Learn about committees
What do committees do?
Most committees meet weekly or every second week, usually on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning. Committees usually meet in a committee room at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. They can also decide to meet in other places around Scotland.
- hold inquiries
- look at legislation, including bills and subordinate legislation
- hear the views of people to help with their inquiries and recommendations
- look at the work of the Scottish Government, including plans for how money is spent
- consider petitions submitted by members of the public and groups who want to raise an issue
Inquiries are a way for committees to gather information and examine an issue. Committees choose inquiry topics for different reasons. Some are a response to a high profile event, like the delivery of a public service or project. Others consider progress in an area, for example schools or policing.
What happens in an inquiry?
During an inquiry a committee will usually:
- ask individuals and organisations for their views
- examine the views it gets
- hold evidence sessions where they question members of the public, organisations and experts
- visit organisations, companies and communities to get a deeper understanding of the inquiry topic
What do committees do with the information they receive?
The committee usually produces a report which is published on the Parliament website. The report makes recommendations to the Scottish Government and other public bodies. The Scottish Government must respond to the committee's recommendations, saying if they agree or not.
Committees have an important role in examining bills. Bills are assigned to a "lead committee". The lead committee is responsible for examining a bill closely. It hears from experts, organisations, and members of the public about what the bill would do. It then writes a report about what it has heard and makes a recommendation to the rest of the Parliament.
The committee recommend the Parliament either agree or disagree with the purpose of the bill (the "general principles"). The whole Parliament then debates and votes on the bill.
If enough MSPs agree and the bill passes this vote, the committee then looks at changes to the bill. These are called "amendments". Any MSP can suggest an amendment, but only committee members can vote on them at this stage.
You can find out more about the stages of a bill on our legislation pages.
Committees often look at subordinate legislation. Subordinate legislation can also be called:
- secondary legislation
- SSIs (Scottish Statutory Instruments)
- delegated powers
What does subordinate legislation do?
Subordinate legislation can:
- give more information about how a law will operate
- be used to say when parts of the new Act should become law (when a bill is passed, it doesn’t always become law straight away)
- keep existing laws up to date
Many committees look at petitions.
Anyone can send a petition to the Scottish Parliament to try to change something about how things work in Scotland. Petitions are first looked at by the Public Petitions Committee.
The Public Petitions Committee might:
- get information from the Scottish Government and other organisations
- hear more from the person or people who submitted the petition (“the petitioner”)
- make recommendations to the Scottish Government
- ask for time in the Chamber to debate the petition
- send (“refer”) the petition to another committee to look at it further
- close the petition
Every year the Scottish Government plans how it will spend money by creating a budget. Committees are responsible for examining the budgets for their subject areas. They can do this by:
- looking at how the Scottish Government has used money, and how it plans to spend money in the future
- sending reports or letters to the Scottish Government before it publishes the budget, to help their thinking about the budget
- examining the Budget Bill and questioning ministers about it
- putting forward their own suggestions if they don’t agree with the Scottish Government’s spending plans