Holyrood and history

This page contains frequently asked questions about the Holyrood building and the history of the current and former Scottish Parliaments.

Please note that the Scottish Parliament is not responsible for the content of any external websites.

  • How did the current Scottish Parliament come into existence in 1999?

    The UK Government’s white paper on Scottish devolution, Scotland’s Parliament, was published in July 1997. It set out proposals for a new Scottish Parliament and drew heavily on the Scottish Constitutional Convention’s 1995 report, Scotland's Parliament, Scotland's Right.

    A referendum was held on 11 September 1997 to ask the Scottish people whether they wanted a Scottish Parliament and whether it should have tax-varying powers. A clear majority of voters voted Yes to both questions. 

    Question 1:

    I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament (result: 1,775,045 or 74.3%)


    I do not agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament (result: 614,400 or 25.7%)

    Electorate 3,973,673

    Turnout 60.1%

    Spoilt Ballot Papers 11,986

    Question 2:

    I agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers (result: 1,512,889 or 63.5%)


    I do not agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers (result: 870,263 or 36.5%)

    Electorate 3,973,673

    Turnout 60.0%

    Spoilt Ballot Papers 19,013

    This result gave the UK government a mandate to introduce a bill that would allow for the creation of a Scottish Parliament.

    The white paper, Scotland’s Parliament, was the basis for the Scotland Bill that was introduced at Westminster in December 1997 and became the Scotland Act 1998 on 19 November 1998. This Act is the formal constitutional document providing for the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

    In November 1997, the Secretary of State for Scotland set up the Consultative Steering Group on the Scottish Parliament (CSG), which met for the first time in January 1998. The CSG was chaired by Henry McLeish, the Scottish Office Minister for Devolution, and was composed of representatives from the main political parties in Scotland and from other civic groups and interests. The remit of the CSG was to report on the “operational needs and working methods” of the Parliament and to make proposals for its standing orders and rules of procedure. Its main report, Shaping Scotland’s Parliament (984KB pdf), was published in January 1999.

    The first elections to the Scottish Parliament were held on 6 May 1999. The first meeting of the Parliament took place on 12 May 1999 with Sir David Steel elected as the first Presiding Officer. The Parliament was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 1 July 1999. From that date, the Parliament assumed its power to legislate for Scotland on devolved matters. 

  • Where can I find information about the old Scottish Parliament?

    You can find a brief history of Scotland’s parliamentary tradition in the History section of our website. Images and information about pre-1707 Scottish parliaments can be found on the website of the Scottish Parliament History Workshop at Stirling University; and a short history of the Scottish Parliament, along with suggestions for further reading, can also be found on the website of the Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707. Information about the 1707 Union of the Parliaments is available on the UK Parliament website.

    The current Scottish Parliament does not hold any archives relating to the Scottish parliaments in the period before 1707. These documents are held by the National Records of Scotland. A searchable database of the Acts of the Scottish Parliament between the thirteenth century and 1707 is available on the Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707 website.

  • Where can I find information about the Parliament building at Holyrood?

    Extensive information about the Parliament building at Holyrood, including details of the project's history, the building's design, its environmental features and its artwork, can be found in the About the Building section of this website.

  • Where can I find information about the artwork on display at the Scottish Parliament building?

    Extensive information about the Parliament's art collection can be found in the Art Collection pages of this website.

  • What was the cost of the Holyrood building and how was it funded?

    The final cost of the Scottish Parliament building was £414.4m.

    The Holyrood Building Project was funded using conventional public funding arrangements for major Scottish capital projects - that is to say, it was funded from the Scottish Consolidated Fund, also known as the Block Grant.

  • How much does it cost to run the Scottish Parliament?

    The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Annual Report and Accounts 2019-20 are available below. 

    For the financial year ending 31 March 2020, the total revenue expenditure of the Scottish Parliament on staff, property and administration was £98.1 million. This figure includes:

    • running costs of £ 8.6 million (listed as 'other expenditure' in the above accounts)

    • property costs of £9.0 million

    • parliamentary staff salaries of £31.8 million

    • MSP and officeholder salaries of £12.6 million

    • reimbursement of MSP expenses (which enable members to secure staff and accommodation to help them carry out their parliamentary duties) of £17.0 million 

    • funding for the salaries and running costs of the Commissioners and Ombudsman of £10.3 million

  • Where can I find the text of the quotations on the Canongate Walls and a list of the authors?

    Under the façade of the Canongate building is the Canongate Wall. The overall design of the Canongate Wall was by Sora Smithson and contains a representative range of Scottish stones carved by Gillian Forbes and Martin Reilly. The stones are set in large pre-cast concrete panels. At the lower end of the wall is a townscape based around a sketch by Enric Miralles of Edinburgh's Old Town as viewed from his room in the Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street in Edinburgh.

    You can find the text of the quotations inscribed on the Canongate Wall and their authors in the Parliamentary Building section of our website.

  • Can I go on a guided tour of the building?

    Free guided tours of the Parliament building run on most days when there is no parliamentary business. Due to their popularity, it is highly recommended that you book your place on a guided tour well in advance of your visit.

    You can find more information about guided tours in the Visiting The Parliament section of the website.

  • Can I attend meetings and debates?

    All meetings of the Parliament in the Debating Chamber and most committee meetings are open to the public. Tickets are free, but it is recommended that you book in advance if you wish to attend a meeting.

    You can find information about attending parliamentary business by looking in the Tickets for Parliament Debates and Tickets for Committee Meetings sections of this website.

  • Are there parking facilities at the Parliament for the public?

    There is no public car park at the Scottish Parliament building, but information about the nearest public car parks is available in the Visiting Holyrood section of our website under the heading 'Getting to Holyrood by road'.

    A small number of public parking spaces are reserved for disabled people near the Parliament building on Horse Wynd. (Please note that these parking bays are for visitors to the Holyrood area in general, not just for visitors to the Parliament.)

  • What is the address of the Scottish Parliament?

    You can write to the Scottish Parliament at the following address:

    The Scottish Parliament
    EH99 1SP

    If you need to deliver letters or items to the Scottish Parliament, you should do so via the goods entrance on Holyrood Road opposite the Our Dynamic Earth building.

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