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.


oath of allegiance

On being returned as members, all MSPs are required either to take the oath of allegiance or make the solemn affirmation before the Clerk at a meeting of the Parliament. The form of the oath is set out in the Promissory Oaths Act 1868, and the corresponding affirmation, which may be taken instead, is set out in the Oaths Act 1978. An MSP may not participate in any other proceedings of the Parliament until he or she has taken the oath or made the solemn affirmation. An MSP that does not do this, normally within a two month period of being returned as an MSP, will cease to be an MSP.


A formal statement lodged by anyone who considers that their interests would be adversely affected by a private bill.

objection period

A period during which objections to a private bill can be lodged.


An individual person, or a body, who lodges an objection to a Private Bill during the objection period.

Office Cost Provision

A provision to enable MSPs to run their offices and meet constituents.

Office of the Clerk

In practice the offices of the parliamentary staff.

Office of the Solicitor to the Advocate General for Scotland

The office that provides legal services in Scotland to UK government departments.

Office to the Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament

The Office that provides legal services to the Parliament, its committees, the Presiding Officer and SPCB.

office-holders in the Scottish Administration

These are defined in section 126(7) of the Scotland Act 1998 as members of the Scottish Executive and junior Scottish Ministers (that is, all Ministers in the Scottish government) and the holders of specified non-ministerial offices. These non-ministerial offices are listed in section 126(8), and include the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland. They also include others specified by Orders in Council, principally the Scottish Administration (Offices) Order 1999 (SI 1999/1127).

official print

The archive-quality copy of an Act of the Scottish Parliament signed by the Clerk of the Parliament after royal assent. This is deposited in the National Archives of Scotland.

Official Report (OR)

The Official Report is the written record of what is said in public meetings of the Scottish Parliament and its committees.

oldest committee member

The member of a committee (other than a committee substitute) who is the oldest member of the committee present at a meeting and who has indicated to the clerk that he or she agrees to chair the meeting. The oldest committee member chairs meetings for the purpose of appointing a convener or temporary convener (see also oldest member of the committee).

oldest member

The oldest member elected to the Parliament is given functions by the Standing Orders. In rule 2.4 the ‘oldest qualified member’ (as defined in rule 2.4.7) chairs the first meeting of the Parliament following a general election, solely for the purpose of presiding over the proceedings when members are taking the oath of allegiance or making a solemn affirmation and for the election of the Presiding Officer. The oldest qualified member must take the oath of allegiance or make a solemn affirmation before he or she can chair the meeting. The oldest member may chair other meetings of the Parliament but only if the Presiding Officer and both deputy Presiding Officers are unable to act. Similarly, the first meeting of a newly established committee is chaired by the oldest committee member until a convener is chosen (rule 12.1.6).

open power

Section 112 of the Scotland Act 1998 states that, if a power to make subordinate legislation under the Act makes no provision for who may exercise it, the power can be exercised either by order in council or by a Minister of the Crown by order. Such a power is referred to as an open power.


A term commonly applied to those parties and groups in the Parliament that are not in the government.

oral question

A parliamentary question lodged for oral answer either at Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time or SPCB Question Time.

orders in council

A form of subordinate legislation made by the sovereign through the Privy Council, rather than directly by a Minister.

ordinary general election

A general election held under section 2 of the Scotland Act 1998 on the first Thursday in May in the fourth year after the previous such election - or on a date proposed by the Presiding Officer up to a month either side of that date.

Outreach Services

Outreach Services develop and deliver a range of educational services to support MSPs and to enable the people of Scotland to engage with the Parliament. They lead on the development and delivery of Parliament Days, support committees’ public engagement initiatives, and are responsible for implementing the SPCB’s Gaelic Language Plan.

Their approach for young people focuses on citizenship education to support the Curriculum for Excellence and includes an inward education programme of visits, tours and workshops; outreach education visits delivered by staff and providing support to MSPs to meet pupils in school; innovative and imaginative resources for learning and teaching about the Parliament and to support Members’ own outreach; seminars and other CPD opportunities for teachers;a peer education programme for 16 to 25 year olds.

overnight expenses allowance

An allowance for MSPs who stay overnight away from their main residence while carrying out their parliamentary duties.

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