How the Scottish Parliament works

The Scottish Parliament works in a similar way to most other parliaments around the world. MSPs can hold debates and make new laws in the areas for which the Scottish Parliament has responsibility.

The Scottish Parliament does not have a second chamber like the House of Lords. Instead, it has a powerful committee system which can propose as well as scrutinise bills. In committees, small numbers of MSPs discuss legislation in detail and work closely together.

The Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee considers any issues raised by members of the public brought to the Scottish Parliament in the form of a petition, providing they meet certain criteria.

Meetings of the Scottish Parliament

The Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament
The Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament

The Debating Chamber is the focal point for the Scottish Parliament's business. This is where MSPs:

  • debate issues
  • vote on laws
  • question members of the Scottish Government

The procedures of the Scottish Parliament are overseen by the Presiding Officer. The Presiding Officer decides who will speak in a debate. The Presiding Officer ensures that:

  • the rules of the parliament are followed
  • MSPs conduct themselves appropriately
  • the business of parliament is carried out efficiently and fairly

All debates and other proceedings are shown live on television.

When the Parliament meets

On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and from 11.30am on Thursday, MSPs have the opportunity to attend debates in the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament. The Parliament only sits for 35 weeks a year. MSPs represent the people of their area by:

  • speaking in a debate or voting for or against a motion (proposal)
  • suggesting an amendment to a motion or introducing a new law (a bill)

On a Thursday, at noon, MSPs have the opportunity to question the First Minister during First Minister's Questions.