Subordinate legislation

What is subordinate legislation?

Government ministers (or another authorised person) can make laws called subordinate legislation (also known as secondary or delegated legislation), if they have the required powers under an Act of the Scottish Parliament or an Act of the UK Parliament.

Although most major changes in the law pass through the Parliament in the form of bills, the vast majority of legislation considered by the Parliament is in the form of subordinate legislation, most commonly Scottish statutory instruments (SSIs).

Subordinate legislation is often used to:

  • provide the details of how a law will be applied 
  • bring a specific section (or sections) of an Act into force 
  • amend existing Acts

The Scottish Parliament scrutinises subordinate legislation and can approve or reject it. It is extremely rare for the Parliament to have any scope to amend or change subordinate legislation.

Most statutory instruments are considered by the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee and at least one other Scottish Parliament committee.

Detailed information on statutory instruments and the different procedures for dealing with them can be found on the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee pages. 

Subordinate legislation process

The stages in the passage of subordinate legislation are outlined in the infographic below.

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