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About the Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government - who does what?

The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are separate organisations. They do different things and are based in different locations. The Scottish Parliament building is at Holyrood in Edinburgh and the Scottish Government is based in various buildings, including St Andrew’s House and Victoria Quay in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament makes laws in Scotland on devolved matters.

It is made up of 129 elected Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).


  • take part in examining and passing proposed laws (Bills)
  • represent you in the Scottish Parliament and your local area
  • examine the work of the Scottish Government

Everyone in Scotland is represented by 8 MSPs: 1 constituency MSP and 7 regional MSPs. A constituency is the small, local area you live in. A region is a larger local area made up of several constituencies.

The MSPs elect a Presiding Officer (PO). The PO’s responsibilities include chairing meetings in the Debating Chamber and representing the Parliament at home and abroad.

The Clerk Chief/Executive is the head of the staff organisation within the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament is staffed by public servants. They serve the whole Parliament and must be politically impartial.

The Scottish Government

The Scottish Government is formed from the party holding most seats in the Scottish Parliament, sometimes in coalition with another, smaller party or parties.

The Scottish Government:

  • comes up with plans for how devolved areas in Scotland work
  • creates policies and ideas for laws on devolved matters
  • put in place laws that have been passed by the Scottish Parliament

The First Minister is the head of the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government is made up of Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers, who are MSPs chosen by the First Minister. It also includes 2 Law Officers (the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland) who do not need to be MSPs.

Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers are supported by Scottish Government staff who are civil servants.

Learn more about Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers

Watch a BSL video about the difference between the Parliament and the Government

Back to How Parliament works