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.



Under rule 7.1 of the standing orders, the Parliament is normally to conduct its business in English, but MSPs, or any other person invited by the Parliament to address it, can speak in Scots Gaelic or any other language with the agreement of the Presiding Officer. The Parliament also has a language policy which deals with matters such as the publication of material in other languages and the provision of translation and interpretation facilities.

Law Officers

The senior legal advisers to the government.

laying documents

Chapter 14 of the Parliament’s Standing Orders provides rules on laying documents before the Parliament. Many types of documents, such as financial reports or annual reports of public bodies, must be laid by law.

lead committee

The parliamentary committee within whose remit a particular bill or item of subordinate legislation falls, and which, under the Standing Orders, takes the lead role in reporting to the rest of Parliament on that legislation. If a measure falls within the remit of more than one committee, the committees concerned may decide, with the agreement of the Parliamentary Bureau, to consider the matter jointly. Alternatively the Parliament may designate one to be the lead committee, acting on a motion from the Parliamentary Bureau.

leader of the opposition

An informal term sometimes applied to the leader of the largest non-Executive party in the Scottish Parliament.


Any written law agreed to and given authority by a law-making body.

legislative competence

Those areas in which the Scottish Parliament can make valid legislation.

Legislative Consent Memorandum

A document prepared by the Executive or by a Member describing a Westminster Bill that contains provisions on devolved matters, or provisions that would alter the devolved competence of the Parliament or the Executive. In most cases, the memorandum will also explain why the Executive (or the Member) wishes the Parliament to give consent to Westminster legislating in this way. See also Legislative Consent Motion, Sewel Convention.

Legislative Consent Motion

A motion expressing the Parliament’s consent to provisions in a Westminster Bill on devolved matters or to alter the devolved competence of the Parliament or of the Executive. Previously (and still, colloquially) known as a “Sewel motion”.

legislative process

The stages of parliamentary consideration that a bill must go through to become an Act.

letters patent

In the legislative context, royal assent to bills passed by the Parliament is signified by letters patent signed in the monarch’s own hand, passed under the Scottish Seal and recorded in the Register of the Great Seal.

list member

An informal term for a regional MSP, derived from the party lists used for their election.


The Scotland Act 1998 makes provision for the ethical conduct of the Parliament. There is a transitional scheme for the regulation of MSPs’ interests including the prohibition of paid advocacy by MSPs. The Code of Conduct for MSPs includes additional provisions and guidance in relation to MSPs’ interaction with lobbyists. See section 5 of the Code of Conduct for MSPs.

Local Government and Communities Committee

A subject committee of the Parliament, the remit of which is to consider and report on communities, housing, local government, planning and regeneration matters falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities.  (As agreed by resolution of Parliament on 1 June 2016).

Lord Advocate

The senior Scottish Law Officer and a member of the Scottish Executive.

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