Drafting Matters!: guidance

Guidance on the drafting of primary legislation.


We are innovative, providing advice and drafting law which best delivers policy outcomes.

Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO)

PCO is the Scottish Government's legislative drafting office.

Our purpose is:

  • to draft and help deliver clear, effective and accessible law for the Scottish Government,
  • to maintain and enhance our position as Scotland's centre of legislative excellence and help improve the overall quality of Scotland's law.

About this manual: status and use

This drafting manual provides guidance and advice on common drafting issues. It has been agreed within PCO for use in connection with every Scottish Government Bill.

The purpose of the manual is to encourage consistency of approach by parliamentary counsel in the matters covered by the manual. It is expected that each counsel will have careful regard to the manual when drafting Bill provisions but it is not to be adhered to slavishly in every case as a different approach may deliver a policy outcome in a clearer or more effective way.

For example, deviations may be needed for the sake of:

  • clarity, accuracy or emphasis of meaning
  • operation in conjunction with the existing law (including an enactment in the same area)
  • achieving an overriding policy or presentational result (including as attributable to the known interests of any category of end-users)
  • maintaining consistency of style or approach when textually amending a provision in another enactment.

In a few places, there is special mention of grounds for deviation from the manual. In certain other places, the latitude for deviation will naturally be slight.

Note: this document sets out the Scottish Government's approach to drafting primary legislation (Acts of the Scottish Parliament) only. Other writing and style guides exist for other Scottish Government communications.


Email: Jonathan Brown

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