained on five seats.Although the SNP had lost their majority, it was still by far the largest single party in the Scottish Parliament, with more than double the seats of the Conservatives. Accordingly, Sturgeon announced she would form a minority SNP government. She was voted in for a second term as First Minister on 17 May.Act of the Scottish Parliament
An Act of the Scottish Parliament (Scottish Gaelic: Achd Pàrlamaid na h-Alba) is primary legislation made by the Scottish Parliament. The power to create Acts was conferred to the Parliament by section 28 of the Scotland Act 1998 following the successful 1997 referendum on devolution.Prior to the establishment of the Parliament under the 1998 Act, all post-union laws specific to Scotland were passed at the Westminster Parliament. Although the Westminster Parliament has retained the ability to legislate for Scotland, by convention it does not do so without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. Since the passing of the 1998 Act, the Westminster Parliament has passed five public general acts that apply only to Scotland.A draft Act is known as a Bill. Once it is passed by the Scottish Parliament and receives royal assent, the Bill becomes an Act and is then a part of Scots Law.Alex Salmond
Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond (; born 31 December 1954) is a Scottish politician who served as the First Minister of Scotland from 2007 to 2014. He was the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) for over twenty years, having served for two terms, firstly from 1990 to 2000 and subsequently from 2004 to 2014. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Banff and Buchan between 1987 and 2010, when he stood down to focus on his other roles, and then for Gordon from 2015 to 2017, when he lost his seat to Scottish Conservative candidate Colin Clark. During the 2015–2017 parliament, he was the SNP International Affairs and Europe spokesperson in the House of Commons.
From 1987 to 2010, Salmond served as MP for Banff and Buchan. Following the establishment of the devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999, Salmond also served as the Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Banff and Buchan from 1999 to 2001, while continuing to serve as that constituency's MP. Salmond served as the Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Gordon from 2007 to 2011, and for Aberdeenshire East from 2011 to 2016.
Salmond resigned as SNP leader in 2000 and did not seek re-election to the Scottish Parliament. He did however retain his Westminster seat in the 2001 general election. Salmond was once again elected SNP leader in 2004 and the following year held his Banff and Buchan seat in the 2005 general election. In 2006 he announced his intention to contest Gordon in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. Salmond defeated the incumbent MSP and the SNP emerged as the largest single party. After the SNP secured confidence and supply support from the Scottish Green Party, Salmond was voted First Minister by the Scottish Parliament on 16 May 2007. During his first term, he headed a minority Scottish Government. At the 2011 Scottish Parliament election the SNP won with an overall majority, a feat previously thought almost impossible under the additional member system used in elections for the Scottish Parliament.
Politically, Salmond is one of the foremost proponents of Scottish independence, repeatedly calling for a referendum on the issue. Salmond has campaigned on global warming and in government has committed Scotland to legislation on emission reduction and the generation of renewable energy. The day after the 2014 independence referendum, at which a majority of Scottish voters chose to remain part of the United Kingdom, Salmond announced his intention not to stand for re-election as leader of the SNP at the SNP National Conference in November, and to resign as First Minister thereafter. He was succeeded as SNP leader by his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, as she was the only candidate to stand for the leadership election. He submitted his resignation as First Minister on 18 November, and was succeeded by Sturgeon the following day.In August 2018, Salmond resigned from the party after allegations of sexual misconduct. In January 2019, he was arrested and charged with 14 offences, including multiple counts of attempted rape and sexual assault.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.Glasgow (Scottish Parliament electoral region)
Glasgow is one of the eight electoral regions of the Scottish Parliament. Nine of the parliament's 73 first past the post constituencies are sub-divisions of the region and it elects seven of the 56 additional-member Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). Thus it elects a total of 16 MSPs.List of Acts of the Parliament of Scotland to 1707
This is a list of Acts of the Parliament of Scotland. It lists the Acts of Parliament of the old Parliament of Scotland, that was merged with the old Parliament of England to form the Parliament of Great Britain, by the Union with England Act 1707.
The numbers after the titles of the Acts are the chapter numbers. Acts are referenced using 'Year of reign', 'Monarch', c., 'Chapter number' — e.g. 16 Charles II c. 2 — to define a chapter of the appropriate statute book. Chapter numbers given in the duodecimo edition, where applicable, are given in square brackets.
This list is only a partial catalogue of Acts that remained on the statute books even after the Union of 1707. For a largely comprehensive edition of Scottish Acts of Parliament see Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, ed. Thomas Thomson. A new edition has been edited by the Scottish Parliament Project at the University of St Andrews and is available online as the Records of the Parliaments of Scotland.
For the period after 1707, see list of Acts of the Parliament of Great Britain.List of Acts of the Scottish Parliament from 1999
This is a list of Acts of the Scottish Parliament. It lists Acts of the modern, devolved Scottish Parliament, established in 1999 by the Scotland Act 1998. Acts which have since been wholly repealed are marked.Member of the Scottish Parliament
Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP; Scottish Gaelic: Ball Pàrlamaid na h-Alba, BPA; Scots: Memmer o the Scots Pairliament, MSP) is the title given to any one of the 129 individuals elected to serve in the Scottish Parliament.Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Scottish Parliament constituency)
Na h-Eileanan an Iar (; Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [nəˈhelanən əˈɲiəɾ]), formerly Western Isles, is a constituency of the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood). It elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) by the first past the post method of election. It is also one of eight constituencies in the Highlands and Islands electoral region, which elects seven additional members, in addition to the eight constituency MSPs, to produce a form of proportional representation for the region as a whole.Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon (born 19 July 1970) is a Scottish politician serving as the fifth and current First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) since November 2014. She is the first woman to hold either position. Sturgeon has been a member of the Scottish Parliament since 1999, first as an additional member for the Glasgow electoral region from 1999 to 2007 and as the member for Glasgow Southside since 2007 (known as Glasgow Govan from 2007 to 2011).
A law graduate of the University of Glasgow, Sturgeon worked as a solicitor in Glasgow. After being elected to the Scottish Parliament, she served successively as the SNP's shadow minister for education, health, and justice. In 2004 she announced that she would stand as a candidate for the leadership of the SNP following the resignation of John Swinney. However, she later withdrew from the contest in favour of Alex Salmond, standing instead as depute (deputy) leader on a joint ticket with Salmond.
Both were subsequently elected, and as Salmond was still an MP in the House of Commons, Sturgeon led the SNP in the Scottish Parliament from 2004 to 2007. The SNP won the highest number of seats in the Scottish Parliament in the 2007 election and Salmond was subsequently appointed First Minister. He appointed Sturgeon as Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing. She was appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities in 2012.
Following the defeat of the "Yes" campaign in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Salmond announced that he would be resigning as party leader at the SNP party conference that November, and would resign as First Minister after a new leader was chosen. No one else was nominated for the post by the time nominations closed, leaving Sturgeon to take the party leadership unopposed at the SNP's annual conference. She was formally elected to succeed Salmond as First Minister on 19 November.Parliament of Scotland
The Parliament of Scotland was the legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland. The parliament, like other such institutions, evolved during the Middle Ages from the king's council of bishops and earls. It is first identifiable as a parliament in 1235, during the reign of Alexander II, when it was described as a "colloquium" and already possessed a political and judicial role. By the early fourteenth century, the attendance of knights and freeholders had become important, and from 1326 commissioners from the burghs attended. Consisting of the "three estates" of clergy, nobility and the burghs sitting in a single chamber, the parliament gave consent for the raising of taxation and played an important role in the administration of justice, foreign policy, war, and all manner of other legislation. Parliamentary business was also carried out by "sister" institutions, such as General Councils or Convention of Estates. These could carry out much business also dealt with by parliament – taxation, legislation and policy-making – but lacked the ultimate authority of a full parliament.The Parliament of Scotland met for more than four centuries, until it was prorogued sine die at the time of the Acts of Union in 1707. Thereafter the Parliament of Great Britain operated for both England and Scotland, thus creating the Kingdom of Great Britain. When the Parliament of Ireland was abolished in 1801, its former members were merged into what was now called the Parliament of the United Kingdom. From January 1801 until 1927, the British state was officially called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (even though the Irish Free State had come into existence in December 1922).
The pre-Union parliament was long portrayed as a constitutionally defective body that acted merely as a rubber stamp for royal decisions, but research during the early 21st century has found that it played an active role in Scottish affairs, and was sometimes a thorn in the side of the Scottish Crown.Scottish Labour Party
The Scottish Labour Party (Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Làbarach na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Labour Pairty; branded Scottish Labour) is the devolved Scottish section of the UK Labour Party.
Labour currently hold 23 of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament and two of six Scottish seats in the European Parliament. Labour won the largest share of the vote in Scotland at every UK general election from 1964 until 2015, where they made big losses to the Scottish National Party; every European Parliament general election from 1979 until being defeated by the SNP in 2009; and in the first two elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and 2003. After these, Scottish Labour entered a coalition with the Scottish Liberal Democrats, forming a majority Scottish Executive.
In a landslide defeat at the 2015 UK general election, Scottish Labour was reduced to having a single seat (Edinburgh South), losing 40 of its 41 seats to the SNP. This was the first time the party had not won the largest number of seats in Scotland since 1959. In the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, Scottish Labour lost 13 of its 37 seats, becoming the third-largest party after being surpassed by the Scottish Conservative Party. At the most recent general election in 2017, Labour gained 6 new seats in Scotland from the SNP, bring their total seat tally to 7 and significantly improving on its disastrous performance two years previously with a 27.1% share of the vote. This was the first time since the 1918 general election 99 years previously, that Labour had finished in third place at any general election in Scotland.Scottish Parliament Building
The Scottish Parliament Building (Scottish Gaelic: Pàrlamaid na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Pairlament Biggin) is the home of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, within the UNESCO World Heritage Site in central Edinburgh. Construction of the building commenced in June 1999 and the Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) held their first debate in the new building on 7 September 2004. The formal opening by Queen Elizabeth II took place on 9 October 2004. Enric Miralles, the Catalan architect who designed the building, died before its completion.From 1999 until the opening of the new building in 2004, committee rooms and the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament were housed in the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland located on The Mound in Edinburgh. Office and administrative accommodation in support of the Parliament were provided in buildings leased from the City of Edinburgh Council. The new Scottish Parliament Building brought together these different elements into one purpose-built parliamentary complex, housing 129 MSPs and more than 1,000 staff and civil servants.From the outset, the building and its construction have been controversial. The choices of location, architect, design, and construction company were all criticised by politicians, the media and the Scottish public. Scheduled to open in 2001, it did so in 2004, more than three years late with an estimated final cost of £414 million, many times higher than initial estimates of between £10m and £40m. A major public inquiry into the handling of the construction, chaired by the former Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, was established in 2003. The inquiry concluded in September 2004 and criticised the management of the whole project from the realisation of cost increases down to the way in which major design changes were implemented. Despite these criticisms and a mixed public reaction, the building was welcomed by architectural academics and critics. The building aimed to achieve a poetic union between the Scottish landscape, its people, its culture, and the city of Edinburgh. The Parliament Building won numerous awards including the 2005 Stirling Prize and has been described by landscape architect Charles Jencks as "a tour de force of arts and crafts and quality without parallel in the last 100 years of British architecture".Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions
Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions were first used in 1999, in the first general election of the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood), created by the Scotland Act 1998.
The parliament has 73 constituencies, each electing one Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) by the plurality (first past the post) system of election, and eight additional member regions, each electing seven additional MSPs.
Each region is a group of constituencies, and the D'Hondt method of allocating additional member seats from party lists is used to produce a form of proportional representation for each region.
The total number of parliamentary seats is 129. For lists of MSPs, see Member of the Scottish Parliament.
Boundaries of Holyrood and British House of Commons (Westminster) constituencies are subject to review by the Boundary Commission for Scotland, and prior to the Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Act 2004 reviews of Scottish Westminster constituencies would have been also reviews of Holyrood constituencies.
The Arbuthnott Commission, in its final report, January 2006, recommended that council area boundaries and Holyrood and Scottish Westminster constituency boundaries should all be reviewed together. This recommendation has not been implemented.United Kingdom constituencies
In the United Kingdom (UK), each of the electoral areas or divisions called constituencies elect one member to a parliament or assembly, with the exception of European Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly constituencies which are multi member constituencies.
Within the United Kingdom there are five bodies with members elected by electoral districts called "constituencies" as opposed to "wards":
The House of Commons (see United Kingdom Parliamentary constituencies)
The Scottish Parliament (see Scottish Parliament constituencies and regions)
The Northern Ireland Assembly (see Northern Ireland Assembly constituencies)
The National Assembly for Wales (see National Assembly for Wales constituencies and electoral regions)
The London Assembly (see London Assembly constituencies)Between 1921 and 1973 the following body also included members elected by constituencies:
The Parliament of Northern Ireland (see List of Northern Ireland Parliament constituencies)Electoral areas called constituencies are also used in elections to the European Parliament. (See European Parliament constituencies.)
In local government elections (other than for the London Assembly) electoral areas are called wards or electoral divisions.