How a Bill, or proposed Bill, becomes an Act
Learn how Bills get proposed, progress through the Parliament and become law.
A Hybrid Bill is a type of Government Bill that is a mixture between a Public Bill and a Private Bill. Like other Government Bills, it is introduced by a minister in the Scottish Government and makes changes to the law that affect everyone in Scotland (the public). But, like a Private Bill, it also makes some changes to the law that apply only to particular people or organisations, or that apply only in particular places.
This is when the Scottish Government presents the Bill to the Scottish Parliament. With the Bill the Scottish Government also provides:
- a Financial Memorandum (sets out the expected costs of implementing the Bill)
- Explanatory Notes (explain the legal effect of the Bill)
- a Policy Memorandum (explains why the Bill is being proposed)
- a Scottish Minister's Statement (gives details of things the Scottish Government must do before the Bill is introduced, including consulting on the Bill and letting people know that it is going to be introduced)
- a statement on legislative competence (to say that the changes to the law included in the Bill are changes that the Parliament has the power to make)
If a Hybrid 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.
There is a period of 60 days when people or organisations can object to the Bill if they think it will affect them unfairly. These people or organisations are known as “objectors”. To be an objector, it is not enough just to disagree with the Bill, or think it will affect some people unfairly. You must show that it will have an unfair effect on you in particular.
Once a Hybrid Bill is introduced, it follows a 3-stage process. In most ways, these stages are the same as the stages of a Government Bill, but in other ways are like the stages of a Private Bill.
Stage 1 (general principles, whether the Bill should proceed)
A small committee is set up to consider the Hybrid Bill. This is the lead committee, but other committees can also consider the Bill if the Bill relates to their remits. They report to the lead committee. The lead committee is responsible for examining a bill. It hears from experts, organisations, and members of the public about what the bill would do. It also hears from objectors, if there are any. It then writes a report about what it has heard and gives its own view of the Bill. This Stage 1 report usually makes a recommendation about whether the Parliament should support the Bill.
The Parliament then debates the Bill and decides whether it should proceed to Stage 2, or be rejected.
Stage 2 (objections and amendments)
If there are objections to the Bill, they are considered in detail by the Hybrid Bill Committee. The Committee members listen to the arguments on both sides and decide between them (like the judge in a court would do). Sometimes, the committee will publish a report to explain the decisions it makes on objections.
MSPs can then propose changes to a Bill – these are called ”amendments”. The amendments are debated and decided on by the Hybrid Bill Committee. Only the committee members can vote on amendments at this stage.
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)
MSPs 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.