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Chamber and committees

About votes and motions

MSPs raise issues and make decisions on them by submitting motions and taking part in votes.


Contents


About votes

What is a vote

A vote is one way MSPs in Parliament make decisions. In the Chamber, a vote is called by the Presiding Officer . In a committee, this is done by the committee convener. To vote, the Presiding Officer or convener will ask MSPs a question. They can answer “yes”, “no” or “abstain”. Abstain means they are not voting yes or no.

Once the question is asked, MSPs in the Chamber usually give their answer by touching a screen, or in a committee by raising their hand.


Where do MSPs vote

MSPs are asked to vote in the Chamber or in committee meetings.

They must vote themselves. They cannot ask someone else to vote for them. If they are sick, or cannot make it into Parliament for another reason, they cannot vote.

Following the COVID-19 situation the Parliament made changes to how it worked to allow MSPs to vote from home.


When do MSPs vote

In a committee meeting, votes can happen at any time. In the Chamber, MSPs usually vote at Decision Time on the issues they have been discussing that day. When they are voting on amendments to Bills, they will vote throughout the meeting.

Some things MSPs vote on include:

  • changes to Bills
  • if they agree with a debate
  • what business Parliament should look at

Decision Time usually happens at 5pm on the days Parliament meets.


Can the Presiding Officer vote?

The Presiding Officer does not normally vote, but has a deciding vote if there is a tie.

If the vote is for Stage 1 of a Bill, the Presiding Officer will usually vote to allow the Bill to continue to Stage 2.

At other times, the Presiding Officer will usually vote against a motion or amendment.


How do MSPs vote

Votes are either held in the Chamber, or in committee meetings. They work differently in each place.

Following the COVID-19 situation the Parliament made changes to how it worked to allow MSPs to vote from home.

How voting works in the Chamber 

In the Chamber the Presiding Officer asks MSPs a question. If they do not all agree with the question they will vote.

This question then appears on screens on the MSPs’ desks. They can answer “yes”, “no” or “abstain”. They normally have 30 seconds to touch the screen to answer. Then the Presiding Officer reads out the results of the vote.

You can see the results of any vote in the minutes of the meeting of Parliament or in the Official Report.

How voting works in committees

In committees, the convener asks the committee a question. If MSPs do not all agree with the question, they will vote.

MSPs who are members of the committee can answer “yes”, “no” or “abstain”.

Usually the MSPs vote by raising their hands. A clerk (a member of Parliament staff) counts the hands, writes the result down and passes the result to the convener to read out.

You can see the results of any vote in the minutes of the committee meeting or in the Official Report.


The Official Report

The Official Report has the results of every vote, and how each MSP voted. You can search the Official Report on our website.

You can also check how each individual MSP voted on their pages.