After stage 3: How the bill comes into force

What happens when a bill is passed?

After the bill is passed, an ‘as passed’ version is published if any amendments were agreed to at stage 3. This version will show side bars to indicate where amendments have been agreed to, resulting in added, changed or removed text.

What happens next?

There is then a four-week period when the bill can be challenged by Law Officers on the issue of whether or not the Parliament has the power to make law on the subjects covered by the bill (that is, whether or not it is within the legislative competence of the Parliament).

During this period, the Advocate General for Scotland, the Lord Advocate or the Attorney General (known as “Law Officers” of the Scottish and UK Governments) may refer a question about legislative competence to the Supreme Court (the highest court in the UK). The Secretary of State has a separate power to challenge the bill.

After this period, if there is no challenge, the Presiding Officer submits the bill to The Queen for Royal Assent. Once the bill receives Royal Assent, it becomes an Act of the Scottish Parliament and is part of the law of Scotland. If there is a challenge, the Parliament may reconsider the bill ("reconsideration stage").

Acts of the Scottish Parliament are published on the within a few days after receiving Royal Assent.

When does the Act come into effect?

When the Act actually comes into effect may vary, and different provisions may come into force at different times.  

  • Sometimes Acts, or specific provisions within Acts, come into force on the day after Royal Assent, but this is not always the case. 
  • The Act itself will usually specify when and how its provisions will come into force. This is usually set out in the section on 'commencement'.
  • If the Act does not specify when its provisions come into force, they come into force on the day after the bill receives Royal Assent. 

  • Acts often allow Scottish Ministers the power to decide when the provisions will come into force. Sometimes ministers will have said during proceedings on the bill in the Parliament what the Scottish Government’s intentions are about bringing the law into force.

What bills has the Parliament passed?

All bills passed by the Scottish Parliament can be found in the Previous Bills section of our website. They can also be found on the website. 

Bill Summaries provide an overview of the purpose of each bill passed and of its consideration by the Parliament. They are also available for all bills introduced from session 2 (2003-07) onwards.   

You can find lists of all bills considered by the Scottish Parliament in the Scottish Parliament Legislation fact sheets.     


After stage 3 video

Please note that the video feature is not compatible with all internet browsers. You can view the after stage 3 video on the Adobe Spark website.

There is also a PDF version:

Where to look

  • While it is awaiting Royal Assent, you can find the ‘as passed’ version of a bill on the relevant bill’s page under Current Bills.
  • You can find Acts of the Scottish Parliament on the website.

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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