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Scottish Executive

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Scottish Executive

This article is about modern post-devolutionary government. For historical government of the Kingdom of Scotland, see Government of Scotland.
"Scottish Ministers" redirects here; not to be confused with the pre-1999 use of the term, when it applied to the ministers of the Scottish Office.
Scottish Government
Riaghaltas na h-Alba
Scots Govrenment
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 The Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond, MSP, First Minister
Government executive Sir Peter Housden, KCB, Permanent Secretary

The Scottish Government (Scottish Gaelic: Riaghaltas na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Govrenment) 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

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, rising to more than £30 billion in 2007-2008.[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 is assisted by various Cabinet Secretaries (Ministers) with individual portfolios, who are appointed by him 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 Alex Salmond.


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]

Portfolio Minister Image
Cabinet Ministers
First Minister Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP
Deputy First Minister
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Capital Investment and Cities
Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neil MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Mike Russell MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP
Junior Ministers
Minister for Parliamentary Business and Chief Whip Joe Fitzpatrick MSP
Minister for Transport and Veterans Keith Brown MSP
Minister for Housing and Welfare Margaret Burgess MSP
Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport Shona Robison MSP
Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson MSP
Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP
Minister for Local Government and Planning Derek Mackay MSP
Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell MSP
Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages Alasdair Allan MSP
Minister for Youth Employment Angela Constance MSP
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham MSP
Minister for Environment and Climate Change Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Minister for External Affairs and International Development Humza Yousaf MSP
Law Officers
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC
Solicitor General for Scotland Lesley Thomson


The Scottish Cabinet normally meets weekly on Tuesday afternoons in Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister. It is the supreme collective decision-making body of the Scottish Government. 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.[10]

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

Cabinet sub-committees

There are three sub-committees of Cabinet:[11]

  • 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.
  • 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.


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, 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.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14] 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".[15]

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[16] 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).

  • Office of the Permanent Secretary
  • Scottish Government Learning and Justice Directorates
  • Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates
  • Scottish Government Enterprise, Environment and Digital Directorates
  • Scottish Government Finance Directorates
  • Scottish Government Governance and Communities Directorates
  • Scottish Government Strategy and External Affairs Directorates

Supporting these directorates are a variety of other corporate service teams and professional groups.[17]

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.

Strategic Board

The Strategic Board is the 'top table' for the organisation. It consists of the Permanent Secretary along with the five Director-Generals, the Chief Scientific Officer, the Chief Economic Adviser and three non Executive Directors.[18] The Board is responsible for overseeing the achievement of the Government's five strategic objectives listed below.

Occupation Name
Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Housden
Director General Finance Alyson Stafford
Director General Learning and Justice Leslie Evans
Director General Enterprise, Environment and Digital Graeme Dickson
Director-General Health and Social Care and Chief Executive of NHS Scotland Derek Feeley
Director-General Governance and Communities Paul Gray
Director-General Strategy and External Affairs Ken Thompson
Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland Professor Muffy Calder
Chief Economic Adviser Gary Gillespie
Non-Executive Director Christina Allon
Non-Executive Director Sandy Begbie
Non-Executive Director Heather Logan[18]
Non-Executive Director 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 17 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

Main article: Scottish 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 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.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

See also


External links

  • Official website
  • Glasgow University Library

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