How a Bill, or proposed Bill, becomes an Act
Learn how Bills get proposed, progress through the Parliament and become law.
A Committee Bill is a Bill introduced by a committee. There’s a process to be followed before a Committee Bill can be introduced.
If a committee wants to introduce a Committee Bill, it first has to make a proposal. A report to the Parliament includes the proposal. The report:
- says that the Committee is proposing a Committee Bill
- says why the Bill is needed and what it would do
- can include a draft of the Bill
Before it writes its report, the committee should:
- ask individuals and organisations for their views
- examine the views it gets
- hold evidence sessions where it questions members of the public, organisations and experts
The Parliament then debates the report and decides whether to agree with the proposal. If the Parliament agrees, the convener gets the right to introduce the Bill. At this point, the Scottish Government can stop the convener introducing a Bill, but only by promising that they will change the law in much the same way.
Sometimes a Committee Bill will be introduced very soon after the convener gets the right to introduce it, but it may take months to get the Bill ready.
This is when the committee presents the Bill to the Scottish Parliament. With the Bill, the committee also provides:
- a Financial Memorandum (to set out the expected costs of the Bill)
- Explanatory Notes (to explain the legal effect of the Bill)
- a statement on legislative competence (to say that the Committee convener believes that the changes to the law are changes that the Parliament has the power to make)
If the committee wants, it can provide a Policy Memorandum (to explain why the Bill has been introduced). But there is no need for a Policy Memorandum if it wouldn’t add anything to the explanation already given in the committee’s proposal report.
If a Committee Bill includes any “delegated powers”, a Delegated Powers Memorandum is needed to explain why. Delegated powers include powers given to Scottish Ministers to make new law, or change existing law, without this needing a Bill.
Once a Committee Bill is introduced, it follows a 3-stage process. The stages of a Committee Bill are slightly different from the stages of a Government Bill.
Stage 1 (general principles)
Unlike a Government Bill or a Member’s Bill, a Committee Bill is not referred to a lead committee and there is no Stage 1 report. But there is usually some committee scrutiny at Stage 1 of the Financial Memorandum and the Delegated Powers Memorandum (if there is one).
Once those committees have finished their work, the whole Parliament debates the Bill. The Parliament then decides whether it should go on to Stage 2 or be rejected.
Stage 2 (amendments)
At Stage 2, any MSP can propose changes to a Bill – these are called “amendments”. The amendments are debated and then decided on by a committee, but this committee cannot be the same one that proposed the Bill. Sometimes a new committee is set up to take Stage 2 of a Committee Bill.
If any amendments are agreed to at Stage 2, a new (amended) version of the Bill is published. This is the version considered at Stage 3.
Stage 3 (amendments, debate and final vote)
At Stage 3, any MSP can propose further amendments to the Bill. These are debated and decided on in the Debating Chamber, and at this stage all MSPs can vote on them. There is then a debate and vote on whether to pass the Bill. If the Bill is not passed, it falls and can’t become law.
Turning the Bill into an Act
If the Bill is passed, it is normally sent for Royal Assent after about 4 weeks. Royal Assent is when the Bill gets formal agreement by the King and becomes an Act of the Scottish Parliament.
Some Acts become law straight after Royal Assent. Some only become law on a later date. Sometimes different bits of the same Act become law on different dates.
See all Acts of the Scottish Parliament.