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.



Penalties which may be imposed for breaches of parliamentary rules.

schedule 4

The schedule to the Scotland Act 1998 which sets out laws which the Parliament cannot change.

schedule 5

The schedule to the Scotland Act 1998 in which reserved matters are listed.

schedule 6

The schedule to the Scotland Act 1998 which describes devolution issues and how they are dealt with in the courts.

Scotland Act 1998

The main legislation of the UK Parliament, devolving powers to Scotland.

Scotland Act 2012

Amended the Scotland Act 1998, the main legislation of the UK Parliament, devolving further powers to Scotland.

Scotland Act 2016

Amended the Scotland Act 1998, devolving further powers to Scotland through delivery of the recommendations of the Smith Commission, including:
powers to set rates and thresholds of income tax; partial assignment of VAT revenues; social security powers including disability and carers’ benefits; devolution of air passenger duty; power to create new benefits in devolved areas and to top-up reserved benefit; devolution of some employment services; devolution of the Crown Estate in Scotland; energy efficiency and fuel poverty schemes; arrangements for elections to the Scottish Parliament; devolution of tribunals in reserved areas, eg employment tribunals in Scotland; devolution of additional powers over equal opportunities, including to legislate for gender balance on public boards; devolution of British Transport Police and responsibility for parking, speed limits and traffic signs; gaming machine licensing powers; licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction; abortion; consumer advocacy and advice.

Scottish Administration

The term used to denote both the political and administrative sides of the Scottish government. As defined in section 126 of the Scotland Act 1998, it includes members of the Scottish Executive, junior Scottish Ministers, certain non-ministerial office-holders (such as the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Scotland, the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland and the Keeper of the Records of Scotland) and their staff. The definition of the Scottish Administration can be changed by an order in council to add non-ministerial office-holders.

Scottish Affairs Committee

A committee of the House of Commons appointed to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Scotland Office.

Scottish budget

The Scottish Executive’s expenditure plans and financial proposals to be contained in the annual budget bill.

Scottish Commission for Public Audit (SCPA)

A body which has various functions relating to the accounts and audit of Audit Scotland.

Scottish consolidated fund

The fund created by the Scotland Act 1998 into which payments are made by the Secretary of State or sums received by the Scottish Administration, and out of which the spending of the Scottish Administration and other statutorily defined bodies comes.

Scottish Constitutional Convention (SCC)

The body composed of a number of Scottish political parties and other public groups and organisations which, from 1989 until 1995, produced the detailed proposals for a devolution scheme which informed the UK government's policy from 1997.

Scottish Executive

As defined in section 44 of the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Executive is the former name for the Scottish Government.   Renamed the Scottish Government in the Scotland Act 2012, section 12.

Scottish Government

As defined in section 12 of the Scotland Act 2012, the Scottish Government is the group of senior Ministers in the Scottish Government. It comprises the First Minister, other Ministers appointed by the First Minister under section 47 of the Scotland Act 1998, and the two Scottish Law Officers (that is, all Ministers in the devolved government other than junior Scottish Ministers). These members of the Scottish Government are known collectively in the Act as ‘the Scottish Ministers’.  Informally, the term is frequently used to mean the Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Law Officers and the junior Scottish Ministers, and their staff.  The Scottish Government is responsible for most of the issues of day-to-day concern to the people of Scotland, including health, education, justice, rural affairs, and transport.

The Scottish Government was known as the Scottish Executive when it was established in 1999 following the first elections to the Scottish Parliament. The current administration was formed after elections in May 2011.

Scottish Grand Committee

A standing committee of the House of Commons, consisting of all MPs for Scottish seats, together with some additional members. It has a range of functions under standing orders, from holding Ministers to account through questions and debates to scrutiny of certain types of Scottish legislation.

Scottish Information Commissioner

The independent commissioner, appointed under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, who is responsible for enforcing and promoting the right to access public information created by the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004, both of which came into force on 1 January 2005. More information is available on the Scottish Information Commissioner’s website.

Scottish Law Commission Bill

A Bill which implements all or part of a report of the Scottish Law Commission. The Presiding Officer has determined under Rule 9.17A.1(b) that a Scottish Law Commission Bill is a Bill within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament (a) where there is a wide degree of consensus amongst key stakeholders about the need for reform and the approach recommended; (b) which does not relate directly to criminal law reform; (c) which does not have significant financial implications; (d) which does not have significant European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) implications; and (e) where the Scottish Government is not planning wider work in that particular subject area.

Rule 9.17A.1(b))

Scottish Law Officers

The Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland.

Scottish ministerial code

The document containing a code of conduct and guidance on procedures for Scottish Ministers.

Scottish Ministers

The collective term used in section 44(2) of the Scotland Act 1998 for the members of the Scottish Executive who exercise statutory functions, including those transferred from UK Ministers of the Crown. Apart from functions conferred specifically on the First Minister or the Lord Advocate, functions conferred on the Scottish Ministers can be exercised by any member of the Scottish Executive. The First Minister is responsible for allocating, and defining the remit of, ministerial posts. The term ‘the Scottish Ministers’ is also applied colloquially to any Ministers or junior Scottish Ministers.

Scottish Office

The name of the former department of the UK government which dealt with many areas of Scottish government before devolution.

Scottish Parliament (SP)

The law-making body for devolved matters created by the Scotland Act 1998.

Scottish Parliament corporate identity

The Scottish Parliament's official logo comprises two parts: the words ‘The Scottish Parliament’ and a badge made up of the Saltire and a crown.

Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe)

The office that provides research and information services to parliamentary committees, MSPs, their staff, and other offices within the Parliament.

Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB)

The body that arranges for the Parliament to be provided with staff, property and services.

Scottish parliamentary pension scheme (SPPS)

A pension scheme for MSPs, Ministers and various parliamentary office holders.

Scottish Parliamentary Service (SPS)

The Scottish Parliamentary Service is the collective term for the group of professional staff employed by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) to support the business and operations of the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner

The independent commissioner who investigates complaints that MSPs have breached the Code of Conduct.

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

An office to look into complaints about Scottish government departments and various other public bodies.

Scottish statutory instrument (SSI)

The mainform of secondary legislation made, confirmed or approved primarily by the Scottish Ministers.

secondary committee

A committee whose remit covers an item or matter but which is not the designated lead committee.

secondary legislation

Legislation made by a Minister or other person or body under powers granted in an Act.

Secretary of State for Scotland

The head of the Scotland Office and the senior Minister of the UK Government dealing with Scottish matters.


A piece of text in an Act of the Scottish Parliament, consisting of one or more sentences gathered together under a section title.

Security Office

The office responsible for establishing a safe and secure environment throughout the parliamentary complex.

selection panel

A group of MSPs, established to nominate a person for appointment by the Queen.


The period from the date of first meeting of the Parliament following a general election until it is dissolved.

Sewel convention

A convention that Westminster would not normally legislate on devolved matters without the consent of the Parliament.

Sewel motion

See Legislative Consent Motion.


An informal term for opposition frontbench posts or structures mirroring those in the government.

Short money

An informal term for the scheme of assistance for registered non-Executive political parties in the Scottish Parliament.

simple majority

When the number of MSPs voting for a proposition is more than the number voting against it.

sitting day

A day when the Office of the Clerk is open and the Parliament is not in recess or dissolved.

Smith Commission

Established by Prime Minister David Cameron on 19 September 2014 following the No vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum of 18 September, with the following Terms of Reference:
"to convene cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process across Scotland to produce, by 30 November 2014, Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. This process will be informed by a Command Paper to be published by 31 October and will result in the publication of draft clauses by 25 January. The recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom." Chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin and comprising ten representatives from the five political parties represented in the Scottish Parliament, it reported in November 2014. The Commission's recommendations were debated in the UK Parliament and in January 2015 a draft bill was put forward. The Scotland Bill 2016 was subsequently passed in March 2016.

Social Security Committee

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

Solicitor General for Scotland

The junior Scottish Law Officer.

SPCB Question

See SPCB Question Time

SPCB Question Time

A period of up to 15 minutes when oral questions to the SPCB are taken in the Chamber.

SPCB's further expenditure plan

A spending plan provided by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body to the Parliament’s Finance Committee and to the Scottish Executive by 20 August each year (or by the first sitting day thereafter). It is provided under the written agreement between the SPCB and the Committee (SP Paper 156, June 2000) and reflects any changes in the SPCB’s provisional expenditure plan.

SPCB's provisional expenditure plan

A spending plan provided by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body to the Parliament’s Finance Committee and to the Scottish Executive by 1 March each year (or by the first sitting day thereafter) under the written agreement between the SPCB and the Committee (SP Paper 156, June 2000).

special adviser

A temporary civil servant appointed by the First Minister or the Deputy First Minister to advise Ministers on matters where the work of government and the work of the government parties overlap. Unlike permanent civil servants, special advisers do not have to behave with political impartiality, and must leave their posts if the First Minister or Deputy First Minister who appointed them leaves office.

special rules

The rules procedure that apply to particular types of bills and might supersede the general rules.


A registrable interest where an MSP receives any financial or material support on a regular basis to assist them as an MSP.

Staff Cost Provision

A provision to enable MSPs to employ staff.

staff of the Parliament

The public servants provided by the SPCB for the Parliament's purposes.

staff of the Scottish Administration

Civil servants appointed by the Scottish Ministers or by office-holders in the Scottish Administration.

Stage 1

The stage when the lead committee considers and reports on the general principles of a Public Bill.

Stage 2

The stage when amendments to a public bill can be considered by a committee of the Parliament.

Stage 3

The stage for final consideration and amendment of a public bill and for deciding whether it should be passed.

stages of private bills

The various formal stages of consideration of a private bill by the Parliament: Preliminary Stage, Consideration Stage, Final Stage and, if necessary, Reconsideration Stage (rules 9A.7-9A.11).

stages of public bills

The various formal stages of consideration of a public bill by the Parliament. Stage 1 is a consideration of, and a decision on, a bill’s general principles. Stage 2 is a consideration and amendment of the details of a bill by a parliamentary committee (or committees) or in a Committee of the Whole Parliament. Stage 3 is the final consideration and amendment of a bill and a decision whether it should be passed or rejected. There may also be a Reconsideration Stage if necessary (rules 9.5-9.8).

stages of the budget process

The 3 stages of the annual budgeting process in the Parliament, based on the report of the Financial Issues Advisory Group, and set out in the written agreement between the Parliament and the Scottish Ministers (SP Paper 155, June 2000). Stage 1 is a consideration of spending strategy, to enable the Parliament to express its views on the Scottish Ministers’ future expenditure priorities. Stage 2 is a consideration by the Parliament of the Scottish Ministers’ detailed spending proposals for the next financial year. Stage 3 is parliamentary consideration of the annual budget bill.

Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee

A mandatory committee of the Parliament, of 7 members, the remit of which is to consider and report on the following (and any additional matter added under Rule 6.1.5A)—

(a) the practice and procedures of the Parliament in relation to its business; (b) whether a member’s conduct is in accordance with these Rules and any Code of Conduct for members, matters relating to members interests, and any other matters relating to the conduct of members in carrying out their Parliamentary duties; (c) the adoption, amendment and application of any Code of Conduct for members; (d) matters relating to public appointments in Scotland; and (e) matters relating to the regulation of lobbying; matters relating to Scottish general elections falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations.

The committee must be established within 21 sitting days of a Scottish Parliament election.

Standing Orders (SOs)

The rules governing how the Parliament conducts its business.


An oral contribution during a meeting of the Parliament that does not arise out of a question or motion before the Parliament. It does not include points of order, Time for Reflection or remarks from the Chair. The main examples are personal statements and ministerial statements. In a more technical sense, ‘statement’ has the same meaning for the purposes of the Standing Orders as it has in section 17(1) of the Defamation Act 1996, that is, words, pictures, visual images, gestures or any other method of signifying meaning.

statute law repeals bill

A bill to repeal legislation that has become obsolete or otherwise unnecessary following recommendations from the Scottish Law Commission.

statute law repeals committee

A committee established by the Parliament to consider a statute law repeals bill.

statute law revision bill

A bill whose purpose is to revise statute law both by repealing laws no longer in force or which have become unnecessary and by re-enacting provisions of UK Acts or Acts of the Scottish Parliament which have otherwise become spent (rule 9.20).

statute law revision committee

A committee established by the Parliament to consider a statute law revision bill.

statutory instrument

The main form for legislation made by Ministers and others under powers delegated by an Act.

sub judice rule

This rule requires that a matter in relation to which legal proceedings are active (as defined in rule 7.5.2) may not be referred to in proceedings of the Parliament, except in so far as is permitted by the Presiding Officer. The rule does not itself prevent the Parliament from legislating about any matter.


A body established by a parliamentary committee, with the approval of the Parliament, to consider and report to the committee on a matter within its remit. Normally, only members of the committee (other than committee substitutes) may be members of its sub-committees. The duration of a sub-committee is decided by the Parliament on a motion of the Parliamentary Bureau.

subject committee

A committee, other than a mandatory committee, established by the Parliament to deal with a particular subject.

subordinate legislation

Legislation made by a Minister or another authorised person, using powers granted under primary legislation, such as an Act.

super-affirmative procedure

This procedure provides for a greater degree of parliamentary scrutiny than is the case with instruments subject to ordinary affirmative resolution procedures. With orders subject to super-affirmative procedure, the Parliament is given the opportunity to comment on the proposals for a draft instrument before the instrument is laid and Ministers have to make a statement on how the Parliament's comments have been reflected in the instrument when it is formally laid.


A two-thirds majority of MSPs required to pass any Bill which includes provisions on the following particular protected subject matters, whether at introduction or following amendment:

the persons entitled to vote as electors at an election for membership of the Parliament,
the system by which members of the Parliament are returned,
the number of constituencies, regions or any equivalent electoral area, and
the number of members to be returned for each constituency, region or equivalent electoral area.

Support Fund - Employees and Contingencies

Under the members' allowances scheme, the fund from which a number of employee and local office support costs are met.

suspension of the Standing Orders

A mechanism to allow normal rules to be dispensed with or varied.

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