Structure and operation of the Scottish Parliament
Produced in partnership with Dr Kirsty Hood of Hastie Stables
Structure and operation of the Scottish Parliament

The following Public Law guidance note Produced in partnership with Dr Kirsty Hood of Hastie Stables provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Structure and operation of the Scottish Parliament
  • Brexit impact—devolution
  • Which voting system is used in Scottish Parliament elections?
  • What governments have been produced by this electoral system?
  • What are the functions and powers of the Scottish Government?
  • Who are other key players in the Scottish Parliament?
  • How are laws made by the Scottish Parliament?

This Practice Note provides an introduction to the Scottish Parliament. It considers how its members are elected and how it exercises its law-making powers. Within that context, it also describes how the Scottish Government is formed, and the functions which it performs.

Brexit impact—devolution

The UK devolution structures involve complex interaction with EU law and EU competences, and are therefore impacted by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. For general updates on the process and preparations for Brexit, see: Brexit timeline. For further reading on the impact of Brexit on devolution, see News Analysis: Examining the impact of Brexit and UK-wide common frameworks on devolution. For detail on the impact for Scotland, see Practice Note: Brexit—implications for Scotland.

Which voting system is used in Scottish Parliament elections?

Elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament are known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The voting system which is used (known as the Additional Member System) combines a simple ‘first past the post’ constituency vote, with an element of proportionality.

On election day, two votes are cast by each voter:

  1. one for an MSP to represent the voter’s constituency (eg Edinburgh Central); and

  2. another for a political party or individual included on a regional list (eg the region of Lothian)

There are 73 constituency Members and 56 regional Members. The ‘first past the