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.


West Lothian question

The colloquial name for the perceived constitutional anomalies that would be a consequence of a system of devolution applicable only to parts of the UK. It is named after the constituency of Tam Dalyell MP, who raised these difficulties during the parliamentary passage of devolution bills in the late 1970s. In narrow terms, the question was why MPs for Scottish constituencies would be able to speak and vote on matters affecting UK areas outwith Scotland when neither they nor MPs from those areas could speak or vote at Westminster on those matters as they affected Scotland if they had been devolved to a Scottish legislature.


The colloquial name for the UK Parliament, comprising the House of Commons and the House of Lords.


A colloquial term, derived from Westminster parliamentary practice, for party business managers and others who fulfil the task of enforcing parliamentary party discipline in the Parliament.


The colloquial name for the UK government generally, and the civil service bureaucracy in particular.

winding up allowance

An allowances MSPs can use to wind up their parliamentary duties and activities when they cease to be members.

withdrawal (of a bill)

A bill may be withdrawn at any time by the member in charge but shall not be withdrawn after completion of Stage 1 except with the agreement of Parliament (rule 9.13). A private bill may be withdrawn at any time by the promoter. Where a private bill is withdrawn, another private bill in the same or similar terms may not be introduced by the same promoter within a period of 6 months from the date of which the private bill was withdrawn (rule 9A.15).

withdrawal of rights and privileges

A sanction that can be imposed on MSPs following a breach of the Code of Conduct for members.


A person invited or required to attend a meeting of a committee for the purpose of giving evidence.

Written Answers Report (WAR)

A publication containing the answers to written questions and those questions not reached at a Question Time session in the Chamber.

written question

A question lodged by an MSP which is specified as being for written answer by the Scottish Executive or the SPCB.

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