Scottish Government

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Scottish Government
Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba
Scots: Scots Govrenment
Scottish Government logo
Established 1 July 1999 (1999-07-01)
Polity Scotland
Leader First Minister
Appointed by Monarch
Main organ Scottish Cabinet
Responsible to Scottish Parliament
Annual budget £28.6 billion (2013/14)
Headquarters St Andrews House

The Scottish Government (Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba; Scots: Scots Govrenment ) is the executive of the devolved Scottish Parliament.[1] 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 a the result of the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution.[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 in Scotland for all issues that are not explicitly reserved to the British parliament at Westminster by Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998; such devolved matters include health, education, justice and 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.

The Scottish Government had the responsibility for an annual budget of more than £30 billion in the financial year 2005–2006.[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. 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. 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.[6]

Since 2007, the Scottish Government has been formed by the Scottish National Party, which is the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, although prior to 2011 it did not possess an overall majority. In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, the Scottish National Party won the first overall majority in the history of the Scottish Parliament. The current first minister is Nicola Sturgeon.

Cabinet secretaries and ministers

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:[7][8][9]

Cabinet Secretaries
Portfolio Minister Image
First Minister Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP 85px
Deputy First Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy John Swinney MSP 85px
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Keith Brown MSP 85px
Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham MSP 85px
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Shona Robison MSP 85px
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Angela Constance MSP 85px
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson MSP 85px
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Richard Lochhead MSP 85px
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP 85px
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights Alex Neil MSP Alex Neil, Minister for Housing and Communities (2).jpg
Portfolio Minister Image
Minister for Parliamentary Business Joe Fitzpatrick MSP JoeFitzPatrickMSP20110511.JPG
Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay MSP 85px
Minister for Housing and Welfare Margaret Burgess MSP 85px
Minister for Public Health Maureen Watt MSP 85px
Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health Jamie Hepburn MSP 85px
Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP Fergus Ewing, Minister for Community Safety (2).jpg
Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment Marco Biagi MSP 85px
Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell MSP (on maternity leave)
Fiona McLeod MSP (acting, providing maternity cover)
Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages Dr Alasdair Allan MSP AlasdairAllanMSP20120530.jpg
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Paul Wheelhouse MSP PaulWheelhouseMSP20110507.JPG
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Dr Aileen McLeod MSP AileenMcLeodMSP20110507.JPG
Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf MSP 85px
Minister for Youth and Women's Employment Annabelle Ewing MSP AnnabelleEwingMSP20110510.JPG
Law Officers
Portfolio Minister
Lord Advocate Rt Hon Frank Mulholland QC
Solicitor General for Scotland Lesley Thomson


File:Scottish Cabinet, May 2011.jpg
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.[10] 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.[11]

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:[12]

  • Cabinet Sub-Committee on Legislation
    • Membership: the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, the Minister for Parliamentary Business, and the Lord Advocate.
  • Scottish Government Resilience Room (SGoRR) Cabinet Sub-Committee
    • Membership: Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Chair), the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing,the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment and the Lord Advocate.

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

  • Glasgow 2014 Legacy Plan Delivery Group
    • Membership: Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Chair), Minister for Community Safety, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, Minister for Environment, Minister for Housing and Communities, Minister for Public Health and Sport, Minister for Schools and Skills, and the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change.

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.[13] 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.[14]

Permanent secretary

The permanent secretary supports the first minister and the cabinet. The current incumbent is Leslie Evans who took over from Sir Peter Housden in July 2015, who in turn took over from Sir John Elvidge in 2010. Leslie Evans is the most senior civil servant in Scotland and heads the Strategic Board of the Scottish Government.

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[15] and is answerable to the most senior civil servant in Britian, the cabinet secretary, for his or her professional conduct. He or she remains, however, at the direction of the Scottish ministers.


In December 2010, the Directorates of the Scottish Government were re-organised, each one being headed by a Director-General (DG).

Supporting these directorates are a variety of other corporate service teams and professional groups.[16]

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service provides the independent public prosecution service for Scotland, and is a ministerial department of the Scottish Government. The department is headed by the Lord Advocate, who, under the Scottish legal system, is responsible for prosecution, along with the area Procurators fiscal.

The Strategic Board is the organisation's "top table". It consists of a permanent secretary, six directors-general, two chief advisers (Scientific and Economic) and four non-executive directors.[17] The board is responsible for overseeing the achievement of the Scottish Government's five strategic objectives listed below.

Occupation Name

Permanent Secretary

Leslie Evans
Finance Alyson Stafford CBE
Learning and Justice (Acting) Paul Johnston
Enterprise, Environment and Innovation  Graeme Dickson
Health and Social Care,
Chief Executive of NHS Scotland
Paul Gray
Communities Sarah Davidson
Strategy and External Affairs Ken Thompson

Chief Advisers

Scientific Professor Muffy Calder 
Economic Gary Gillespie

non-executive directors

Christina Allon
Sandy Begbie
Heather Logan[17]
Alex Smith

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.[18]

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.[19] 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

File:Scottish Executive logo (bilingual).png
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 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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23]

List of successive Scottish Governments

See also


  1. "The Scottish Government". Scottish Government. Retrieved 13 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Part II: The Scottish Administration". The National Archives. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "The First Minister of Scotland". The Scottish Government. 8 March 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "The Scottish Cabinet". The Scottish Government. 4 July 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "The Scottish Government". 5 September 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "How the Scottish Parliament Works". Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "FM nominates his cabinet" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 22 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Changes to Scottish Government" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Keith Brown named new Scottish transport minister". BBC News. 12 December 2010. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Guide to Collective Decision Making". Scottish Government. 12 November 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Lord Advocate excluded from new Cabinet". The Scotsman. 22 May 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Current Cabinet Sub-Committees". The Scottish Government. 13 December 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Peterkin, Tom (5 June 2013). "Independent Scotland civil service '£700m a year'". The Scotsman. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions". The Scottish Government. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Permanent Secretary". The Scottish Government. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Directorates". The Scottish Government. 23 August 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Strategic Board". The Scottish Government. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Dover House base for Scottish Secretary and Advocate General" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 8 March 1999. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Scotland in the EU". The Scottish Government. 24 September 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. 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."<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Scottish Executive renames itself". BBC News. 3 September 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Scottish Parliament. Official Report. 25 February 2010 Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  23. "Annual Report and Accounts: 2009–10" (PDF). Accountant in Bankruptcy. 4 August 2010. p. 61. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links