Most MSPs are members of at least one committee. Each committee is given a particular area or subject to examine in detail. For example, the Education Committee considers and reports on matters relating to school and pre-school education.
Committees conduct inquiries into specific topics within their area and can then ask Parliament to consider their findings.
Committees scrutinise legislation – this means that they look closely at proposed new laws (Bills) and can propose amendments (changes).
Committees call witnesses to inquiries and when they are examining Bills. Witnesses can be members of organisations, groups or individuals who will be affected by changes to the law. In this way committees try to find out the views of the people.
Committees can also call Ministers to give evidence and in this way scrutinise the work of the Government on our behalf.
MSPs meet in the debating chamber on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. MSPs can put forward motions about problems the people they represent experience and can ask Parliament to consider how to solve them.
They also debate proposals for new laws (Bills).
MSPs have several opportunities to question the Scottish Ministers about Government policy in the debating chamber.
First Minister's Question Time gives the leaders of the other parties and some ‘backbench' MSPs an opportunity to ask the First Minister questions directly. The First Minister is ultimately responsible for the Scottish Government's programme and must justify its policies, and in this way is held accountable to the people of Scotland.
Another Question Time session looks at topical issues which have recently arisen and further sessions allow MSPs to ask Ministers about their department's policies. MSPs might raise local issues at this time which have been brought to them by members of their constituency or region.
Each MSP can introduce two Bills during one Parliamentary session (four years).
If a MSP is contacted by members of the public about an issue she/he may decide to try to get a change in the law by introducing a Member’s Bill.
At the end of each day of business in the debating chamber MSPs vote. This is called ‘decision time’ and the results of the vote can decide whether an issue passes on to the next stage of the legislative process. MSPs must consider the views of their constituents when voting, as well as any political party view. You can find out how any MSP has voted by going to their MSP page.