Chapter 11: Decisions and Voting

Rule 11.1   Decisions of the Parliament

1.  All decisions of the Parliament shall be taken by resolution.

2.  A matter requiring a decision of the Parliament shall be decided by a question being put to a meeting of the Parliament by the Presiding Officer on a motion or amendment being moved by a member. The question shall be that the motion or amendment be agreed to.

3.  Where any question requires to be put to the Parliament, it shall be put in accordance with Rules 11.2 to 11.4.

Rule 11.2   Decision Time

1.  Except as provided in Rule 11.3, the Presiding Officer shall put any question in relation to a motion or amendment during Decision Time on the day on which the motion or amendment is moved.

2.  Decision Time is the period which normally begins at 17:00 where a meeting of the Parliament is held on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and at 12:00 where a meeting of the Parliament is held on Friday and which ends when every decision which is to be taken during Decision Time has been taken.

3.  Normally, Decision Time shall end not later than 30 minutes after it begins but, in accordance with Rule 2.2.6(a), it may continue in order to complete any voting which is not adjourned to a later meeting under paragraph 5.

4.  The Parliament may, on a motion of the Parliamentary Bureau, decide that Decision Time on a particular day or days shall begin at a time other than that mentioned in paragraph 2.

5.  The Parliament may, on a motion of any member moved without notice not more than 30 minutes after the beginning of Decision Time, decide that decisions which have not been taken by the time the motion is moved are to be taken at a later meeting of the Parliament. Members shall be notified of the day and time when such decisions are to be taken.

6.  Where—

(a)  a motion is listed on the daily business list for consideration before Decision Time; but

(b)  that motion has not been moved before Decision Time begins,

the Presiding Officer may allow the motion, and any amendment to it, to be moved at the beginning of Decision Time.

Rule 11.3   Decisions at times other than Decision Time

1.  In the following cases the Presiding Officer shall, subject to paragraph 3, put the question immediately after closing the debate on the motion in relation to that question or, if there is no debate on the motion, immediately after the motion is moved—

(a)  a motion seeking the agreement of the Parliament to the First Minister’s recommendation for the appointment of a person as Lord Advocate or Solicitor General for Scotland under Rule 4.3 or for the removal of a person as Lord Advocate or Solicitor General for Scotland under Rule 4.4;

(b)  a motion seeking the agreement of the Parliament that a person be appointed a Minister under Rule 4.6 or a junior Scottish Minister under Rule 4.7;

(c)  a business motion;

(d)  a motion for the closure or extension of a debate;

(e)  a motion for the adjournment of a debate;

(eza) a motion for a Scottish rate resolution under Rule 8.10, or a motion to cancel such a resolution; 

(ea) a motion under Rule 9.6.3A that is moved on the day the general principles of the Bill referred to in the motion are to be considered;

(f)  a motion under Rule 9.6.5;

(fa)  a motion under Rule 9A.8.9;

(fb)  a motion under Rule 9C.10.13;

(g)  a motion under Rule 9.8.5, 5C or 6; 

(ga)  a motion under Rule 9A.10.5 to determine the order in which amendments are to be disposed of or to adjourn the remaining Final Stage proceedings on a Private Bill, or a motion under Rule 9A.10.6;

(gb)  a motion under Rule 9C.12.6 to determine the order in which amendments are to be disposed of, or a motion under Rule 9C.12.9 or Rule 9C.12.11;

(h)  a motion under Rule 9.21.1 or any motion in relation to an Emergency Bill;

(i)  a motion for the exclusion of a member;

(j)  a motion for the adjournment or closure of a meeting of the Parliament;

(k)  a Members’ Business motion moved after Decision Time; and

(l)  a motion taken after 17:30 at a meeting of the Parliament in respect of which the Parliament has taken a decision under Rule 2.2.4.

2.  If an amendment to a Bill is moved, the Presiding Officer shall put the question on that amendment immediately after any debate on that amendment or, if the amendment has already been debated, immediately after the amendment is moved.

3.  Decisions may, at the discretion of the Presiding Officer, be taken at a time other than Decision Time or the times mentioned in paragraphs 1 and 2.  Members shall be notified of any such time.

Rule 11.4   Order in which questions are put

1.  At Decision Time or any alternative time mentioned in Rule 11.3, questions on motions shall be put in the order in which the motions were moved.

2.  Questions on amendments to a motion shall be put in the order in which those amendments were moved. The Presiding Officer shall, before putting the question under paragraph 1, put, in turn, each question that an amendment to the motion be agreed to. But the Presiding Officer shall not put the question on an amendment that has, in the Presiding Officer’s opinion, been pre-empted by the Parliament’s earlier agreement to another amendment to the same motion.

3.  If any member disagrees with the question put under paragraph 1 or 2 or Rule 11.3.2, or if the Presiding Officer asks members to cast their votes again under Rule 11.7.3, there shall immediately be a division.

4.  The provisions of this Rule shall apply to amendments to amendments with such modifications as are appropriate.

Rule 11.5   Right to vote

1.  Only members have a right to vote at a meeting of the Parliament. A member is not obliged to vote.

2.  A member shall vote only in person and shall not vote on behalf of any other member.

3.  A member may vote although that member did not hear the question put.

4.  A member shall vote only once on any question except where the Presiding Officer asks members to cast their votes again under Rule 11.7.3.

5.  Except in the case of a vote at an election or a selection process under Rule 11.9 or 11.10 the Presiding Officer shall exercise a casting vote in the event of a tie in any vote at a meeting of the Parliament, but shall not otherwise vote in the Parliament. 

Rule 11.6   Divisions

1.  A division shall be held where it is required by Rule 9.8.9, 9.9.5, 9.9A.3, 9A.10.8, 9A.11.5, 9A.11ZA.3, 9C.12.14, 9C.13.6, 9C.13A.3, 11.4.3 or 11.8.2 and shall be conducted in accordance with the following provisions.

2.  The Presiding Officer shall repeat the question. The Presiding Officer shall then ask members to vote within a specified period of time.

3.  Once the Presiding Officer has repeated the question, no-one except the Presiding Officer may speak until the Presiding Officer has declared that the specified period of time has ended.

4.  Points of order concerning the validity of the division may be raised only after the Presiding Officer has declared that the specified period of time has ended.

5.  The Presiding Officer shall establish the numerical result of the division and shall announce the numbers of votes for and against and the number of votes to abstain.

6.  In the event of a tie, the Presiding Officer shall exercise a casting vote. 

Rule 11.7   Manner of voting

1.  Normally members shall vote at a meeting of the Parliament or of a Committee of the Whole Parliament using the electronic voting system.

2.  If it appears to the Presiding Officer that the electronic voting system cannot be used for any reason, a roll call vote, or a vote in accordance with such other manner of voting as the Presiding Officer may decide, shall be held.

3.  If it appears to the Presiding Officer that the electronic voting system has produced an unreliable result, he shall ask members to cast their votes again in accordance with any manner of voting the Presiding Officer considers appropriate.

4.  In a roll call vote, the roll shall be called in alphabetical order. Voting shall be by word of mouth and shall be expressed by “Yes”, “No” or “Abstain”.

Rule 11.8   Committees

1.  Subject to paragraph 2, the convener of a committee or sub-committee shall determine the time at which members shall take a decision on any item of business.

2.  If an amendment to a Bill is moved, the convener shall (subject to Rule 9.12.6(b)) put the question on that amendment immediately after any debate on that amendment or, if the amendment has already been debated, immediately after the amendment is moved. If any member disagrees with the question put under this paragraph, there shall immediately be a division.

3.  Except as provided in any direction given to a committee by the Parliament, members of a committee (other than a Committee of the Whole Parliament) or sub-committee shall vote by show of hands unless, before they do so, a member of the committee or sub-committee requests a roll call vote, as described in Rule 11.7.4, and the convener agrees to that request.

4.  Rule 11.5 applies where members vote in a committee or sub-committee except that—

(a)  only members of the committee or sub-committee may vote in that committee or sub-committee, as the case may be; and

(b)  the convener of a committee or sub-committee may vote and shall also exercise a casting vote in the event of a tie.

5.  Rules 11.4, 11.6 and 11.11 shall apply to the taking of decisions at meetings of committees and sub-committees as they apply to the taking of decisions at meetings of the Parliament, with such modifications as are appropriate.

Rule 11.9   Election of the Presiding Officer and deputy Presiding Officers

1.  This Rule applies to any election of the Presiding Officer or any deputy Presiding Officer to be held by virtue of Rule 3.2 or 3.3.

2.  The vote at an election shall be by secret ballot and shall be held during the voting period appointed under Rule 3.2 or 3.3. Where there is more than one candidate, there may be more than one round of voting in accordance with paragraphs 7 to 12.

3.  The result of any vote under this Rule is valid only if the number of members who voted is more than one quarter of the total number of seats for members. For this purpose, in calculating the number of members who voted—

(a)  account shall be taken not only of those voting for or against a candidate, but also of those voting to abstain; and

(b)  where there is more than one round of voting the result of each round of voting shall be treated as a separate result and the number of members who voted shall be taken to be the total number who voted in that round.

If the result of any vote at an election is invalid under this Rule, no candidate shall be elected at that election.

4.  Each candidate may appoint a member to act as a scrutineer on that candidate’s behalf. Each scrutineer may monitor the counting of votes by the Clerk and may request the Clerk to perform a count again. The Clerk may refuse such a request only if the Clerk considers it unreasonable.

5.  Any member may, at the beginning of a round of voting, obtain a ballot paper from the Clerk. Any member who obtains a ballot paper shall immediately mark that member’s vote on that ballot paper and then put the ballot paper in the ballot box provided for that purpose by the Clerk. That member may not thereafter obtain another ballot paper or vote during that round of voting.

6.  Where there is only one candidate in a round of voting, a member may vote for or against that candidate or to abstain. At the completion of that round of voting the Clerk shall count the votes and inform the person chairing the meeting of the number of votes for the candidate, the number of votes against the candidate and the number of votes to abstain. The candidate shall be elected if a simple majority of votes in the candidate’s favour is obtained.

7.  Where there is more than one candidate in a round of voting, a member may vote for one of those candidates or to abstain. At the completion of each round of voting in which there is more than one candidate, the Clerk shall count the votes and inform the person chairing the meeting of the number of votes for each candidate and the number of votes to abstain.

8.  Where there are 2 candidates in a round of voting, a candidate shall be elected if a simple majority of votes in that candidate’s favour is obtained.

9.  Where there are more than 2 candidates in a round of voting and the number of votes for one candidate exceeds the total number of votes for all the other candidates, that candidate shall be elected.

10.  Where there are more than 2 candidates in a round of voting but no candidate is elected under paragraph 9, the candidate or candidates with the smallest number of votes shall be eliminated and there shall then be a further round or rounds of voting until—

(a)  a candidate is elected in accordance with paragraph 6, 8 or 9;

(b)  paragraph 11 applies; or

(c)  the result of any vote is invalid under this Rule.

11.  Where in any round of voting the candidates all receive the same number of votes no candidate shall be elected at that election.

12.  A candidate may withdraw that candidate’s candidature at any stage between the rounds of voting mentioned in paragraphs 7 to 10.

13.  In counting the votes, the Clerk may disregard any ballot paper if, in the Clerk’s opinion, it does not clearly indicate the voter’s choice.

14.  When a candidate has been elected in accordance with this Rule the person chairing the meeting shall announce the name of the candidate who has been elected. The person chairing the meeting shall also announce—

(a)  after the count in a case where the provisions of paragraph 6 apply, the number of votes for and against the candidate and the number of votes to abstain; and

(b)  after the count in any other case, the number of votes for each candidate, the number of votes to abstain and the name of any candidate who has been eliminated at that round.

15.  Where no candidate is elected at an election held in accordance with this Rule, the person chairing the meeting shall announce that fact and arrange for another election to be held as soon as possible. The Clerk shall notify members of the day and time appointed for the voting period at that election.

16.  Following a declaration that a candidate has been elected or that no candidate has been elected, the Clerk shall destroy all the ballot papers.

Rule 11.10   Selection of the First Minister

1.  This Rule applies to the selection of a nominee for appointment as First Minister to be held by virtue of Rule 4.1 (“the selection process”). Where this Rule applies, the procedure for the selection process shall be as follows.

2.  Voting under this Rule shall be held using the electronic voting system and shall be held during the voting period appointed under Rule 4.1. If it appears to the Presiding Officer that the electronic voting system cannot be used for any reason or that it has produced an unreliable result, the Presiding Officer shall ask members to cast their votes again in a paper ballot of members, a roll call vote, or in accordance with any manner of voting the Presiding Officer considers appropriate. Where there is more than one candidate, there may be more than one round of voting in accordance with paragraphs 6 to 11. 

3.  A member may vote only once in a round of voting except where the Presiding Officer asks members to cast their votes again under paragraph 2.

4.  The result of any vote under this Rule is valid only if the number of members who voted is more than one quarter of the total number of seats for members. For this purpose, in calculating the number of members who voted—

(a)  account shall be taken not only of those voting for or against a candidate, but also of those voting to abstain; and

(b)  where there is more than one round of voting, the result of each round of voting shall be treated as a separate result and the number of members who voted shall be taken to be the total number who voted in that round.

If the result of any vote at a selection process is invalid under this Rule, no candidate shall be selected at that selection process.

5.  Where there is only one candidate in a round of voting, a member may vote for or against that candidate or to abstain. At the completion of that round of voting, the Presiding Officer shall establish the number of votes for the candidate, the number of votes against the candidate and the number of votes to abstain. The candidate shall be selected if a simple majority of votes in the candidate’s favour is obtained.

6.  Where there is more than one candidate in a round of voting, a member may vote in accordance with the following procedure—

(a)  the Presiding Officer shall read out the names of all the candidates;

(b)  the Presiding Officer shall then read out the name of each candidate in turn, in alphabetical order;

(c)  after each name is read out, those members who wish to vote for that candidate shall cast their votes;

(d)  when the votes for the last candidate have been cast, members shall be given an opportunity to vote to abstain.

At the completion of each round of voting in which there is more than one candidate, the Presiding Officer shall establish the number of votes for each candidate and the number of votes to abstain.

7.  Where there are 2 candidates in a round of voting, a candidate shall be selected if a simple majority of votes in that candidate’s favour is obtained.

8.  Where there are more than 2 candidates in a round of voting and the number of votes for one candidate exceeds the total number of votes for all the other candidates, that candidate shall be selected.

9.  Where there are more than 2 candidates in any round of voting but no candidate is selected under paragraph 8, the candidate or candidates with the smallest number of votes shall be eliminated and there shall then be a further round or rounds of voting until—

(a)  a candidate is selected in accordance with paragraph 5, 7 or 8;

(b)  paragraph 10 applies; or

(c)  the result of any vote is invalid under this Rule.

10.  Where in any round of voting the candidates all receive the same number of votes no candidate shall be selected at that selection process.

11.  A candidate may withdraw his or her candidature at any stage between the rounds of voting mentioned in paragraphs 6 to 10.

12.  When a candidate has been selected in accordance with this Rule the person chairing the meeting shall announce the name of the candidate who has been selected. The person chairing the meeting shall also announce—

(a)  in a case where the provisions of paragraph 5 apply, the number of votes for and against the candidate and the number of votes to abstain; and

(b)  in any other case, the number of votes for each candidate and the name of any candidate who has been eliminated at that round.

13.  Where no candidate is selected at a selection process held in accordance with this Rule, the Presiding Officer shall announce that fact and arrange for another selection process to be held as soon as possible. The Clerk shall notify members of the day and time appointed for the voting period at that selection process.

Rule 11.10A   Election of members of the Parliamentary corporation 

1.  This Rule applies to the election of members of the Parliamentary corporation to be held by virtue of Rule 3.7. Where this Rule applies, the procedure for the election process shall be as follows.

2.  Voting under this Rule shall be held using the electronic voting system and shall be held on the date and time appointed under Rule 3.7. If it appears to the Presiding Officer that the electronic voting system cannot be used for any reason or that it has produced an unreliable result, the Presiding Officer shall ask members to cast their votes again in a paper ballot of members, a roll call vote, or in accordance with any manner of voting the Presiding Officer considers appropriate.

3.  A member may vote only once in each round of voting except where the Presiding Officer asks members to cast their votes again under paragraph 2.

4.  The result of any vote under this Rule is valid only if the number of members who voted is more than one quarter of the total number of seats for members. For this purpose, in calculating the number of members who voted—

(a)  account shall be taken not only of those voting for or against a candidate, but also of those voting to abstain; and

(b)  where there is more than one round of voting the result of each round of voting shall be treated as a separate result and the number of members who voted shall be taken to be the total number who voted in that round.

If the result of any vote at an election is invalid under this Rule, no candidate shall be elected at that election.

5.  Where the number of candidates for election is greater than the number of vacancies, the procedure and voting shall be in accordance with paragraphs 7 to 12.

6.  In any other case, the procedure and voting shall be in accordance with paragraphs 13 to 16.

7.  Where paragraph 5 applies, a member may vote in accordance with the following procedure—

(a)  the Presiding Officer shall read out the names of all the candidates;

(b)  the Presiding Officer shall then read out the name of each candidate in turn, in alphabetical order;

(c)  after each name is read out, those members who wish to vote for that candidate shall cast their votes;

(d)  when the votes for the last candidate have been cast, members shall be given an opportunity to abstain.

At the completion of each round of voting the Presiding Officer shall establish the number of votes for each candidate and the number of votes to abstain.

8.  Where there are 2 candidates in a round of voting a candidate shall be elected if a simple majority of votes in that candidate’s favour is obtained.

9.  Where there are more than 2 candidates in any round of voting and the number of votes for one candidate exceeds the total number of votes for all the other candidates, that candidate shall be elected.

10.  Where there are more than 2 candidates in any round of voting, but no candidate is elected under paragraph 9, the candidate with the lowest number of votes shall be eliminated.

11.  Where in any round of voting the candidates all receive the same number of votes, or the result of the vote is invalid under this Rule, no candidate shall be elected or eliminated at that round.

12.  There shall then be a further round or rounds of voting in accordance with paragraphs 7 to 11 until either—

(a)  a candidate has been elected to each of the vacancies; or

(b)  the number of candidates remaining is equal to the number of vacancies remaining, in which case the procedure and voting shall continue in accordance with paragraphs 13 to 16.

13.  Where paragraph 6 or 12(b) applies, the Presiding Officer shall invite members to agree that there be a single vote to elect all the candidates. If any member disagrees, further procedure and voting shall be in accordance with paragraphs 14 to 16. If all members are in agreement that there should be a single vote, the Presiding Officer shall read out the names of the candidates. After all the names are read out, a member may vote for or against the candidates or to abstain. The candidates shall be elected if there is a simple majority of votes in favour of their election. The candidates shall be eliminated from the election if there is not a simple majority of votes in favour of their election.

14.  Where by virtue of paragraph 13 further procedure and voting is required, a member may vote in accordance with the following procedure—

(a)  the Presiding Officer shall read out the name of the candidate whose name is alphabetically first; and

(b)  after the name is read out, a member may vote for or against that candidate or to abstain.

At the completion of the vote the Presiding Officer shall establish the number of votes for the candidate, against the candidate or to abstain.

15.  The candidate shall be elected if a simple majority of votes in that candidate’s favour is obtained. The candidate shall be eliminated from the election if a simple majority of votes in that candidate’s favour is not obtained.

16.  The procedure in paragraph 14 shall be repeated for each of the remaining candidates in turn until each of them has either been elected or eliminated.

17.  A candidate may withdraw that candidate’s candidature at any stage between the rounds of voting or votes as mentioned in paragraphs 7 to 16.

18.  At the end of every round of voting or vote, the Presiding Officer shall announce— 

(a)  in a case where paragraphs 7 to 12 apply—

(i)  the number of votes for each candidate in that round;

(ii)  the number of votes to abstain; and

(iii)  the name of any candidate who has been elected or eliminated in that round;

(b)  in a case where paragraphs 13 to 16 apply— 

(i)  the number of votes for and against the candidates and the number of votes to abstain; and

(ii)  whether the candidates have been elected or eliminated.

19.  Where the total number of vacancies are not filled during an election held in accordance with this Rule, the Presiding Officer shall announce that fact and the Parliament shall hold a further election under Rule 3.7.

20.  In this Rule any reference to a vacancy shall include a reference to an appointed member to be elected in accordance with Rule 3.7.1.

Rule 11.11   Simple majority, absolute majority and super-majority

1.  Any decision of the Parliament shall, if taken by division, require a simple majority unless otherwise expressly stated in any enactment or in these Rules.

2.  A simple majority means that the number of members voting for a proposition is more than the number of members voting against that proposition. No account shall be taken of any members who vote to abstain.

3.  An absolute majority means that the number of members voting for a proposition is more than half of the total number of seats for members of the Parliament or, in the case of a committee or sub-committee, more than half of the number of members of that committee or sub-committee.

4.  A super-majority means that the number of members voting for a proposition is at least two-thirds of the total number of seats for members of the Parliament.