Public bills

What is a public bill?

A public bill is a bill which proposes to change the law as it applies generally across Scotland.

What is the procedure for public bills?

The procedure for most public bills is outlined in the How laws are passed section. However, some public bills follow a different procedure. For example, there is a separate procedure for members’ bills (bills introduced by MSPs who are not in the Scottish Government) and committee bills.

Members’ bills

Before introducing a member’s bill, an MSP has to go through the following process:

  • The MSP lodges a draft proposal.  This is printed in the Legislation section of the Business Bulletin and on the Parliament’s website.  
  • The draft proposal is usually accompanied by a consultation document, seeking comments and views from the public.  Alternatively, the MSP can provide a statement, giving reasons why (in the MSP’s view) no consultation is needed.  One of the Parliament’s committees can then decide whether it agrees with the reasons given. 
  • At the end of the consultation period (or if it has been agreed that no consultation is needed), the MSP can lodge a final proposal, usually accompanied by a summary of the consultation responses.  The final proposal appears in the Legislation section of the Business Bulletin for a month. 
  • During this period, other MSPs may indicate support for the proposal – and the Scottish Government can also block the proposal if government legislation to achieve its aim is being planned.  
  • If the final proposal secures cross-party support from at least 18 other MSPs, and isn’t blocked by the Scottish Government, the MSP can introduce a bill to give effect to the proposal, but only until about 11 months before the next Scottish Parliament election.  

The proposal process for members’ bills is outlined in this flow chart.

There is a list of all proposed members’ bills on our website. Any enquiries about a proposed member’s bill before its introduction should be directed to the office of the relevant MSP.

Committee bills


Committees can also introduce bills.  Before introducing a committee bill, the committee must go through the following process: 

  • The committee holds an inquiry into the case for changing the law.  It would normally hear views from the public in the course of the inquiry. 
  • The committee publishes a report setting out its proposal for the bill.  
  • The Parliament debates the report and decides whether to agree to the committee’s proposal.  
  • After the debate, the Scottish Government can block the proposal if government legislation to achieve the proposed bill’s aim is being planned.
  • If the Parliament agrees to the proposal, and if the proposal is not blocked, the convener of the committee can then introduce a committee bill to give effect to the proposal.

The proposal process for committee bills is outlined in this flow chart.

Any enquiries about a proposed committee bill before its introduction should be directed to the relevant committee’s clerking team.

BSL video

 You can view a British Sign Language video on members' bills.

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