Stage 1: Considering the general principles

What is stage 1?

Stage 1 is for the Parliament to consider the general principles of the bill (what the bill is trying to do and how it plans to do it) and decide whether or not to agree to these.

How does stage 1 work?

Once a bill is introduced, it is published on the Current Bills page of the Parliament’s website the following morning along with accompanying documents. There is no formal introduction of the bill in the Chamber. The Parliament then scrutinises (examines) the bill.

Scrutiny by committee

One committee will be appointed as the lead committee for the bill. This is the committee which usually deals with the subject covered by the bill – for example, a bill about tax is likely to be referred to the Finance and Constitution Committee.

The lead committee considers and reports on the general principles of the bill, asking questions such as: ‘Is this the right approach to making law on this issue?’

The lead committee usually invites the public to send in written comments, and hears from a range of organisations and individuals at evidence sessions in committee meetings. It may also use other methods – for example, going on fact-finding visits to areas likely to be particularly affected, or inviting people to comment through social media. It will usually end its evidence programme by hearing from the MSP who introduced the bill.

Any other committee may be involved and produce a report to the lead committee. Two committees in particular look at most Scottish Parliament bills:

  • The Finance and Constitution Committee considers the financial implications of each bill, possibly taking evidence on this. 
  • If the bill proposes to give any powers to Scottish Ministers to make regulations or to issue directions, guidance or codes of practice about the issues covered in the bill, it will also be considered by the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee.

When it has heard all the evidence, the lead committee will discuss and then publish a report to the Parliament. This explains the evidence received and usually makes recommendations, sometimes including suggestions on how the details of the bill should be amended to improve it.

Scrutiny by the full Parliament

Once the lead committee has published its report, the Parliament will debate the general principles of the bill.

If the Parliament does not agree to the general principles after the stage 1 debate, the bill falls (meaning no further action will be taken).

If the Parliament agrees to the general principles, the bill moves on to stage 2.

Continue to stage 2

Stage 1 video

Please note that the video feature is not compatible with all internet browsers. You can view the stage 1 video on the Adobe Spark website.

There is also a PDF version:

Get involved

If you are interested in a bill, contact the clerks to the lead committee to ask about how it plans to consider the bill and how you can get involved.

Where to look

  • Published bills and associated documents, including committee reports, are found on the Current Bills page (for the current parliamentary session).
  • Calls for evidence are announced on the relevant committee pages, in the Parliament’s news section and the weekly eBulletin, and details appear on the Current Consultations page, or you can contact the committee clerks.
  • Check the Business Bulletin to find out when stage 1 committee meetings and debates will be held or contact the committee clerks. 

Timescales and rules

The length of stage 1 varies, but it can often last for several months. This allows the committees time to consider the bill and gather views.

For more information, see the Timescales and rules section.

Legislation Team

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

0131 348 5277 

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