The glossary provides definitions for parliamentary terms to help you understand the Parliament and how it works.  The terms are arranged alphabetically so select a letter to find the term you would like to have explained.



The group of senior Ministers of the Scottish government appointed by the First Minister.

Cabinet Minister

A senior minister appointed to the Cabinet by the First Minister. The current government calls the Senior Ministers Cabinet Secretaries and the junior Ministers, Ministers.

Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities

The Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities is responsible for business improvement districts; building standards; community empowerment, devolution to communities and reform of local government; community planning, town centres and regeneration; disabilities; equalities and the protection and development of social and human rights; housing and homelessness; implementation of new powers; local government and democratic renewal; older people; planning, religious and faith organisations; social justice; tackling inequalities; third sector and social economy; welfare policy, social security and measures against poverty.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs is responsible for architecture and built heritage; broadcasting; creative industries; cross government co-ordination on bringing major events to Scotland; cross government co-ordination on the European Union and international relations; culture and the arts; fair trade; international development; national records and national identity; Scottish diaspora; tourism.

Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work

The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work is responsible for bankruptcy policy and Accountant in Bankruptcy; business, industry and manufacturing, innovation and increasing productivity; cities and infrastructure investment policy; consumer advocacy and advice; employability programmes, youth and women's employment and employment policy; energy, energy consent, a low carbon economy and renewable energy industries; financial services; internationalisation and European structural funds; labour market strategy, the living wage, fair work and inclusive growth; life sciences; regional economic forums; Scottish economy; Scottish Enterprise - national enterprise agency; trade and inward investment; trade unions.

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills is responsible for school standards, quality and improvement; school infrastructure and staffing; educational attainment, qualifications and closing the attainment gap; the national improvement framework; the teaching profession; behaviour and measures to combat bullying; modern languages and the Gaelic and Scots languages; named person and looked after children; early years, further education and colleges, and higher education and universities; widening access and student funding; science and STEM; youth work and Skills Development Scotland; non-advanced vocational skills; adoption, fostering protection of vulnerable groups; children's rights, child protection and the historical abuse enquiry; social services workforce and children's hearings; children's services and childcare implementation.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform is responsible for climate change and environmental protection; crown estates; environmental and climate justice; flood prevention; land reform; marine planning; national parks and natural heritage; physical and marine environment; sustainable development and biodiversity; water quality and Scottish Water.

Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution is responsible for constitution; digital public services; efficient government; fiscal policy and taxation; freedom of information (FOI) and open government; government procurement; government and parliamentary business, relations with other UK administrations; managing the public finances; national elections; National Performance Framework; public bodies policy; public sector pay and pensions; registers of Scotland; Scottish budget, budgetary monitoring and reporting; the Scottish Futures Trust.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport is responsible for Allied Healthcare services; carers, adult care and support; child and maternal health; dentistry; health care and social integration; implementing the 2020 Vision, national clinical strategy, quality strategy and national service planning; medical records, health improvement and protection; mental health; NHS and its performance, staff and pay; patient services and patient safety; physical activity, sport, sporting events and events legacy; primary care, acute services elective centres;  problem alcohol use and recovery; drugs policy; public health and healthy working lives; sexual health.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice is responsible for anti-sectarianism; community safety, anti-social behaviour and violence reduction; courts, sentencing, the legal profession and civil law; criminal justice social work, victims, witnesses and access to justice; female offenders; human rights; justice system and criminal law procedure; liquor licensing; police, fire and rescue services; prisons and prisoners; reducing reoffending; security; youth justice.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity is responsible for agriculture and crofting; connectivity, including 100% broadband coverage; cross government co-ordination on islands; fisheries and aquaculture; food and drink; forestry; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; rural Scotland; transport and public transport.

Canongate Buildings

The two buildings within the parliamentary complex situated at the foot of the Canongate.

Canongate Wall

The boundary wall which runs down to the foot of the Canongate along the façade of the Canongate buildings.


See Debating Chamber.

Chamber Desk

The section of the Chamber Office that processes, and advises on the processing of, parliamentary questions, motions and amendments to motions, and produces the Written Answers Report. In the House of Commons, parliamentary questions and motions are dealt with by the Table Office.

Chamber Office

The office providing clerking support for meetings of the Parliament; the Parliamentary Bureau; and for various committees.

Chief Executive

See Clerk of the Parliament.

civil servants

Officials of the executive arm of government.

Claim of Right

The declaration of Scotland’s constitutional rights and liberties that the former Parliament of Scotland made following the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 (akin to the English Parliament’s Bill of Rights). The term is also used for the declaration that the Scottish Constitutional Convention issued in 1989 in favour of a Scottish assembly based on popular sovereignty.


A Parliament official who provides procedural and administrative support to the Parliament or to a committee.

Clerk of the Parliament

The senior official of the Parliament’s administration.


A formal arrangement between several of the parties or groupings to combine to form a government.

code of conduct

A code of rules and guidance on standards of conduct by MSPs in carrying out their parliamentary duties.

codification bill

A bill that comprehensively restates and, if necessary, clarifies and simplifies the existing law in a particular area, making it legislation rather than common law.

Commission on Parliamentary Reform

Established in October 2016 by the Presiding Officer, chaired by John McCormick with  ten members, to review the evolution of the Scottish Parliament since 1999 and to assess its capacity to deal with the additional sets of responsibilities devolved through the Scotland Act 2016 and expected to result from the Brexit process. The Commission convened between November 2016 and June 2017, seeking evidence through meetings and public events, written submissions, oral evidence sessions and an online survey.  It reported in June 2017, putting forward over 70 recommendations for improvements.

Commission on Parliamentary Reform Advisory Group

Advisory Group with responsibility for overseeing the referral and parliamentary consideration of the recommendations made by the Commission on Parliamentary Reform.  Membership comprises representatives from all parties represented in the Parliament, with quarterly meetings chaired by the Presiding Officer.

Commissioner for Children and Young People

An independent commissioner appointed under the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003 to promote and safeguard the rights of children and young people.Further information is available on the Commissioner's website (

Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland

An independent commissioner, appointed under the Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc. (Scotland) Act 2003, whose role is to monitor, report and advise on ministerial appointments to public bodies in Scotland. More information is available on the website of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland.


A small group of MSPs formed to deal with particular parliamentary business.

committee bill

A public bill introduced by the convener of a committee.

Committee of the Whole Parliament

The form of meeting when the full Parliament considers Stage 2 of a bill.

Committee Office

The Office that provides clerking support for many of the committees.

committee rooms

Rooms in the Parliament building used for committee meetings and other events.

committee substitute

An MSP who substitutes for any other MSP from their party on a particular committee.

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA)

An organisation representing the parliaments of the Commonwealth states, of which the Scottish Parliament is a member.

community law

Those legal rights and obligations arising from European Union treaties and related legislation.

competent matters

Matters within the remit of any particular committee of the Parliament.


For the purposes of the Code of Conduct for MSPs, a complaint is a formal communication by any person about the conduct of an MSP in relation to the Code. Section 9 of the Code provides guidance as to the making of complaints in particular circumstances. Complaints are investigated by the Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.


A non-binding agreement between the devolved administrations and the UK Government.

confidence of the Parliament

When a motion of no confidence (rule 8.12) is passed, stating that the Scottish Executive no longer enjoys the confidence of the Parliament, all Ministers in the Scottish Administration (including junior Scottish Ministers) are required by the Scotland Act 1998 to resign (section 45(2), section 47(3)(c), section 48(2), Scotland Act 1998). When such a motion directed at a named minister is passed, no such statutory obligation arises, but that minister would be expected to resign. Motions of no confidence must be debated if supported by at least 25 members. The Presiding Officer and deputy Presiding Officer can be removed from office if the Parliament so decides by an absolute majority (rule 3.5)

Consideration Stage

The stage for detailed consideration of a private bill's provisions.

consolidation bill

 A bill whose purpose is the consolidation of enactments, whether or not with amendments to those enactments, to give effect to recommendations of the Scottish Law Commission or of the Scottish Law Commission and the Law Commission jointly (“Law Commission recommendations”), rule 9.18.

consolidation committee

A committee established to consider a consolidation bill.


An electoral area which elects a single MSP using the first-past-the-post system.

constituency member

An MSP elected using the first-past-the-post voting system for a constituency.

consultation document

A document prepared to obtain views from the public and selected organisations on a particular issue.

Consultative Steering Group (CSG)

The group set up by the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1998 to bring together views on the Scottish Parliament and to consider the Parliament’s operational needs and working methods. Its membership included representatives of the main Scottish political parties as well as a wide range of civic groups and interests. Its main report, “Shaping Scotland’s Parliament”, was published in January 1999.

contingent liability

A contingent liability is a potential call on government resources (contingent on particular events happening in the future). The Scottish Ministers have undertaken to present proposals for contingent liabilities in excess of £1m to the Finance Committee, which has the power to either approve the proposal or propose an amendment.


The MSP who convenes and chairs a committee.

Conveners Group (CG)

This Group was formally constituted in January 2003 and consists of the Presiding Officer and the convener of each mandatory and subject committee. In practice, the Group’s convener is one of the Deputy Presiding Officers rather than the Presiding Officer. Broadly speaking, the Group considers and makes recommendations on matters regarding the operation of committees. The Group may also act as a second consultative body to the Parliamentary Bureau on issues regarding Parliamentary business. Chapter 6A of the Standing Orders outlines the role of the Group.

Conveners Liaison Group (CLG)

Former name of the Conveners Group, before it was formally constituted.

Convention rights

Rights and freedoms set out in various articles of the European Convention on Human Rights as defined in section 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998. An Act of the Scottish Parliament is not law if it is incompatible with any of the convention rights.

Corporate Services

The department that provides the overall financial infrastructure and controls within which the Parliament operates. It incorporates the Finance, Allowances and Procurement Offices.

cross-party group (CPG)

A group made up of MSPs from across the parties and people from outside the Parliament who share an interest in a particular subject or issue.

Crown consent

The formal consent of the Crown to provisions in a bill which impinge on the private interests of the Crown.

Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee

A mandatory committee of the Parliament, of 9 members, the remit of which is to consider and report on the following (and any additional matter added under Rule 6.1.5A) —

(a) proposals for European Union legislation; (b) the implementation of European Communities and European Union legislation; (c) any European Communities or European Union issue; (d) the development and implementation of the Scottish Administration’s links with countries and territories outside Scotland, the European Union (and its institutions) and other international organisations; (e) co-ordination of the international activities of the Scottish Administration; (f) culture and tourism matters falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Relations.

Name changed from European and External Relations Committee to Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee on 29 September 2016. The committee must be established within 42 sitting days of a Scottish Parliament election.

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