The Scottish Government

The party or parties that win the election form the Scottish Government. In 2021 this was the SNP.

The leader of the Scottish Government is known as the First Minister for Scotland. Each department of the Scottish Government, for example education, is led by a minister who is responsible to the Scottish Parliament for the work of their department. The minister is helped by junior ministers and government employees.

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

Any MSP can become the First Minister but it is usually the leader of the party with the most MSPs.

After the 2021 election, the party with the most MSPs was the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon was re-elected as First Minister. She is Scotland’s first female First Minister.

The responsibilities of the First Minister include representing Scotland at home and abroad, deciding the priorities of the Scottish Government and choosing cabinet ministers. The First Minister appears weekly at First Minister's Questions (FMQs) every Thursday to answer questions from MSPs.

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

Scottish Parliament committees

There are lots of committees that MSPs can join. For example, the Justice Committee and the Health and Sport Committee. Each has between five and fifteen members from all parties.

In committees, MSPs discuss bills (the name given to new laws when they are being made) in detail or check the work of the Scottish Government. The committees are very important in making sure that laws are carefully written and that the government works effectively.

Committees meet weekly or fortnightly. Most meetings are held in the Scottish Parliament’s committee rooms, but they can travel to places around Scotland. Most meetings are also open to members of the public and can be streamed online.

The work of an MSP

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

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

As well as this MSPs can act on behalf of those who elect them by:

  • Writing or meeting with a Cabinet Secretary or Minister
  • Speaking in Parliament during debates
  • Asking questions during First Minister’s Questions (FMQs)
  • Introducing bills on topics that are important to their constituents (people who elect them)

Outside Parliament, MSPs may:

  • Speak to other organisations (such as councils or health boards) and individuals on behalf of constituents
  • Raise the profile of an issue in the media