History of the office of the First Minister

The Scotland Act 1998 requires the First Minister to be a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) – appointed by the Monarch following a vote by fellow MSPs to nominate the individual.

First Ministers

Nicola Sturgeon

2014 to present

Alex Salmond

2007 to 2014

Jack McConnell

2001 to 2007

Henry McLeish

2000 to 2001

Donald Dewar

1999 to 2000

Following devolution in 1999, powers held by the UK Government transferred to the Scottish Parliament and to Scottish Ministers. Scottish Ministers are responsible for key policy areas in Scotland including education, justice, health, aspects of the economy and social justice.

The First Minister – also following the agreement of the Parliament – recommends to the Monarch the appointment of the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General (the 'law officers'). They are also members of the Scottish Government and, together with cabinet secretaries and junior ministers are collectively known as the 'Scottish ministers'.

The First Minister is also responsible for nominating judges for appointment by the Monarch, including the Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice Clerk, following the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland.

Scottish ministers, including the First Minister, are accountable to the Scottish Parliament for the policy and actions of the Scottish Government. As an MSP, any minister including the First Minister, may take part in debates or vote in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament.

Bute House also transferred from the office of Scottish Secretary to the office of the First Minister as the office-holder’s official residence in Edinburgh.