The glossary provides definitions for parliamentary terms to help you understand the Parliament and how it works. The terms are arranged alphabetically so select a letter to find the term you would like to have explained.
When an elected member advocates or promotes a cause in return for payment or an other benefit.
An assembly of representatives (generally elected).
A public engagement event, introduced by the Presiding Officer in Session 4 that aims to take the Parliament out of Edinburgh and into communities, giving local people a snapshot of how the Parliament works. The event may include an external committee meeting or fact finding visits as well as networking and learning sessions. The day is an opportunity for the Presiding Officer, Members and officials to find out about local issues also.
Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit
The office, operated and staffed by BBC Resources Ltd, that televises the proceedings of the Scottish Parliament and its committees.
The body consisting of the Presiding Officer and a representative of each party or grouping that has at least 5 members.
The place where the Parliament or any of its committees or sub-committees meets.
The term used in the Scotland Act 1998 and in the Standing Orders.
Any task or function an MSP could reasonably be expected to carry out in their capacity as a member of the Parliament.
parliamentary liaison officer (PLO)
A person appointed by the First Minister on a recommendation from Cabinet Ministers. A parliamentary liaison officer assists the Minister in discharging their duties. PLOs are unpaid and are not part of the Executive. Their role and the arrangements for their appointment are set out in paragraphs 4.6 - 4.13 of the Scottish ministerial code. The functions of PLOs are broadly similar to those of parliamentary private secretaries at Westminster.
parliamentary question (PQ)
One means by which MSPs can seek information or explanation from Ministers (and the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body). Questions can be for oral or written answer, and are governed by chapter 13 of the Standing Orders and the detailed guidance published by the clerks.
See normal parliamentary week.
A period, normally of 12 months, beginning on the date of the first meeting of the Parliament following a general election, and on each subsequent anniversary of that date within that session.
Members of the Parliamentary Bureau representing parties with 5 or more members in the Parliament.
passage of a bill
The process through which a bill passes from introduction to royal assent.
passing (of a bill)
When a bill is approved by the Parliament at the end of Stage 3 (or, Final Stage consideration).
A statement made by any MSP at a meeting of the Parliament, such as a public apology.
See public petition.
A meeting of the Parliament.
point of order
An intervention by an MSP during parliamentary proceedings, questioning whether proper procedures have been followed or are being followed.
A document accompanying an Executive or member's bill which sets out the policy objectives of the bill.
See Portfolio Question Time
Portfolio Question Time
A period of time each week when MSPs ask questions of the Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers on specified portfolios such as education and justice. The portfolio varies each week on a rota basis.
Primarily an enactment passed by the UK Parliament before, or in the same session as, the Scotland Act 1998.
When agreement to an amendment to a bill or motion means that another amendment can no longer be taken.
The stage when a private bill’s general principles are considered.
The residual, but often very important, powers of the sovereign, most of which are, in practice, exercised by Ministers on behalf of Her Majesty. Within the area of devolved competence, such powers are exercisable by Scottish Ministers (section 53, Scotland Act).
Presiding Officer (PO)
The MSP elected to chair meetings of the Parliament, the Parliamentary Bureau and the SPCB and to represent the Parliament externally.
Presiding Officers Office
The office providing advice and support to the Presiding Officer and his or her deputies.
Presiding Officers statement on legislative competence
A written statement by the Presiding Officer indicating whether or not, in his or her view, the provisions of a bill would be within the legislative competence of the Parliament. Such a statement is an accompanying document on the introduction of a bill (section 31, Scotland Act 1998; Standing Orders rules 9.3 and 9A.2.2).
Statutes enacted by a body with legislative powers, primarily Acts.
principal accountable officer
See accountable officer.
principal appointed day
See key principles.
A bill introduced by a person or body (the promoter) for the purpose of obtaining particular powers or benefits in excess of or in conflict with the general law, including any bill relating to the personal affairs or circumstances of the promoter. The legislative procedure for private bills is set out in chapter 9A of the Standing Orders.
private bill committee
Any committee of the Parliament that is established to consider a private bill.
Private Bills Unit
The Unit established in 2003 to receive and process all private bills. It provides information and advice to promoters and objectors, as well as clerking services to the committees established to scrutinise private bills.
The areas of legal protection or immunity vested by legislation in the Parliament, its members, or officials.
A body which, in the past, exercised much of the executive power of the sovereign, and which nowadays has a number of residual functions. These include the making of orders in council, aspects of the regulation of certain professions and universities and the granting of royal charters. For devolution purposes, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has an important role as a court in adjudicating on devolution issues.
proceedings of the Parliament
An important procedural and legal concept, not exhaustively defined in the legislation or the Standing Orders, although some guidance as to the sorts of proceedings which would be included is contained in the Presiding Officer’s guidance on ‘parliamentary privilege’ (Business Bulletin 38/1999) Examples include voting, lodging notices of motions and questions, and participating in debates in the Parliament or its committees.
A declaration by the sovereign that has legal effect.
The office responsible for purchasing all goods and services for the Parliament.
The person or body (not an MSP) who introduces a Private Bill.
An agreement or agreements relating to the copyright and licensing of a bill to the parliamentary corporation and some of the related documents. It constitutes one of the accompanying documents of a private bill.
One of the accompanying documents of a private bill. The promoter’s memorandum sets out the bill’s objectives, any consideration of alternative ways of meeting those objectives and any consultation that was carried out.
One of the accompanying documents of a private bill. The promoter’s statement sets out: details of any required notifications, advertisements and consents as determined by the Presiding Officer. It also gives the locations where the accompanying documents and other relevant documents can be inspected and purchased; and an undertaking to pay the required fees for introduction.
proposal for committee bill
The report published by a committee containing the proposal for a bill it wishes to introduce.
proposal for member's bill
A member who wishes to introduce a member’s bill must first lodge a notice of a proposal for such a bill. The member is then required either to consult on the proposal or to secure the agreement of the committee considering the proposal that consultation is not necessary. This is followed by the member lodging a final proposal for the bill, which need not be in identical terms. If, within one month, 18 other members from at least half of the parties represented in the Bureau have supported it, the member may introduce a bill to give effect to the final proposal in accordance with conditions laid out in the Standing Orders, section 9.14.
Public Audit Committee
A mandatory committee of the Parliament, of 9 members, the remit of which is to consider and report on (a) any accounts laid before the Parliament; (b) any report laid before or made to the Parliament by the Auditor General for Scotland; and (c) any other document laid before the Parliament, or referred to it by the Parliamentary Bureau or by the Auditor General for Scotland, concerning financial control, accounting and auditing in relation to public expenditure (Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Rule 6.7).
The committee must be established within 42 sitting days of a Scottish Parliament election.
A bill which proposes to change the law as it applies generally across the country.
For the purposes of the Standing Orders (including the remit of the Finance Committee), public expenditure means the expenditure of the Scottish Administration and other expenditure payable out of the Scottish consolidated fund or met out of taxes, charges and other public revenue.
Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000
The Act of the Scottish Parliament which deals with the public financial, budgeting, accounting and auditing procedures and practices of the Scottish Ministers and bodies supported from the Scottish consolidated fund, and with their scrutiny by the Parliament.
Public Information and Publications
The team within the Communications and Research Group that provides an enquiry service for the public and manages print and electronic publishing requirements for Scottish Parliament publications, including use of the corporate identity.
Public Petitions Committee
A mandatory committee of the Parliament, of 7 members, the remit of which is to consider public petitions addressed to the Parliament in accordance with these Rules and, in particular, to (a) decide in a case of dispute whether a petition is admissible; (b) decide what action should be taken upon an admissible public petition; and (c) keep under review the operation of the petitions system. (Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Rule 6.10).
The committee must be established within 42 sitting days of a Scottish Parliament election.