A short animated guide to how laws are normally made in the Scottish Parliament.


The Scottish Parliament makes laws on matters it has been given responsibility for by the UK Parliament at Westminster (known as devolved matters).

If a new law is needed on one of these matters, or an existing law needs to be changed, a bill will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament. A bill is a proposal to change the law.

Who can introduce a bill?

A law that affects the public across Scotland can be introduced by any Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP). Most bills are government bills, introduced by a Cabinet Secretary or Minister. Bills introduced by MSPs who are not part of the Scottish Government are known as members’ bills. Each MSP can introduce up to two members' bills in a parliamentary session (the period between Scottish Parliament elections). Bills can also be proposed by Scottish Parliament committees – these are known as committee bills.

Who examines bills?

The Parliament examines bills, mostly in committees, with one committee taking the lead. This is known as scrutiny. However, it is the full Parliament that has the final say and decides whether or not a bill should become law.

Before it can become a law, a bill has to pass through three main stages in the Parliament.

What are the three stages?

You can see the three stages of a bill in the following diagram:

Stage 1: Parliamentary committees consider the general principles (the overall purpose) of the bill and normally ask members of the public for their input. The Parliament then debates and reaches a decision on the general principles of the bill in the Chamber. Stage 2: A parliamentary committee considers the bill in detail and decides on proposed changes (amendments). Stage 3: The Parliament can consider further amendments to the bill. Then the Parliament decides whether to pass or reject the bill.

If the Parliament passes the bill, it will become part of the law of Scotland as an Act of the Scottish Parliament once it has received Royal Assent (approval from The Queen). However, some parts of the Act may not come into effect straightaway.

What types of bill are there?

There are three main types of bill: public bills, private bills and hybrid bills. There is also an additional type of legislation called subordinate legislation. If you want to find out more about these, you can read the pages below.

Continue to stage 1

Video link

You can also watch the video How does the Scottish Parliament make laws?

Case study

Find out how the law-making process works in practice and view the timeline of a bill on our case study page.

What is scrutiny?

Scrutiny is the process of checking and challenging a proposal. The aim of scrutinising bills through the three stage process is to make the bill as effective as possible.

What are amendments?

Amendments are changes to the wording of the bill. They can be proposed by MSPs at stage 2 or stage 3.

Legislation Team

For more information on law-making procedure in the Parliament, you can contact the Legislation Team.


0131 348 5277

BSL video

 You can also view our British Sign Language video How the Scottish Parliament makes laws

This website is using cookies.
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we’ll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on this website.