The Scottish Government

The party or parties that win the election form the Scottish Government. In 2016 this was the SNP.

The leader of the Scottish Government is known as the First Minister for Scotland. Each department of the Scottish Government eg Education and Skills, is led by a minister who is responsible to the Scottish Parliament for the work of their department.

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

The First Minister

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

The responsibilities of the First Minister for Scotland include representing Scotland at home and abroad, deciding the priorities of the Scottish Government and choosing Scottish Cabinet Ministers.

The First Minister usually appears weekly at First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) every Thursday at midday to answer questions from MSPs.

Scottish Parliament committees

The Scottish Parliament has a number of committees that MSPs can join, eg the Justice Committee and the Health and Sport Committee. Each has between five and fifteen members.

In committees MSPs discuss bills (new laws in making) in detail or review the work of the Scottish government. Committees are very important in ensuring laws are carefully drafted and that government operates effectively.

Committees meet weekly or fortnightly in one of the Scottish Parliament's committee rooms. Most are open to the public and often in the summer, many will sit at various locations across Scotland.

The work of an MSP

Voters in Scotland have eight potential MSPs (one constituency and seven from the regional list) they can contact regarding any of the devolved powers.

A day in the life of an MSP in the Scottish Parliament

MSPs can represent voters over less local issues such as the health service, the environment and farming but can also act on behalf of their electors by:

  • writing to or meeting with a relevant Cabinet Secretary or Minister
  • speaking in Parliament during debates
  • asking questions during First Minister's Questions (FMQs)
  • introducing bills on topics of concern to their constituents

Outside Parliament, MSPs may:

  • lobby other organisations (such as local councils, health boards)and individuals on behalf of their constituents
  • raise the profile of an issue in the media