Scottish Government

This article is about the contemporary devolved government. For the government of Scotland before the Acts of Union, see Government in medieval Scotland and Government in early modern Scotland.
Scottish Government
Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba
Scots: Scots Govrenment
Established 1 July 1999 (1999-07-01)
Polity Scotland
Leader First Minister
Appointed by First Minister appointed by Monarch after parliamentary approval, further ministerial appointments by First Minister
Main organ Scottish Cabinet
Responsible to Scottish Parliament
Annual budget £37.2 billion (2016-17)
Headquarters St Andrew's House

The Scottish Government (Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba; Scots: Scots Govrenment) is Scotland's devolved government. The government was established in 1999 as the Scottish Executive under section 44(1) of the Scotland Act 1998, which created a devolved administration for Scotland in line with the result of the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution.[1] It was formally renamed in 2012 to the Scottish Government by section 12(1) of the Scotland Act 2012.[2] The government consists of cabinet secretaries, who attend cabinet meetings, and ministers, who do not. It is led by the first minister, who selects the cabinet secretaries and ministers with approval of parliament.[3][4]


The Scottish Government is responsible for devolved matters, and those not explicitly reserved to the British Parliament in Westminster, by Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998.

Devolved matters that were decided on by the Scotland Act 1998 included healthcare provision, education, justice, policing, rural affairs, economic development and transport. The Scottish Government also has administrative responsibility for some matters where it does not have legislative power. An example is Sections 36 & 37 of the Electricity Act 1989 which allow the Scottish Government to authorise power transmission lines and grant power generation consents.

In the aftermath of the Scottish independence Referendum in 2014, the Smith Commission was established to decide upon what matters should further be devolved given the increased hunger of the Scottish people for home rule. Some matters that were decided upon for devolution were some elements of Social Security, policing of transport, the Crown Estate in Scotland, road signage and speed limits and further elements of taxation.

The Scottish Government's budget is decided upon by the block grant that is formulated using the Barnett Formula with the ability to also increase or decrease income tax rates. In the financial year of 2016-17, the government's annual budget was £37.2 billion.[5]

The government is led by the First Minister. The Scottish Parliament nominates one of its members to be appointed as first minister by the monarch.[6] He or she is assisted by various cabinet secretaries with individual portfolios, who are appointed by him/her with the approval of parliament. Ministers are similarly appointed to assist cabinet secretaries in their work. The Scottish law officers, the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General, can be appointed from outside the parliament's membership, but are subject to its approval. They are appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the first minister.[6] The first minister, the cabinet secretaries and the Scottish law officers are the members of the Scottish Government. They are collectively known as the "Scottish Ministers".

The members of the government have substantial influence over legislation in Scotland, putting forward the majority of bills that are successful in becoming Acts of the Scottish Parliament.[7]

Cabinet secretaries and ministers

This article is about the current Scottish Government. For previous ones, see List of Scottish Governments.
"Scottish ministers" redirects here. For the pre-1999 use of the term, see Scottish Office.

The structure of the ministerial team used by the Scottish National Party (SNP) after its election victory in May 2007 differs from those used by previous governments. The title cabinet secretary was introduced to replace what were called "ministers" and title minister is now used for what were formerly called "deputy ministers". The cabinet secretaries and ministers are:[8][9][10]

Cabinet Secretaries
Portfolio Minister Image
First Minister The Right Hon. Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Deputy First Minister
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
John Swinney MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution Derek Mackay MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Shona Robison MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown MSP
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing MSP
Portfolio Minister Image
Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald MSP
Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP
Minister for Parliamentary Business[11] Joe Fitzpatrick MSP
Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf MSP
Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn MSP
Minister for Public Health and Sport Aileen Campbell MSP
Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt MSP
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing MSP
Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart MSP
Minister for Social Security Jeane Freeman OBE MSP
Minister for International Development and Europe Alasdair Allan MSP
Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe[11] Michael Russell MSP
Law Officers
Portfolio Minister
Lord Advocate The Rt Hon James Wolffe QC
Solicitor General for Scotland Alison Di Rollo


The previous Scottish Cabinet (under Alex Salmond).

The Scottish Cabinet is the group of ministers who are collectively responsible for all Scottish Government policy. While parliament is in session, the cabinet meets weekly.[12] Normally meetings are held on Tuesday afternoons in Bute House, the official residence of the first minister. The cabinet consists of the cabinet secretaries, excluding the Scottish Law Officers (the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General). The Lord Advocate attends meetings of the cabinet only when requested by the first minister, and he is not formally a member.[13]

The cabinet is supported by the Cabinet Secretariat, which is based at St Andrew's House.

Cabinet sub-committees

There are currently two sub-committees of Cabinet:[14]

For several years prior to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games there had been a third sub-committee of Cabinet:

Civil service

Scottish Government also includes a civil service that supports the Scottish ministers. According to 2012 reports, there are 16,000 civil servants working in core Scottish Government directorates and agencies.[15] The civil service is a matter reserved to the British parliament at Westminster (rather than devolved to Holyrood): Scottish Government civil servants work within the rules and customs of Her Majesty's Civil Service, but serve the devolved administration rather than British government.[16]

Permanent secretary

The permanent secretary is the most senior Scottish civil servant, leads the strategic board, and supports the first minister and cabinet. The current permanent secretary is Leslie Evans, who assumed the post in July 2015.

The permanent secretary is a member of the Her Majesty's Civil Service, and therefore takes part in the permanent secretaries management group of the Civil Service[17] and is answerable to the most senior civil servant in Britain, the cabinet secretary, for his or her professional conduct. He or she remains, however, at the direction of the Scottish ministers.


"Directorates" are the ministries of the Scottish Government. They serve to execute government policy. Unlike in the British government, cabinet secretaries do not lead the directorates, and have no direct role in their operation. Instead, the directorates are grouped together into six "Directorates General", each run by a senior civil servant who is titled a "Director-General". As of May 2016, there are six Directorates General:

Supporting these directorates are a variety of other corporate service teams and professional groups.[18]

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service serves as an independent prosecution service in Scotland, and is a ministerial department of the Scottish Government. It is headed by the Lord Advocate, who is responsible for prosecution, along with the procurators fiscal, under Scots law.

Strategic board

The strategic board is composed of the permanent secretary, the six directors-general, two chief advisers (scientific and economic) and four non-executive directors. The board is responsible for providing support to the government through the permanent secretary, and is the executive of the Scottish civil service.[19]

Executive agencies

To deliver its work, there are 8 executive agencies established by ministers as part of government departments, or as departments in their own right, to carry out a discrete area of work. These include, for example, the Scottish Prison Service and Transport Scotland. Executive agencies are staffed by civil servants.

There are two non-ministerial departments that form part of the Scottish administration, and therefore the devolved administration, but answer directly to the Scottish Parliament rather than to ministers: these are the General Register Office for Scotland and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Public bodies

The Scottish Government is also responsible for a large number of non-departmental public bodies. These include executive NDPBs (e.g. Scottish Enterprise); advisory NDPBs (e.g. the Scottish Law Commission); tribunals (e.g. the Children's Panel and Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland); and nationalised industries (e.g. Scottish Water). These are staffed by public servants, rather than civil servants.

The Scottish Government is also responsible for some other public bodies that are not classed as non-departmental public bodies, such as NHS Boards, Visiting Committees for Scottish Penal Establishments or HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland.


The main building of the Scottish Government is St Andrew's House, which is located on Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Some other government departments are based at Victoria Quay in Leith, Saughton House on Broomhouse Drive, and Atlantic Quay on Broomielaw, Glasgow. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has its head offices, and the Lord Advocate's Chambers, at Chambers Street in central Edinburgh.

There are numerous other Edinburgh properties occupied by the Scottish Government. The Security Branch is based in the old Governor's House on the site of the former Calton Gaol, next door to St Andrew's House on Regent Road. The Government Car Service for Scotland also has its Edinburgh offices on Bonnington Road, in Leith. Other offices are scattered around central Edinburgh, including Bute House on Charlotte Square, the official residence of the first minister.

New St Andrew's House, above and behind Edinburgh's St James' Centre, was once a large Scottish Office building, which was occupied from 1973 until 1997, when the last remaining staff moved to Victoria Quay.

The first minister has use of the Scotland Office building, Dover House in Whitehall when necessary.[20]

The Scottish Government has a European Union representative office, located at Rond-Point Robert Schuman in Brussels, Belgium, which forms a part of the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union.[21] The Scottish Government also maintains an office within the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., and has accredited representatives within the British Embassy in Beijing.

Change of name

The Scottish Executive's original logo, shown with English and Scottish Gaelic caption. The logo was replaced in September 2007, with the name changed to "Scottish Government", and the Flag of Scotland used instead of the Royal Arms. The original logo is still used by the Scotland Office.

The original Scotland Act 1998 gave the name "Scottish Executive" as the legal term for the devolved government. In January 2001, the then First Minister Henry McLeish suggested changing the official name from "Scottish Executive" to "Scottish Government". The reaction from the British government and from some Labour Party members and Scottish Labour MPs was allegedly hostile.[22] This reaction was in contrast to a 2001 public survey by then-Labour chief whip Tom McCabe, which showed that only 29% of the Scottish public wanted the title Scottish Executive to remain.[23]

Scottish politicians, including the Labour first minister, had often referred to the executive as the "government" and this trend increased following the 2007 election, when the SNP took office and Labour were in opposition for the first time. On 2 September 2007, the SNP minority government announced that the Scottish Executive was to be re-branded as the "Scottish Government".

The renaming was decided unilaterally by the minority government; as a consequence, the SNP was criticised by the three Unionist opposition parties for acting without allowing for parliamentary scrutiny, debate or approval of their plan. However, the term "Scottish Government" has since then become common currency among all of the political parties in Scotland and the rest of the UK.[24] The official Gaelic title, Riaghaltas na h-Alba, has always meant "Government of Scotland".

"Scottish Executive" remained the legal name under section 44(1) of the Scotland Act 1998 until 2 July 2012. Neither the Scottish Executive nor the Scottish Parliament were able to change the legal name, as this required the British parliament to amend the Scotland Act. Section 12(1) of the Scotland Act 2012, which came into effect on 3 July 2012, formally changed the name of the Scottish Executive to the "Scottish Government".

At the same time that the Scottish Government began to use its new name, a new emblem was adopted. The earlier version featured the old name and a version of the Royal Arms for Scotland, but without the motto, the helm, the mantling, the crest, the war-cry above the crest, or the flags of Scotland and England carried by the supporters. In the rendering used, both supporters appeared to be crowned with the Crown of Scotland, whereas in the Royal Arms, the Scottish unicorn is usually shown crowned with the Scottish Crown, and the English lion with St Edward's Crown.

In the September 2007 rebranding, this depiction of the Royal Arms was replaced by one of the Flag of Scotland. However, the Royal Arms are still used by the Government for some official documents, such as directions issued in exercise of powers provided by legislation.[25]

In 2016, a refreshed version of the Scottish Government logo was launched and used on all government websites and letters of correspondence.

List of successive Scottish Governments

Further information: List of Scottish Governments

In the first two terms of the Scottish Parliament, the executive was formed by a coalition of Labour and Liberal Democrats. In the three terms since the 2007 election, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has held the largest number of seats and has formed the Scottish Government on its own. The current First Minister is Nicola Sturgeon.

See also


  1. "The Scottish Executive". The National Archives. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  2. "The Scottish Government". The National Archives. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  3. "The First Minister of Scotland". The Scottish Government. 8 March 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  4. "The Scottish Cabinet". The Scottish Government. 4 July 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  5. "Scottish Government". Autumn Budget Revision 2016-17 supporting document. Scottish Government. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Appointment and Role". Office of the First Minister of Scotland. 5 February 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  7. "How the Scottish Parliament Works". Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  8. "FM nominates his cabinet" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  9. "Changes to Scottish Government" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  10. "Keith Brown named new Scottish transport minister". BBC News. 12 December 2010. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  11. 1 2 The Minister for Parliamentary Business and the Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe both attend Cabinet.
  12. "Guide to Collective Decision Making". Scottish Government. 12 November 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  13. "Lord Advocate excluded from new Cabinet". The Scotsman. 22 May 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  14. "Current Cabinet Sub-Committees". The Scottish Government. 13 December 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  15. Peterkin, Tom (5 June 2013). "Independent Scotland civil service '£700m a year'". The Scotsman. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  16. "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions". The Scottish Government. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  17. "Permanent Secretary". The Scottish Government. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  18. "Directorates". The Scottish Government. 23 August 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  19. "Strategic Board". The Scottish Government. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  20. "Dover House base for Scottish Secretary and Advocate General" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 8 March 1999. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  21. "Scotland in the EU". The Scottish Government. 24 September 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  22. Britten, Nick (10 January 2001). "Fury at bid to rename Scottish Executive". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 October 2013. Henry McLeish, the First Minister, threatened to set himself on a collision course with Tony Blair by wanting to rename the Executive the Scottish Government. The proposal caused an immediate split in Labour ranks and left McLeish facing allegations of arrogance and over-ambition. Scotland Office minister Brian Wilson said that the first minister should think carefully about using the term "government". He said: "Maybe they should take time to look at how other countries with two tiers of government handle this. Nobody in Germany has any difficulty distinguishing between the government and the devolved administrations."
  23. "Scottish Executive renames itself". BBC News. 3 September 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  24. Scottish Parliament. Official Report. 25 February 2010 Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. "Annual Report and Accounts: 2009–10" (PDF). Accountant in Bankruptcy. 4 August 2010. p. 61. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
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