Scottish Government
Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba
Scots: Scots Govrenment
Overview
Established1 July 1999 (1999-07-01)
CountryScotland
LeaderFirst Minister (Humza Yousaf)
Appointed byFirst Minister approved by Parliament, ceremonially appointed by the monarch
Main organScottish Cabinet
Responsible toScottish Parliament
Annual budget£59.7 billion (2024–25)[1]
HeadquartersSt Andrew's House
2 Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG
Websitewww.gov.scot

The Scottish Government (Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba, pronounced [ˈrˠiə.əl̪ˠt̪əs ˈhal̪ˠapə]) is the devolved government of Scotland.[2] It was formed in 1999 as the Scottish Executive following the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution.[3] Amongst its areas for responsibility of decision making and domestic policy in the country include the economy, education system, health care, justice and the legal system, rural affairs, housing, the crown estate, the environment, the fire service, equal opportunities, the transportation network and tax, amongst others.[4][5]

The Scottish Government consists of the Scottish Ministers, which is used to describe their collective legal functions. The Scottish Government is accountable to the Scottish Parliament, which was also created by the Scotland Act 1998 with the first minister appointed by the monarch following a proposal by the Parliament. The responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament fall over matters that are not reserved in law to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Ministers are appointed by the first minister with the approval of the Scottish Parliament and the monarch from among the members of the Parliament. The Scotland Act 1998 makes provision for ministers and junior ministers, referred to by the current administration as Cabinet secretaries and ministers, in addition to two law officers: the lord advocate and the solicitor general for Scotland. Collectively the Scottish Ministers and the Civil Service staff that support the Scottish Government are formally referred to as the Scottish Administration.

History

Main articles: 1997 Scottish devolution referendum and Scotland Act 1998

Following the Scotland Act 1998, Donald Dewar became First Minister and led the first Scottish Government since 1707

In 1885, many domestic policy functions relating to Scotland were brought into the responsibility of the Scottish Office, a department of the Government of the United Kingdom which was headed by a Secretary for Scotland, later the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Following the 1997 referendum on devolution, many of the functions of the Secretary of State for Scotland were transferred to the Scottish Ministers, accountable to a devolved Scottish Parliament.

The first Scottish Executive was formed by First Minister Donald Dewar as a coalition between the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. During this period, ministerial appointees were divided into ministers and deputy ministers. The Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition continued under subsequent First Ministers Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell. Following the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, Alex Salmond headed a Scottish National Party administration until his resignation in 2014 and the appointment of his former Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Since 2007, the Scottish Executive has used the name Scottish Government. The change of name was later recognised in United Kingdom legislation by the Scotland Act 2012. In 2001, former First Minister Henry McLeish had proposed such a change, but experienced some opposition.[6]

At the same time that the Scottish Government began to use its new name, a new emblem was adopted. It replaced the use of a version of the Royal Arms with the Flag of Scotland.[7]

Functions

Bills introduced by the Scottish Government are debated in the Scottish Parliament, and must receive a majority in favour of a bill becoming law

Parliament

Main article: Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Government is separate from the Scottish Parliament, with the parliament being made of 129 elected Members of the Scottish Parliament by the electorate of Scotland during Scottish Parliamentary elections. The Scottish Parliament acts as the law making body for devolved matters which fall under the responsibility of the Scottish Government. The work of the Scottish Government, including proposed legislation, policies and activities, is scrutinised by parliament through a variety of different measures such as parliamentary debates, parliament committees and parliamentary questions to the appropriate Cabinet Secretary or government minister.[8]

National Performance Framework

The Scottish Government produces a National Performance Framework which sets out the governments priorities, objectives and overall vision for the country following election. It serves as a means for the Scottish Government to highlight national priorities and provides an opportunity for the government to evaluate its progress towards achieving the objectives as set out in the National Performance Framework.[9]

Similarly, the Programme for Government is published annually by the incumbent Scottish Government, and it highlights the governments policies, proposed actions and legislation that the government will seek to implement in the forthcoming year.[10]

Legislation

Proposed government legislation and government conduct can be scrutinised by parliamentary committees

The majority of bills proposed to the Scottish Parliament come from the Scottish Government. The process for introducing bills to the parliament for consideration and debate commences with the government publishing and formulating policy. A bill will only become law in Scotland under Scots law once it has been approved by a majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, where it will then be put to the Monarch to receive royal assent. Once royal assent has been given by the Monarch, the bill becomes a law of the Scottish Parliament and becomes embedded in Scots law.[11]

Once a bill is successful in becoming law, the Scottish Government has the responsibility to ensure subordinate legislation, which often comes in the form of Scottish statutory instruments, is implemented accordingly so that the new law begins to work and that any additional measures and features can be added in order to make the law work and ensure its effective implementation and operation.[12]

Statistics and transparency

The Scottish Government publishes statistics based on the majority of public life in Scotland, including, but not limited to, education, the economy, health care, population, death, marriages and births, as well as living standards. The government uses such statistics in order to evaluate its work against the data in order to gauge how successful, or unsuccessful, government policy is and whether it is having the desired impact.[13]

In order to ensure accountability, the Scottish Government publishes information for public consumption in order to ensure the work of the Scottish Government is accessible and transparent for the public. It commits itself to publishing information in areas relating to the spending of public money and creating a breakdown of public spending, the work of senior civil servants in the Scottish Government, including their job titles and salaries, as well as government assessment against objectives in order to highlight how well the government is doing in achieving the targets and objectives it creates through the National Performance Framework and Programme for Government. Additionally, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 gives the public the right to ask for information relating to the Scottish Government, as well as other public sectors.[14]

Structure

The Scottish Government

The Scottish Government consists of a first minister, deputy first minister, nine Cabinet Secretaries and eighteen other government ministers. Cabinet secretaries are senior members of the Scottish Cabinet, whilst the remaining government ministers are junior ministers of the government and act as a deputy to the corresponding cabinet secretary of that department, and support the duties and functions of the cabinet secretary. As junior ministers of the government, ministers do not usually attend the Scottish Cabinet; only the cabinet secretary attends. [15]

Additionally, the Scottish Government is supported by a permanent secretary, two law officers – the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland – who serve as the chief legal advisers to the government, as well as several other government officials, personal secretaries and advisers to the Scottish Government and the first minister. [16]

First Minister

Main articles: First Minister of Scotland and Deputy First Minister of Scotland

Bute House in Edinburgh is the official residence of the first minister

The head of the Scottish Government is the First Minister of Scotland who also serves as the Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland whilst in office as first minister. The first minister chairs the Scottish Cabinet and is primarily responsible for the formulation, development and presentation of Scottish Government policy.[17] Additional functions of the first minister include promoting and representing Scotland in an official capacity, at home and abroad.[17] The first minister is one of only a few individuals permitted to fly the Royal Banner of the Royal Arms of Scotland in their capacity as Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland.[18]

The first minister is nominated by the Scottish Parliament by fellow MSPs, and is formally appointed by the monarch. Members of the Scottish Cabinet and junior ministers of the Scottish Government as well as the Scottish law officers, are appointed by the first minister. As head of the Scottish Government, the first minister is directly accountable to the Scottish Parliament for their actions and the actions of the wider government and cabinet.

The office is held by Humza Yousaf of the Scottish National Party since 29 March 2023, following the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon. Yousaf was elected as the nominee by the Scottish Parliament on 28 March 2023.[19] The following day Yousaf took the oath of office to the King, received the Scottish seal and was formally appointed by Charles III.[20][21][22]

The first minister is supported by the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, currently Shona Robison. The deputy first minister deputises for the first minister during periods of absence, such as attending overseas visits and international engagements, and may act on the first ministers behalf during First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament. Whilst serving as deputy first minister, the office holder holds another cabinet position. Currently, Shona Robison also serves as the Cabinet Secretary for Finance as well as deputy first minister.[23]

Permanent Secretary

Main article: Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government

The office of the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, the most senior civil servant in Scotland, in St Andrews House

The Permanent Secretary is the Scottish Government's most senior civil servant. They lead the administration's strategic board as well as directly support the First Minister and cabinet and is the accountable officer with responsibility to ensure that the government's money and resources are used effectively and properly.[24] The current permanent secretary is John-Paul Marks, who succeeded Leslie Evans in January 2022.[25]

The Permanent Secretary is a member of the UK Civil Service, and therefore takes part in the UK-wide Permanent Secretaries Management Group under the Cabinet Secretary who performs a number of similar functions in relation to the UK Government. The Scottish Government's Permanent Secretary is responsible to the Scottish Ministers in terms of policy.[26]

Civil service

In addition to the Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Government is supported by a number of officials drawn from the UK Civil Service. They are collectively referred to as the Scottish Administration in the Scotland Act 1998. According to 2012 reports, there are 16,000 civil servants working in core Scottish Government directorates and agencies.[27]

The civil service is a matter reserved to the British parliament at Westminster (rather than devolved to Holyrood): Scottish Government civil servants work within the rules and customs of His Majesty's Civil Service, but serve the devolved government rather than British government.[28]

A total of eight director–generals head Scotland's civil service department. Each director–general is responsible for a number of directorates and agencies of the Scottish Government and are directly accountable for the legislation proposals, as well as implementing government policy into practice. Public bodies (non–ministerial departments of the Scottish Government) are the responsibility of the senior civil servants as opposed to Scottish Government ministers.[29]

Directorates

Main article: Directorates of the Scottish Government

The Scottish Government is divided into 55 directorates which execute government policy in specified areas. Unlike in the British government, senior ministers do not lead government departments and have no direct role in the operation of the directorates.

The directorates are grouped together into eight "Directorates General", each run by a senior civil servant who is titled a "Director-General". As of February 2024, there are eight Directorates General:

Supporting these directorates are a variety of other corporate service teams and professional groups.[30]

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service serves as an independent prosecution service in Scotland, and is a ministerial department of the Scottish Government. It is headed by the Lord Advocate, who is responsible for prosecution, along with the procurators fiscal, under Scots law.

Strategic Board

The strategic board is composed of the permanent secretary, the seven directors-general, two chief advisers (scientific and economic) and four non-executive directors. The board is responsible for providing support to the government through the permanent secretary, and is the executive of the Scottish civil service.[31]

Executive Agencies

Main article: Executive agencies of the Scottish Government

To deliver its work, there are 9 executive agencies established by ministers as part of government departments, or as departments in their own right, to carry out a discrete area of work. These include, for example, the Scottish Prison Service and Transport Scotland. Executive agencies are staffed by civil servants.

There are two non-ministerial departments that form part of the Scottish administration, and therefore the devolved administration, but answer directly to the Scottish Parliament rather than to ministers: these are the General Register Office for Scotland and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Public Bodies

Main article: Scottish public bodies

The Scottish Government is also responsible for a large number of non-departmental public bodies. These include executive NDPBs (e.g. Scottish Enterprise); advisory NDPBs (e.g. the Scottish Law Commission); tribunals (e.g. the Children's Panel and Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland); and nationalised industries (e.g. Scottish Water). These are staffed by public servants, rather than civil servants.

The Scottish Government is also responsible for some other public bodies that are not classed as non-departmental public bodies, such as NHS Boards, Visiting Committees for Scottish Penal Establishments or HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland.

The Scottish Ministers

For previous Scottish Governments, see List of Scottish Governments.

The incumbent Scottish Government; March 2023–present

The Scottish Government is led by the First Minister of Scotland and consists of additional Scottish Ministers and the law officers. In addition to the First Minister, the government consists of a Deputy First Minister, nine Cabinet Secretaries and an additional eighteen other ministers of government.[32]

The Scottish Parliament nominates one of its members to be appointed as First Minister by the King.[33] The First Minister appoints additional Ministers to a variety of ministerial portfolios. More senior ministers, known as Cabinet Secretaries, collectively form a cabinet with the First Minister. The Scottish law officers, the Lord Advocate and Solicitor, can be appointed without being a member of the Scottish Parliament; however, they are subject to the Parliament's approval and scrutiny. Law officers are also appointed by the King on the recommendation of the first minister.[33]

Cabinet

For the current Scottish Government, see Yousaf government.

The Scottish Cabinet collectively takes responsibility for policy coordination within the Scottish Government. It is supported by the Cabinet Secretariat, based at St Andrew's House. While the Scottish Parliament is in session, Cabinet meets weekly.[34] Normally meetings are held on Tuesday afternoons in Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister.[35] Members of the Scottish Cabinet receive blue despatch boxes for their use while in office.[36]

There are currently two sub-committees of cabinet:[37]

Law officers

The Scottish law officers – the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General for Scotland

The Lord Advocate is the principal legal adviser of both the Scottish Government and the Crown in Scotland for civil and criminal matters that fall within the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament. The Lord Advocate provides legal advice to the government on its responsibilities, policies, legislation and advising on the legal implications of any proposals brought forward by the government. The Lord Advocate is responsible for all legal advice which is given to the Scottish Government.[38] The Lord Advocate serves as the ministerial head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and as such, is the chief public prosecutor for Scotland with all prosecutions on indictment being conducted by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in the Lord Advocate's name on behalf of the Monarch. The Lord Advocate serves as the head of the systems of prosecutions in Scotland and is responsible for the investigation of all sudden, suspicious, accidental and unexplained deaths which occur within Scotland.[39][40]

The officeholder is one of the Great Officers of State of Scotland. The current Lord Advocate is Dorothy Bain KC, who was nominated by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in June 2021.[41] The Lord Advocate is appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the incumbent First Minister of Scotland, with the agreement of each of the 129 members of the Scottish Parliament.[42]

The Solicitor General for Scotland is one of the Law Officers of the Crown, and the deputy of the Lord Advocate, whose duty is to advise the Scottish Government on Scots law. They are also responsible for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service which together constitute the Criminal Prosecution Service in Scotland. Together with the Lord Advocate, the Solicitor General for Scotland is one of the senior legal advisors to the government in Scotland.[43] Whilst the Solicitor General for Scotland supports the Lord Advocate in their functions, the Solicitor General may also exercise their statutory and common law powers when necessary.[44] The incumbent Solicitor General for Scotland is Ruth Charteris KC.

Offices

The headquarters building of the Scottish Government is St Andrew's House, which is located on Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Some other government directorates are based at Victoria Quay and Saughton House in Edinburgh, and Atlantic Quay in Glasgow. The head offices of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Lord Advocate's Chambers are at Chambers Street in central Edinburgh.

There are numerous other Edinburgh properties occupied by the Scottish Government. Both the Scottish Fiscal Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission are based in the old Governor's House on the site of the former Calton Gaol, next door to St. Andrew's House on Regent Road. Other offices are scattered around central Edinburgh, including Bute House on Charlotte Square, the official residence of the first minister.

All Ministers and officials have access to Scotland House at Victoria Embankment in London, when necessary. Dover House on Whitehall is now used by the Scotland Office and the devolved Scottish Ministers no longer use it.[45]

The Scottish Government also operates local offices and specialist facilities around Scotland, for example those used by Rural Payments & Services[46] and Marine Scotland.

International network

Main article: International relations of Scotland

Network of Scottish Government offices worldwide

The Scottish Government has a European Union representative office, located at Rond-Point Robert Schuman in Brussels, Belgium, which forms a part of the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union.[47] The Scottish Government also maintains offices within the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as the British Embassy in Berlin and has accredited representatives within the British Embassy in Beijing.

Scotland has a network of eight international offices across the world located in:[48]

Responsibilities

The Scottish Executive's original logo, shown with English and Scottish Gaelic caption. The logo was replaced in September 2007, with the name changed to "Scottish Government", and the Flag of Scotland used instead of the Royal Arms.

The responsibilities of the Scottish Ministers broadly follow those of the Scottish Parliament provided for in the Scotland Act 1998 and subsequent UK legislation. Where pre-devolution legislation of the UK Parliament provided that certain functions could be performed by UK Government ministers, these functions were transferred to the Scottish Ministers if they were within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

Functions which were devolved under the Scotland Act 1998 included:[50]

Subsequently, the Scotland Acts of 2012 and 2016 transferred powers over:[51][52]

The 1998 Act also provided for orders to be made allowing Scottish Ministers to exercise powers of UK Government ministers in areas that remain reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Equally the Act allows for the Scottish Ministers to transfer functions to the UK Government ministers, or for particular "agency arrangements". This executive devolution means that the powers of the Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament are not identical.[53]

The most prominent reserved matters that remain under the exclusive control of the Parliament of the United Kingdom are:[54]

The members of the Scottish government have substantial influence over legislation in Scotland, putting forward the majority of bills that are successful in becoming Acts of the Scottish Parliament.[55]

The Scottish Government introduced a National Performance Framework (NPF) in 2007. This framework measures "how Scotland is doing" in eleven National Outcome areas including health, poverty, environment and education, along with offering a portrait of "the kind of Scotland" that government wishes to create. Each of the National Outcomes is measured by a number of Indicators and associated data sets.[56] The National Outcomes are that people:

See also

Acts of Parliament relating to the Scottish Government

Workings of the Scottish Government

Scottish Government campaigns

History of the Scottish Government

Notes

References

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  57. ^ This article contains OGL licensed text This article incorporates text published under the British Open Government Licence: Scottish Government, What it is: An overview of the [National Performance] Framework, accessed 20 February 2023