Scottish Government

The Scottish Government (Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba, pronounced [ˈrˠiə.əl̪ˠt̪əs nə ˈhal̪ˠapə]) is the 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.

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 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]

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 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]

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]

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.

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]

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.

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.

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.