Scottish Parliament committees

Most MSPs sit on at least one committee (smaller groups of MSPs) of the Scottish Parliament.

In these committees MSPs discuss legislation in detail and work closely together.

The committees have the power to require anyone to give evidence before them. They will also produce reports about their work.

Unlike Westminster, Scottish Parliament committees can propose as well as scrutinise legislation.

Some committees eg the Health Committee are permanent and meet weekly to review the work of the Scottish Government.

Other committees are only temporary and are set up to investigate issues or make recommendations. For example, a committee was formed to scrutinise the Scottish Government response to the Covid-19 pandemic and make recommendations. This was the ‘Covid 19 Recovery Committee’.

Types of committee

There are two types of committee in the Scottish Parliament

  • mandatory committees – these must exist.
  • subject committees. These are ones which the government chooses to set up.

Examples of mandatory committees are the Equal Opportunities Committee and the Finance Committee.

Examples of 'subject' committees are the Education and Skills Committee and the Health and Sport Committee.

How committees work

All committees are made up of between five and eleven MSPs. Their make-up is based on the proportion of seats each party has overall. MSPs are more likely to consider issues based on their merits rather than oppose them on a party political basis.

Any MSP has the right to attend a committee meeting and to ask questions.

When sitting on a committee MSPs represent the people of their area by:

  • asking questions eg of Ministers or expert witnesses
  • using a committee to change an existing law
  • voting on whether or not a new law should be passed

When and where committees meet

Committees meet weekly or fortnightly usually on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursday mornings. Meetings take place in one of the Scottish Parliament's committee rooms.

Most are open to the public. In summer, many committees will move around and sit at various locations across Scotland.