Power Sharing - Different types of bills
When the Scottish Parliament was set up one of the key principles found in the report Shaping Scotland's Parliament was the sharing of power. This was to avoid a situation where the executive could dominate the legislative process completely and to allow smaller parties or individuals a realistic chance of influencing new laws. It was decided that individual MSPs should have the right to introduce legislation as well as the government and committees.
The Scottish Parliament has devised procedures to ensure that the government is not the only source of legislation. There are five types of Bill:
1. Government Bills
These are Bills introduced by the Scottish Government and account for the majority of legislation. (These were called Executive bills until the Scotland Act 2012 formally changed the name from the Scottish Executive to the Scottish Government).
- Community Care and Health Act 2002
- Alcohol Etc (Scotland) Act 2010
- Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act 2010
- Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009
2. Committee Bills
This is legislation initiated by a committee. Examples of committee bills include:
- Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001
- Children's Commissioner for Scotland Act 2003
- Scottish Parliamentary Commissions and Commissioners etc Act 2010
3. Members Bills
Each MSP has the right to introduce two Bills during one Parliamentary session. Individual MSPs must get cross party support before they can introduce their bill. The first Members' bill passed was the Abolition of Poindings and Warrant Sales Act 2001 introduced by Tommy Sheridan MSP. Others include:
- Protection of Wild Mammal (Scotland) Act 2002 introduced by Mike Watson MSP
- Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 introduced by Christine Grahame MSP
- Disabled Persons Parking Places (Scotland) Act 2009 introduced by Jackie Baillie MSP
4. Private Bills
A Private Bill is introduced by a ‘promoter’. A promoter can be an individual, a group or a company. A private bill is aimed at allowing the promoter to obtain powers or benefits that are in addition to or in conflict with the general law.
Objections to the bill can be lodged and any individual, group or company who consider that the bill would adversely affect them may lodge an objection.
A Private Bill Committee is established to take the bill through the legislative process.
The first private bill to be proposed was the Robin Rigg Offshore Wind Farm (Navigation and Fishing) (Scotland) Bill. Other private bills have concerned charitable trusts such as the Ure Elder Fund Transfer and Dissolution Act 2009 and the William Simpson's Home (Transfer of Property etc) (Scotland) Act 2010.
5. Hybrid Bills
A Hybrid Bill is a Public Bill that is introduced by a member of the Scottish Government to make provision about the public and general law; however its provisions can also directly affect the interests of particular individuals or bodies. These individuals or bodies are entitled to participate in the proceedings. The procedures in place for Hybrid Bills are largely similar to those for Public Bills. However they also incorporate certain procedural safeguards where the Hybrid Bill process may affect the private interests of particular individuals or bodies. The first hybrid bill is the Forth Crossing Bill.
The majority of bills introduced and passed are Government Bills. Most parties use a ‘whip system’ to ensure party unity in voting, apart from on matters of conscience or moral issues.