A Private Bill is introduced by a promoter, who may be a person, a company or a group of people, for the purpose of obtaining particular powers or benefits that are in addition to, or in conflict with, the general law. Private Bills generally relate to the property or status of the promoter. For example, the National Galleries of Scotland Bill granted powers to the Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland to complete the Playfair Project which was a series of improvements undertaken by the National Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy.
Until the enactment of the Transport and Works (Scotland) Act 2007, Private Bills could also be introduced in the Parliament to authorise major infrastructure projects such as trams and railways. For example, the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine Railway and Linked Improvements Bill granted powers to Clackmannanshire Council required for the reconstruction of the railway between Stirling and Kincardine.
Private Bills are subject to a parliamentary process in which MSPs take part as members of the committee. Private Bills are different to other Bills in that they involve measures sought in the private interests of the promoter, and to which others may object. The role of the Parliament is to consider the Bill and to arbitrate between the promoter and objectors. Those people that do participate in the process are given ongoing procedural guidance and assistance by the clerks in the Non-Government Bills Unit.
Private Bills are subject to a three Stage process.
- Preliminary Stage: Committee consideration of the general principles of the Bill and whether the Bill should proceed as a Private Bill and preliminary consideration of objections; Parliament debate on general principles and whether a Bill should proceed.
- Consideration Stage: Committee consideration of the details of the Bill, including amendments and all remaining objections
- Final Stage: Parliament’s consideration of amendments to the Bill and a decision whether to pass or reject it.
Information about the Private Bill process can be obtained from the Guidance on Private Bills. Alternatively the Non-Government Bills Unit can be contacted by telephoning 0131 348 6124.
The following leaflet provides information for those wishing to object to a private bill: