Who can petition the Parliament
Petitions are a way to ask the Parliament to do something. Any person or organisation can submit a petition - you do not have to be a certain age or live in Scotland. MSPs cannot submit a petition but they can support them.
There are rules about what you can petition the Parliament about, and what information you have to give for your petition to be looked at by the Public Petitions Committee.
What can I petition the Parliament about
Petitions to the Parliament must be about something that is:
- “devolved” (in the Scottish Parliament’s powers)
- relevant to the whole country
Petitions cannot ask the Scottish Parliament to get involved in a:
- local or individual matter
- decision that should be taken by another organisation
For example, a petition cannot ask the Scottish Parliament to get involved in a planning decision made by a council. It could ask for changes to Scottish planning legislation or guidance.
Rules for petitions
The rules for petitions are in:
- the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament (the rules for how the Parliament works)
- a “determination” (rules) agreed by the Public Petitions Committee
Required information for petitions
The Standing Orders rule 15.4.2 say a petition must have:
- the name of the petitioner
- an address to communicate with the petitioner
- the name and address of any person supporting the petition
All petitions also need to include:
- a title for the petition which explains what the petition is about in a few words
- a summary explaining what you want the Parliament to do
- other background information about why you want the Parliament to look at the issue
You must also provide information about what you’ve already done to raise the issue. You should contact at least 1 of your MSPs or the Scottish Government before submitting a petition. You will also need to let us know what happened as a result of your contact.
You must provide this information if you want your petition to be looked at by the Public Petitions Committee.
How to petition
After you create a petition
After you create your petition the Public Petitions team review it to make sure it meets the Parliament’s rules and is clear. They will get in touch with you and give you advice on your petition. If your petition does not meet the Parliament’s rules, they will explain why.
Over a holiday or recess period it may take longer for them to get back to you. If you have any questions you can get in touch with the Public Petitions team.
Once your petition is ready and meets the rules, it can appear on the petitions website. The Public Petitions team will let you know when your petition has been published.
Petitions can be:
- collecting signatures - if you can sign them to show your support
- under consideration - when the Parliament is looking at them
- closed - when the Parliament has finished considering them
Petitions do not need to collect signatures. They can be looked at by the Public Petitions Committee whether they collect signatures of not.
You can choose if you want to collect signatures for your petition. You can collect signatures for 4 weeks from when we publish the petition.
Signing a petition
You can sign a petition to show you support it. You can find the petition on our online system and sign it there. Petitions will show as “collecting signatures” if you can sign them.
Petitions do not have to collect signatures to be looked at by the Public Petitions Committee. They will be looked at by the committee whether they collect signatures or not.
The Public Petitions Committee
After your petition is published it will be looked at by the Public Petitions Committee. Before the committee looks at the petition it will gather information to help its consideration.
We will always let you know 2 weeks before the committee considers your petition.
The committee will look at your petition and decide what it is going to do. It might decide to:
- get written information or hear from the Scottish Government, other organisations, or people
- write to the petitioner for more information or to invite them to talk to the committee about the petition
- “refer” (send) the petition to another committee
- recommend actions for the Scottish Government
- ask for a debate about the petition in the Chamber
- close the petition
The Public Petitions team will let you know:
- when the committee will look at your petition and how you can follow the discussion
- if the committee would like to invite you to “give evidence” (speak to them in person in a committee meeting)
- what the committee decided to do
- when they get further information on your petition so you can respond
How long does the Parliament look at a petition
The petitions process is not designed to respond to emergencies. Petitions can be looked at over several meetings. Committees will not close a petition until they have all the information they need.
Once a petition has been submitted it will be looked at by the Public Petitions Committee. The committee may look at it once, or several times.
The Public Petitions Committee can also “refer” (send) the petition to another committee.
Elections and petitions
When there is a Scottish Parliament election, the “session” of Parliament ends.
At the end of a session a committee can decide to keep a petition open. If it stays open, it can be worked on again in the next session.
This is different to other parliamentary work like Bills which "fall" (ends) at the end of a session.