The First Minister

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Just as the leader of the UK Government is the Prime Minister, the leader of the Scottish Government is known as the First Minister for Scotland. Both are officially appointed by the monarch.

While the Prime Minister is elected by their own MPs, the First Minister is elected by the majority of all MSPs.

In theory, any MSP can become First Minister for Scotland. In practice, the First Minister is the leader of the party with the most MSPs as it is the MSPs who vote to elect the First Minister.

The responsibilities of the First Minister for Scotland include:

  • deciding the direction and priorities of the Scottish Government
  • choosing Depute First Minister, cabinet secretaries and other ministers
  • chairing the Scottish cabinet
  • nominating the appointment of the Lord Advocate, Solicitor General and judges
  • representing Scotland at home and abroad

Scottish Government

The First Minister chairs the Scottish cabinet, the main decision-making body of the Scottish Government. The cabinet is made up of cabinet secretaries who lead government departments eg Education and Skills.

Each cabinet secretary is supported by a number of junior Scottish ministers who, in turn, are supported by civil servants or government employees.

The First Minister and their cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Scottish Parliament.

They are expected to appear before parliament each week and answer questions from MSPs.

Current First Minister

After the election of 2016, the party with the most MSPs was the SNP and so Nicola Sturgeon, who had taken over from Alex Salmond in 2014, was re-elected as First Minister. Nicola Sturgeon is, Scotland’s first female First Minister.

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