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About the Scottish Parliament

Annex A: Form and content of Bills

(1) Presiding Officer determination (Public, Private and Hybrid Bills): proper form of Bills

Reproduced from the Business Bulletin on 22 May 2017 (opens in NRS archive) 

The Presiding Officer has determined, under Rules 9.2.3, 9A.1.4 and 9C.1.6 of Standing Orders, that the “proper form” of Bills is as follows. (Note: this determination supersedes previous determinations under these Rules)


The text of a Bill should be set out in numbered sections, supplemented where appropriate by schedules, which should be numbered unless there is only one. Bills may be divided into numbered Parts and Chapters (as may schedules). Each section, schedule, Part and Chapter should have a brief descriptive title. The sections of a Bill (or the paragraphs of a schedule) may also be grouped under italic cross-headings as a guide to the structure of the Bill (or the schedule).

Sections may be divided into numbered subsections, which in turn may be divided into paragraphs, sub-paragraphs etc. Schedules may be similarly divided into numbered paragraphs, sub-paragraphs etc.

Each Bill should be prefaced by a long title beginning “An Act of the Scottish Parliament to …”.

Preambles to Bills are not permitted.

Style and presentation

Section numbers and titles should appear in bold, with each section title appearing above the text of the section. Units of text smaller than sections and schedule paragraphs should appear as indented blocks of text with straight left margins.

(2) Presiding Officer’s recommendations on the content of Bills

The Presiding Officer has made the following recommendations about the content of Bills. (Note: these recommendations do not form part of the determination of “proper form” and supersede previous recommendations about the content of Bills).

Style and content

A Bill should be drafted so that, when read with any relevant existing statutory provision, its intended legal effect is clear.

A Bill should include provision for the short title by which the Act is to be known. The long title should set out the principal purposes of the Bill.

The text of a Bill – including both the short and long titles – should be in neutral terms and should not contain material intended to promote or justify the policy behind the Bill, or to explain its effect. The text of the Bill itself should be identical to the text of the Act to which it is intended to give rise and, in particular, should refer to the Bill as “this Act”.

Any Bill that has such severe deficiencies in drafting that it could not readily be understood or, if enacted, would be manifestly incapable of consistent legal application, should not be introduced.

A Bill whose principal purpose (or one of whose principal purposes) is to make provision manifestly outside the legislative competence of the Parliament should not be introduced.

A Public Bill, other than a Hybrid Bill introduced by the Scottish Government under Rule 9C.1, should not normally contain provisions that would adversely affect a particular private interest of an individual or body in a manner different to the private interests of other individuals or bodies of the same category or class.

Any Bill intended to extend other than to the whole of Scotland should set out that intended extent.

Any Bill intended to come into force other than on the day after Royal Assent should either (a) give a date or dates for commencement, or (b) make provision for the appointment of the relevant date or dates. Under the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 the default provision for commencement where a Bill is silent on the point is for the Bill to come into force on the day after Royal Assent. This does not, however, prevent the Bill from expressly providing for commencement on that day.

Any Bill containing provisions that would confer power to make subordinate legislation should specify what powers, if any, the Parliament is to have to approve or reject the subordinate legislation (or draft subordinate legislation) laid before it under those provisions.

Any Bill introduced to give effect to a proposal for a Member’s Bill (under Rule 9.14) or a Committee Bill (under Rule 9.15) should only contain provisions that are broadly in conformity with the terms of the successful proposal.

Preparation for introduction

The text of a Bill should be submitted to the Clerk in sufficient time before the proposed date of introduction to allow it to be prepared for printing. No Bill may be published under the authority of the Parliament except by the Clerk.

The Clerk will ensure that the published version of the Bill conforms to the following presentational conventions:

  • The text of Bills (sections, schedules and the long title) should appear in Times New Roman font, fully justified.  The text size should be 11.5 point when the Bill is printed at A4 size.
  • There should be a running header throughout the body of the Bill containing the Bill’s short title and page number together with, where appropriate, any Part and Chapter titles or schedule and schedule Part titles.
  • Bills of more than around six sections should be published with a Contents page or pages.
  • The text of the Bill, including the long title, should be published with line numbers every fifth line.
  • The Bill should be published with a back sheet setting out the short and long titles, the name of the member who introduced it, the names of any supporters, the date of introduction, and the type of Bill.

Back to Guidance on Public Bills