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Scottish Government

Scottish Government
Riaghaltas na h-Alba
Scots Government
Logo of the Scottish Government
Government overview
Formed 1999
Jurisdiction Scotland
Headquarters St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, Scotland
Employees 17,000[1]
Annual budget £28.6 billion (2013/14)
Minister responsible Nicola Sturgeon MSP
First Minister
Government executive Sir Peter Housden KCB, Permanent Secretary

The Scottish Government (Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Government) is the executive branch of the devolved government of Scotland. It is accountable to the Scottish Parliament.

The government was established in 1999 as the Scottish Executive under section 44(1) of the Scotland Act 1998.[2] In September 2007, under the Minority SNP Government, it was rebranded to the Scottish Government, with its legal title remaining the Scottish Executive.[3] It was formally renamed in law at the beginning of July 2012, when section 12(1) of the Scotland Act 2012 came into force.

The Scottish Government is led by the First Minister, who selects all the remaining Cabinet Secretaries and junior Ministers. The First Minister and the Cabinet Secretaries constitute the Cabinet.[4]


  • Executive branch of government 1
    • Ministers 1.1
    • Cabinet 1.2
    • Cabinet sub-committees 1.3
    • Offices 1.4
  • Civil Service 2
    • Permanent Secretary 2.1
    • Directorates 2.2
    • Executive agencies 2.3
    • Public bodies 2.4
  • Change of name 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Executive branch of government

The Scottish Government is responsible in Scotland for all issues that are not explicitly reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster by Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998; such devolved matters include NHS Scotland, education, justice and policing, rural affairs, economic development and transport.

The Scottish Government had the responsibility for an annual budget of more than £30 billion in the financial year 2005–2006.[5]

The Government is led by the First Minister. The Scottish Parliament nominates one of its Members to be appointed as First Minister by the Queen. He or she is assisted by various Cabinet Secretaries (Ministers) with individual portfolios, who are appointed by him/her with the approval of Parliament. Junior Scottish Ministers are similarly appointed to assist Cabinet Secretaries in their work. The Scottish Law Officers, the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General can be appointed from outside the Parliament's membership, but are subject to its approval. The First Minister, the Cabinet Secretaries and the Scottish Law Officers are the Members of the Scottish Government. They are collectively known as the "Scottish Ministers".

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.[6]

Since 2007, the Scottish Government has been formed by the Scottish National Party, which is the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, although prior to 2011 it did not possess an overall majority. In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, the Scottish National Party won the first overall majority in the history of the Scottish Parliament. The current First Minister is Nicola Sturgeon.


The structure of the ministerial team used by the Scottish National Party (SNP) after its election victory in May 2007 differs from the previous Administration. The nomenclature of Cabinet Secretary has been introduced. The Cabinet Secretaries and junior Ministers are:[7][8][9]

Alex Salmond announced his resignation from the position of leader of the Scottish National Party on the 19th of September 2014 immediately following the Scottish Independence Referendum. This took effect on Friday 14th November at the SNP conference in Perth at which Nicola Sturgeon was elected unopposed as the new leader of the SNP. Sturgeon was elected Scottish First Minister on Wednesday, 19th November.

Portfolio Minister Image
Cabinet Ministers
First Minister Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Deputy First Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy John Swinney MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Keith Brown MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Shona Robison MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Angela Constance MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Richard Lochhead MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights Alex Neil MSP
Junior Ministers
Minister for Parliamentary Business Joe Fitzpatrick MSP
Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay MSP
Minister for Housing and Welfare Margaret Burgess MSP
Minister for Public Health Maureen Watt MSP
Minister for Sport and Health Improvement Jamie Hepburn MSP
Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP
Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment Marco Biagi MSP
Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell MSP
Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages Alasdair Allan MSP
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Aileen McLeod MSP
Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf MSP
Minister for Youth and Women's Employment Annabelle Ewing MSP
Law Officers
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC
Solicitor General for Scotland Lesley Thomson


The previous Scottish Cabinet (under Alex Salmond).

The Scottish Cabinet is the group of ministers who are collectively responsible for all Scottish Government policy. While parliament is in session, the Cabinet meets weekly.[10] Normally meetings are held on Tuesday afternoons in Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister. The Cabinet consists of the Scottish Ministers (Cabinet Secretaries), excluding the Scottish Law Officers (the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General). The Lord Advocate attends meetings of the Cabinet only when requested by the First Minister, and he is not formally a member.[11]

The Cabinet is supported by the Cabinet Secretariat, which is based at St Andrew's House.

Cabinet sub-committees

There are currently two sub-committees of Cabinet:[12]

  • Cabinet Sub-Committee on Legislation
    • Membership: the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, the Minister for Parliamentary Business, and the Lord Advocate.
  • Scottish Government Resilience Room (SGoRR) Cabinet Sub-Committee
    • Membership: Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Chair), the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing,the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment and the Lord Advocate.

For several years prior to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games there had been a third sub-committee of Cabinet:

  • Glasgow 2014 Legacy Plan Delivery Group
    • Membership: Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Chair), Minister for Community Safety, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, Minister for Environment, Minister for Housing and Communities, Minister for Public Health and Sport, Minister for Schools and Skills, and the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change.


Entrance to Bute House

The main headquarters building of the Scottish Government is St Andrew's House, on Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Some other Government departments are based at Victoria Quay in Leith, Saughton House on Broomhouse Drive and Atlantic Quay on Broomielaw, 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. Security Branch is 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.

New St. Andrew's House, above and behind Edinburgh's St. James' Centre, was once a large Scottish Office building, which was occupied from 1973 until 1997, when the last remaining staff moved to Victoria Quay.

The Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department is located in central Glasgow, and the Government has other offices across Scotland. The First Minister has use of the Scotland Office building, Dover House in Whitehall when necessary.[13]

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.[14] The Scottish Government also maintains an office within the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., and has accredited representatives within the British Embassy in Beijing.

Civil Service

The term Scottish Government also denotes the civil service supporting Scottish Ministers. According to 2012 reports, there are 16,000 civil servants working in core Scottish Government departments and agencies.[15] The civil service is a matter reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament (rather than devolved to Holyrood): Scottish Government civil servants work within the rules and customs of the United Kingdom civil service, but "owe their loyalty to the devolved administration rather than the UK government".[16]

Permanent Secretary

The Permanent Secretary supports the First Minister and the Cabinet. The current incumbent is Sir Peter Housden who took over from Sir John Elvidge in July 2010, who in turn took over from Sir Muir Russell in 2003. Sir Peter Housden is the most senior civil servant in Scotland and heads the Strategic Board of the Scottish Government.

The Permanent Secretary is a member of the Home Civil Service, and therefore takes part in the Permanent Secretaries Management Group of the UK Civil Service[17] and is answerable to the most senior civil servant in the UK, the Cabinet Secretary, for his professional conduct. He remains, however, at the direction of the Scottish Ministers.


In December 2010, the Directorates of the Scottish Government were re-organised, each one being headed by a Director-General (DG).

Supporting these directorates are a variety of other corporate service teams and professional groups.[18]

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service provides the independent public prosecution service for Scotland, and is a Ministerial Department of the Scottish Government. The department is headed by the Lord Advocate, who, under the Scottish legal system, is responsible for prosecution, along with the area Procurators fiscal.

The Strategic Board is the organisation's "top table". It consists of a Permanent Secretary, six Directors-General, two Chief Advisers (Scientific and Economic) and four Non-Executive Directors.[19] The Board is responsible for overseeing the achievement of the Government's five strategic objectives listed below.

Occupation Name

Permanent Secretary

Sir Peter Housden
Finance Alyson Stafford CBE
Learning and Justice Leslie Evans
Enterprise, Environment and Innovation  Graeme Dickson
Health and Social Care,
Chief Executive of NHS Scotland
Paul Gray
Communities Sarah Davidson
Strategy and External Affairs Ken Thompson

Chief Advisers

Scientific Professor Muffy Calder 
Economic Gary Gillespie

Non-Executive Directors

Christina Allon
Sandy Begbie
Heather Logan[19]
Alex Smith

In 2007, the Scottish Government set for itself an overall purpose:

"To focus Government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth."

Each Director General leads the task on delivering one of the Government's strategic objectives, resulting from this purpose:

Wealthier and Fairer : "Enable businesses and people to increase their wealth and more people to share fairly in that wealth."
Healthier : "Help people to sustain and improve their health, especially in disadvantaged communities, ensuring better, local and faster access to health care."
Safer and Stronger : "Help local communities to flourish, becoming stronger, safer place to live, offering improved opportunities and a better quality of life."
Smarter : "Expand opportunities for Scots to succeed from nurture through to life long learning ensuring higher and more widely shared achievements."
Greener : "Improve Scotland's natural and built environment and the sustainable use and enjoyment of it."

Executive agencies

In order to deliver its work, there are 8 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.

Change of name

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.

The original Scotland Act 1998 gave the name 'Scottish Executive' (or Administration) as the legal term for the devolved government. In January 2001, the then First Minister Henry McLeish suggested changing the official name from "Scottish Executive" to "Scottish Government". The reaction from the UK Government and from some Labour Party members and Scottish Labour MPs was allegedly hostile.[20] This reaction was in contrast to a 2001 public survey by then-Labour chief whip Tom McCabe, which showed that only 29% of the Scottish public wanted the title Scottish Executive to remain.[21]

Scottish politicians, including the Labour First Minister, had often referred to the Executive as the "government" and this trend increased following the 2007 election, when the SNP took office and Labour were in opposition for the first time. On 2 September 2007, the SNP minority government announced that the Scottish Executive was to be re-branded as the "Scottish Government".

The renaming was decided unilaterally by the minority government; as a consequence, the SNP was criticised by the three Unionist opposition parties for acting without allowing for parliamentary scrutiny, debate or approval of their plan. However, the term "Scottish Government" has since then become common currency among all of the political parties in Scotland and the rest of the UK.[22] The official Gaelic title, "Riaghaltas na h-Alba" has always meant "Government of Scotland".

"Scottish Executive" remained the legal name under section 44(1) of the Scotland Act 1998 until 2 July 2012. Neither the Scottish Administration nor the Scottish Parliament were able to change the legal name, as this required the UK Parliament to amend the Scotland Act. Section 12(1) of the Scotland Act 2012, which came into effect on 3 July 2012, formally changed the name of the Executive to the "Scottish Government".

At the same time that the Scottish Government began to use its new name, a new emblem was adopted. The earlier version featured the old name and a version of the Royal Arms for Scotland, but without the motto, the helm, the mantling, the crest, the war-cry above the crest, or the flags of Scotland and England carried by the supporters. In the rendering used, both supporters appeared to be crowned with the Crown of Scotland, whereas in the Royal Arms, the Scottish unicorn is usually shown crowned with the Scottish Crown, and the English lion with St Edward's Crown.

In the September 2007 rebranding, this depiction of the Royal Arms was replaced by one of the Flag of Scotland. However, the Royal Arms are still used by the Government for some official documents, such as directions issued in exercise of powers provided by legislation.[23]

See also


  1. ^ Public Sector employment in Scotland (Civil service)
  2. ^ "Part II: The Scottish Administration".  
  3. ^ "Scottish Executive renames itself".  
  4. ^ "The Scottish Cabinet". The Scottish Government. 4 July 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  5. ^ "The Scottish Government". 5 September 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  6. ^ "How the Scottish Parliament Works". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  7. ^ "FM nominates his cabinet" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  8. ^ "Changes to Scottish Government" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  9. ^ "Keith Brown named new Scottish transport minister". BBC news ( 12 December 2010. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  10. ^ "Guide to Collective Decision Making". Scottish Government. 12 November 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  11. ^ "Lord Advocate excluded from new Cabinet".  
  12. ^ "Current Cabinet Sub-Committees". The Scottish Government. 13 December 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "Dover House base for Scottish Secretary and Advocate General" (Press release). The Scottish Government. 8 March 1999. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  14. ^ "Scotland in the EU". The Scottish Government. 24 September 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  15. ^ Peterkin, Tom (5 June 2013). "Independent Scotland civil service ‘£700m a year’". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  16. ^ "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions". The Scottish Government. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  17. ^ "Permanent Secretary". The Scottish Government. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  18. ^ "Directorates". The Scottish Government. 23 August 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  19. ^ a b "Strategic Board". The Scottish Government. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  20. ^ Britten, Nick (10 January 2001). "Fury at bid to rename Scottish Executive".  
  21. ^ "Scottish Executive renames itself". BBC News ( 3 September 2007. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  22. ^ Scottish Parliament. Official Report. 25 February 2010
  23. ^ "Annual Report and Accounts: 2009–10".  

External links

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