UK constitutional arrangement

As well as the Scottish Parliament, there are assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. These assemblies, like the Scottish Parliament, have defined powers which have been devolved from the UK Parliament.

Historically the UK has also had to follow rules made in Brussels by the European Union (EU), however, the UK is planning to leave the EU within the next two years and will no longer have to obey laws passed by the EU.

The Prime Minister and the First Minister

Showing the roles and responsibilities of the Prime Minister and First Minister

The Prime Minister (PM) is usually the leader of the largest party in a government or the leader of the party who wins an election. In Scotland, the First Minister (FM) is elected by all MSPs but it usually the leader of the party with the most MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. Like the Prime Minister, the First Minister is officially appointed by the monarch.

The PM has several roles including selecting cabinet ministers and chairing meetings of the cabinet. Cabinet ministers are senior MPs who have responsibility for running a government department such as defence or international development. There is a minister for Scotland titled the Secretary of State for Scotland. In Scotland the FM also selects a cabinet and chairs cabinet meetings of MSPs who run the different government departments in Scotland such as health and transport.

Both the PM and FM and each of their cabinets are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to their respective parliaments. They are expected to appear before parliament each week and answer questions from MPs or MSPs. One way the PM is held to account is at Prime Minister’s Question (PMQs). PMQs takes place every Wednesday at midday. First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) is every Thursday at midday.

Other roles for the PM and FM include setting the direction of government policy and representing the UK and Scotland at home and abroad.