Skip to main content

Language: English / GĂ idhlig


Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs)

About Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs)


What happens at election time?

Scottish Parliament elections happen every 4 or 5 years. Voters elect MSPs who will represent their views and make decisions that affect their lives. Anyone eligible to vote can do so.

In the run-up to an election, the parliament is dissolved for about 5 weeks to allow for campaigning to happen. During this period (known as dissolution), MSPs stop being Members of the Scottish Parliament. They can't use parliament resources for elections, and they can't take on new casework. Any Bills that have not passed will "fall" (stop). Petitions won't be considered again until after dissolution. All motions, and amendments to motions, also fall.

During dissolution some roles continue, but only for specific purposes. These are:

  • the Presiding Officer, Deputy Presiding Officers and members of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body continue to manage the parliamentary estate, staff and services
  • Scottish Government ministers carry out essential government business

After an election, every MSP is sworn in by taking an oath or affirmation. Then, they appoint the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officers. Next, they elect one member to be First Minister – usually the leader of the biggest party in the Parliament. The First Minister then selects ministers for the Scottish Government. Members of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body are appointed and parliamentary committees are established.

Find out more at the Electoral Commission website