Scottish Government

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Scottish Government
Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba
Scots: Scots Govrenment
Scottish Government Logo.svg
Established1 July 1999 (1999-07-01)
LeaderFirst Minister
Appointed byFirst Minister approved by Parliament, ceremonially appointed by the monarch
Main organScottish Cabinet
Responsible toScottish Parliament
Annual budget£40.3 billion (2018/19)[1]
HeadquartersSt Andrew's House
2 Regent Road

The Scottish Government (Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba, pronounced [ˈrˠiə.əl̪ˠt̪əs nə ˈhal̪ˠapə]) is the national devolved government of Scotland.[2] It was formed in 1999 as the Scottish Executive following the 1997 referendum on Scottish devolution.[3]

The Scottish Government consists of the Scottish Ministers, which is used to describe their collective legal functions. The Scottish Government is accountable to the Scottish Parliament, which was also created by the Scotland Act 1998 with the first minister appointed by the monarch following a proposal by the Parliament. The responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament fall over matters that are not reserved in law to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Ministers are appointed by the first minister with the approval of the Scottish Parliament and the monarch from among the members of the Parliament. The Scotland Act 1998 makes provision for ministers and junior ministers, referred to by the current administration as Cabinet secretaries and ministers, in addition to two law officers: the lord advocate and solicitor general for Scotland. Collectively the Scottish Ministers and the Civil Service staff that support the Scottish Government are formally referred to as the Scottish Administration.


The Scottish Executive's original logo, shown with English and Scottish Gaelic caption. The logo was replaced in September 2007, with the name changed to "Scottish Government", and the Flag of Scotland used instead of the Royal Arms.

In 1885, many domestic policy functions relating to Scotland were brought into responsibilities of a Scottish Office, a department of the Government of the United Kingdom which was headed by a Secretary for Scotland, later the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Following the 1997 referendum on devolution, many of the functions of the Secretary of State for Scotland were transferred to the Scottish Ministers, accountable to a devolved Scottish Parliament. The first Scottish Executive was formed by First Minister Donald Dewar, a coalition between the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. During this period, ministerial appointees were divided into ministers and deputy ministers.

The Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition continued under subsequent First Ministers Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell. Following the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, Alex Salmond headed a Scottish National Party administration until his resignation in 2014 and the appointment of his former Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Since 2007, the Scottish Executive had used the name Scottish Government. The change of name was later recognised in law by the Scotland Act 2012. In 2001, former First Minister Henry McLeish had proposed such a change, but experienced some opposition.[4]

At the same time that the Scottish Government began to use its new name, a new emblem was adopted. It replaced the use of a version of the Royal Arms with the Flag of Scotland.[5]

The Scottish Ministers

Third Sturgeon government
9th Government of Scotland
Third Sturgeon Government, 2021.jpg
Nicola Sturgeon's cabinet outside Bute House, 2021
Date formed20 May 2021
People and organisations
MonarchElizabeth II
First MinisterNicola Sturgeon
First Minister's history2014–present
Deputy First MinisterJohn Swinney
No. of ministers27
Total no. of members27
Member parties
  •   Scottish National Party
  •   Scottish Greens (August 2021–present)
Status in legislatureMajority
cooperation and confidence and supply agreement between the SNP and the Greens
71 / 129 (55%)
(August 2021–present)

64 / 129 (50%)
(May–August 2021)

Election(s)2021 general election
Legislature term(s)6th Scottish Parliament
PredecessorSecond Sturgeon government

The Scottish Government is led by the First Minister of Scotland and consists of additional Scottish Ministers and the law officers.

The Scottish Parliament nominates one of its members to be appointed as First Minister by the Queen.[6] The First Minister appoints additional Ministers to a variety of ministerial portfolios. More senior ministers, known as Cabinet Secretaries, collectively form a cabinet with the First Minister. The Scottish law officers, the Lord Advocate and Solicitor, can be appointed without being a member of the Scottish Parliament, however, they are subject to Parliament's approval and scrutiny. Law officers are also appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the first minister.[6]


The Scottish Cabinet collectively takes responsibility for policy coordination within the Scottish Government. It is supported by Cabinet Secretariat, based at St Andrew's House. While the Scottish Parliament is in session, Cabinet meets weekly.[7] Normally meetings are held on Tuesday afternoons in Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister.[8] Members of the Scottish Cabinet receive blue despatch boxes for their use while in office.[9]

There are currently two sub-committees of cabinet:[10]

The current members of the Scottish Government's Cabinet are:

Cabinet Secretaries[11]
Portfolio Minister Image
First Minister The Rt Hon. Nicola Sturgeon MSP First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP.jpg
Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP Deputy First Minister, John Swinney.jpg
Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes MSP Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Kate Forbes, 2021.jpg
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Humza Yousaf MSP Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Humza Yousaf, 2021.jpg
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, 2021.jpg
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson MSP Cabinet Secretary, Michael Matheson.jpg
Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans Keith Brown MSP Cabinet Secretary, Keith Brown.jpg
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government Shona Robison MSP Cabinet Secretary, Shona Robison, 2021.jpg
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon MSP Cabinet Secretary, Mairi Gougeon.jpg
Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture The Rt Hon. Angus Robertson MSP Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson.jpg

Junior Scottish Ministers

Junior Scottish Ministers, who take the title of Minister, are also appointed to the Scottish Government. Each junior minister has oversight by a particular Cabinet Secretary.

The current[12] Junior Scottish Ministers are:

Junior Ministers[11]
Portfolio Minister Image Party
Minister for Drugs Policy Angela Constance MSP Minister for Drugs Policy, Angela Constance.jpg SNP
Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans George Adam MSP George Adam (cropped).jpg SNP
Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work Richard Lochhead MSP Richard Lochhead 2021.jpg SNP
Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Ivan McKee MSP Ivan McKee MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth Tom Arthur MSP Tom Arthur (cropped).jpg SNP
Minister for Public Health, Women's Health and Sport Maree Todd MSP Maree Todd MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care Kevin Stewart MSP Kevin Stewart MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Children and Young People Clare Haughey MSP Clare Haughey MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training Jamie Hepburn MSP Jamie Hepburn MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform Mairi McAllan MSP Mairi McAllan MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Transport Graeme Dey MSP Graeme Dey MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham MSP Ash Denham MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Equalities and Older People Christina McKelvie MSP Christina McKelvie MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Social Security and Local Government Ben Macpherson MSP Ben MacPherson MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development Jenny Gilruth MSP Jenny Gilruth MSP.jpg SNP
Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights Patrick Harvie MSP Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights - Patrick Harvie.jpg Greens
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Lorna Slater MSP Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity - Lorna Slater.jpg Greens

The Law Officers

The current law officers are:

Law Officers
Portfolio Minister Image
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC Official Portrait of Dorothy Bain QC 2021.jpg
Solicitor General for Scotland Ruth Charteris QC Official portrait of Ruth Charteris QC 2021.jpg


The responsibilities of the Scottish Ministers broadly follow those of the Scottish Parliament provided for in the Scotland Act 1998 and subsequent UK legislation. Where pre-devolution legislation of the UK Parliament provided that certain functions could be performed by UK Government ministers, these functions were transferred to the Scottish Ministers if they were within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

The 1998 Act also provided for orders to be made allowing Scottish Ministers to exercise powers of UK Government ministers in areas that remain reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Equally the Act allows for the Scottish Ministers to transfer functions to the UK Government ministers, or for particular "agency arrangements". This executive devolution means that the powers of the Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament are not identical.[13]

The most prominent reserved matters that remain under the exclusive control of the Parliament of the United Kingdom are:[14]

This left a number of major matters that were devolved under the Scotland Act 1998, including:[15]

Subsequently, the Scotland Acts of 2012 and 2016 transferred powers over:[16]

The members of the government have substantial influence over legislation in Scotland, putting forward the majority of bills that are successful in becoming Acts of the Scottish Parliament.[17]

The Scottish Government

In addition to the Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Government is supported by a number of officials drawn from the UK Civil Service. They are collectively referred to as the Scottish Administration in the Scotland Act 1998. According to 2012 reports, there are 16,000 civil servants working in core Scottish Government directorates and agencies.[18]

The civil service is a matter reserved to the British parliament at Westminster (rather than devolved to Holyrood): Scottish Government civil servants work within the rules and customs of Her Majesty's Civil Service, but serve the devolved administration rather than British government.[19]

Permanent Secretary

The Permanent Secretary is the Scottish Government's most senior civil servant. She leads the administration's strategic board as well as directly supporting the First Minister and cabinet and is the accountable officer with responsibility to ensure that the government's money and resources are used effectively and properly.[20] The current permanent secretary is Leslie Evans, who assumed the post in July 2015.

The Permanent Secretary is a member of the UK Civil Service, and therefore takes part in the UK-wide Permanent Secretaries Management Group under the Cabinet Secretary who performs a number of similar functions in relation to the UK Government. The Scottish Government's Permanent Secretary is responsible to the Scottish Ministers in terms of policy.[21]


The Scottish Government is divided into 49 directorates which execute government policy in specified areas. Unlike in the British government, senior ministers do not lead government departments and have no direct role in the operation of the directorates.

The directorates are grouped together into seven "Directorates General", each run by a senior civil servant who is titled a "Director-General". As of May 2021, there are seven Directorates General:

Supporting these directorates are a variety of other corporate service teams and professional groups.[22]

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service serves as an independent prosecution service in Scotland, and is a ministerial department of the Scottish Government. It is headed by the Lord Advocate, who is responsible for prosecution, along with the procurators fiscal, under Scots law.

Strategic Board

The strategic board is composed of the permanent secretary, the seven directors-general, two chief advisers (scientific and economic) and four non-executive directors. The board is responsible for providing support to the government through the permanent secretary, and is the executive of the Scottish civil service.[23]

Executive Agencies

To deliver its work, there are 9 executive agencies established by ministers as part of government departments, or as departments in their own right, to carry out a discrete area of work. These include, for example, the Scottish Prison Service and Transport Scotland. Executive agencies are staffed by civil servants.

There are two non-ministerial departments that form part of the Scottish administration, and therefore the devolved administration, but answer directly to the Scottish Parliament rather than to ministers: these are the General Register Office for Scotland and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Public Bodies

The Scottish Government is also responsible for a large number of non-departmental public bodies. These include executive NDPBs (e.g. Scottish Enterprise); advisory NDPBs (e.g. the Scottish Law Commission); tribunals (e.g. the Children's Panel and Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland); and nationalised industries (e.g. Scottish Water). These are staffed by public servants, rather than civil servants.

The Scottish Government is also responsible for some other public bodies that are not classed as non-departmental public bodies, such as NHS Boards, Visiting Committees for Scottish Penal Establishments or HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland.


The headquarters building of the Scottish Government is St Andrew's House, which is located on Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Some other government directorates are based at Victoria Quay and Saughton House in Edinburgh, and Atlantic Quay in Glasgow. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has its head offices, and the Lord Advocate's Chambers, at Chambers Street in central Edinburgh.

There are numerous other Edinburgh properties occupied by the Scottish Government. Both the Scottish Fiscal Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission are based in the old Governor's House on the site of the former Calton Gaol, next door to St. Andrew's House on Regent Road. The Government Car Service for Scotland also has its Edinburgh offices on Bonnington Road, in Leith. Other offices are scattered around central Edinburgh, including Bute House on Charlotte Square, the official residence of the first minister.

All Ministers and officials have access to Scotland House at Victoria Embankment in London, when necessary. Dover House on Whitehall is now used by the Scotland Office and the devolved Scottish Ministers no longer use it.[24]

The Scottish Government also operates local offices and specialist facilities around Scotland, for example those used by Rural Payments & Services[25] and Marine Scotland.

International offices

The Scottish Government has a European Union representative office, located at Rond-Point Robert Schuman in Brussels, Belgium, which forms a part of the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union.[26] The Scottish Government also maintains offices within the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as the British Embassy in Berlin and has accredited representatives within the British Embassy in Beijing.

See also


  1. ^ "Budget (Scotland) Act 2018". The National Archives. Archived from the original on 31 August 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  2. ^ Jeffery, Charlie (2009). The Scottish Parliament 1999-2009: The First Decade. Luath Press. ISBN 1906817219.
  3. ^ "Scotland Act 1998". The National Archives. Archived from the original on 28 August 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  4. ^ Britten, Nick (10 January 2001). "Fury at bid to rename Scottish Executive". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2013. Henry McLeish, the First Minister, threatened to set himself on a collision course with Tony Blair by wanting to rename the Executive the Scottish Government. The proposal caused an immediate split in Labour ranks and left McLeish facing allegations of arrogance and over-ambition. Scotland Office minister Brian Wilson said that the First Minister should think carefully about using the term "government". He said: "Maybe they should take time to look at how other countries with two tiers of government handle this. Nobody in Germany has any difficulty distinguishing between the government and the devolved administrations."
  5. ^ "Annual Report and Accounts: 2009–10" (PDF). Accountant in Bankruptcy. 4 August 2010. p. 61. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 August 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Appointment and Role". Office of the First Minister of Scotland. 5 February 2015. Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Guide to Collective Decision Making". Scottish Government. 12 November 2008. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  8. ^ "Lord Advocate excluded from new Cabinet". The Scotsman. 22 May 2007. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  9. ^ "Despatch boxes used by Scottish Government Ministers, cost and number: FOI release –". Archived from the original on 26 May 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  10. ^ "Current Cabinet Sub-Committees". The Scottish Government. 13 December 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  11. ^ a b "New Cabinet appointed". Scottish Government News. Archived from the original on 27 June 2018. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  12. ^ "New Scottish Cabinet –". Archived from the original on 19 May 2021. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Devolution Guidance Note 11 – Ministerial Accountability after Devolutio" (PDF). November 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 March 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  14. ^ "Devolution settlement: Scotland". UK Government. Archived from the original on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  15. ^ "What is Devolution?". Scottish Parliament. Archived from the original on 22 July 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  16. ^ "What the Scottish Government does". Scottish Government. Archived from the original on 8 July 2019. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  17. ^ "How the Scottish Parliament Works". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  18. ^ Peterkin, Tom (5 June 2013). "Independent Scotland civil service '£700m a year'". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  19. ^ "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions". The Scottish Government. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  20. ^ "Government structure –". Archived from the original on 19 December 2020. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Permanent Secretary". The Scottish Government. 1 May 2013. Archived from the original on 9 March 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  22. ^ "Directorates". The Scottish Government. 23 August 2013. Archived from the original on 6 November 2021. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  23. ^ "Strategic Board". The Scottish Government. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  24. ^ "Dover House base for Scottish Secretary and Advocate General" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 8 March 1999. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  25. ^ "Rural Payments – Contact Us". The Scottish Government. Archived from the original on 14 May 2021. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  26. ^ "Scotland in the EU". The Scottish Government. 24 September 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2013.

External links