Key Principles

Shaping Scotland's Parliament

An all-party Consultative Steering Group was set up in November 1997, under Henry McLeish, the then Scottish Devolution Minister. After a wide public consultation process a report, Shaping Scotland's Parliament, was published in 1999 which set out how the Parliament should work. The report identified four key principles on which these practices would be based.

Key Principles

What are the four key principles of the Scottish Parliament?


The Scottish Parliament is answerable to the people of Scotland. The Scottish Parliament should hold the Scottish Government to account.

Open and Encourage participation

The Scottish Parliament should be accessible and involve the people of Scotland in its decisions as much as possible.

Power Sharing

Power should be shared among the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland.

Equal Opportunities

The Scottish Parliament should treat all people fairly.

How does the Scottish Parliament make sure…power is shared ?

  • MSPs, committees and opposition parties are all allocated time in the chamber.
  • Not just the Scottish Government can propose laws. Scottish Parliament Committees and individual MSPs can too. Private companies and individuals may also propose Bills.
  • Committees take evidence from people affected by proposed laws and when conducting inquiries.

How does the Scottish Parliament make sure…it is open?

  • Parliament Meetings are open to the public.
  • A Public Information Service answers questions about the Parliament via e-mail, text, telephone or letter.
  • Committees travel to different towns all over Scotland to allow everyone to see Parliament in action.
  • All MSPs have e-mail address and all Scottish Parliament documents are available on the website.

How does the Scottish Parliament make sure…it encourages participation?

  • Consultations give people the chance to put their views across. This can be by e-mail, letter or at meetings.
  • The Public Petitions Committee will consider any petition submitted by anyone living in Scotland, providing the petition refers to a devolved matter.

How does the Scottish Parliament make sure…its members are accountable?

  • MSPs must follow a set of rules called a Code of Conduct.
  • The Standards Committee can consider complaints against MSPs

How does the Scottish Parliament make sure…it holds the Scottish Government to account?

  • The Scottish Government must answer questions from MSPs.
  • The Parliament uses committee meetings to scrutinise Scottish Government policies and question Ministers.

How does the Scottish Parliament make sure…it promotes Equal Opportunities?

  • An Equal Opportunities Committee ensures that the interests of all the people of Scotland are represented fairly, regardless of sex, age, ethnic background, religious beliefs or lifestyle.
  • The working hours of the Scottish Parliament are designed to let parents spend time with their families.