Scottish Ministerial Code 2016 edition

Code of conduct and guidance on procedures for Cabinet Secretaries, Ministers and Law Officers.

3. Ministers And The Scottish Parliament

General Principle

3.1 In all their dealings with the Parliament, Ministers should seek to uphold and promote the key principles which guided the work of the Consultative Steering Group on the Scottish Parliament.

Key Principles of the Consultative Steering Group on the Scottish Parliament

3.2 The key principles endorsed by the Consultative Steering Group on the Scottish Parliament were as follows: [5]

(a) The Scottish Parliament should embody and reflect the sharing of power between the people of Scotland, the legislators and the Scottish Government;

(b) The Scottish Government should be accountable to the Scottish Parliament, and the Parliament and Government should be accountable to the people of Scotland;

(c) The Scottish Parliament should be accessible, open, responsive, and develop procedures which make possible a participative approach to the development, consideration and scrutiny of policy and legislation;

(d) The Scottish Parliament in its operation and its appointments should recognise the need to promote equal opportunities for all.

Commitments to Legislate

3.3 Ministers should not give undertakings either within or outside the Parliament to introduce primary legislation on any issue without the prior agreement of the Cabinet.

Introduction of Bills

3.4 Ministers responsible for Bills being introduced in the Parliament should ensure that the Bill is accompanied by clear, informative and comprehensive explanatory notes, by an appropriate policy memorandum detailing the policy objectives of the Bill and the consultation which has been undertaken on it, and by an appropriate Financial Memorandum setting out the best estimates of the administrative and compliance costs arising under the Bill, as required by the Parliament's Standing Orders. Draft Financial Memoranda must be cleared by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution prior to Bills being introduced. A Bill must also be accompanied by a statement, which will have been cleared with the Law Officers, that the Bill is within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

Parliamentary Statements and other Government Announcements

3.5 When the Parliament is meeting, Ministers should ensure that important announcements of Government policy are made, in the first instance, to the Parliament (see also paragraph 2.25 above).

3.6 Oral statements can only be made at full meetings of the Parliament which are normally held on a Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday, when the Parliament is not in recess. The agenda for each day's business will normally have been agreed the previous week by the Parliament on a motion from the Parliamentary Bureau. The agreement of the Presiding Officer to interrupt business to allow an unscheduled statement to be made is required. If too many announcements are made by oral statement, Parliamentary business could be hindered. Nevertheless, careful consideration should be given in the case of important or particularly sensitive issues to the desirability of making an oral statement rather than an announcement by Written Answer to a Parliamentary Question. Ministers proposing to make an oral statement or to make an important announcement in the Parliament through another mechanism are therefore asked to conform to the following procedure:

(a) As much notice as possible of the intention to make an announcement should be given to (i) the First Minister; (ii) the Minister for Parliamentary Business; (iii) the Permanent Secretary; (iv) the First Minister's Communications desk; and (v) the Cabinet Secretariat. This notification should indicate: the broad content of the proposed announcement; (if necessary) why an oral statement is thought to be appropriate; and whether the policy with which it is concerned has been approved by Ministers, with references to relevant discussions in Cabinet or in other collective Ministerial meetings. If agreement is given in principle, a draft of the statement or answer should be circulated to the same recipients and all Cabinet members as soon as possible, once it has been approved in broad terms (though not necessarily in detail) by the relevant member of Cabinet and other Ministers with a portfolio interest (in urgent cases, clearance in principle and clearance of the detailed text may be secured at the same time);

(b) In the case of announcements by Written Answer to a Parliamentary Question, a press announcement must not be made before the Written Answer has been sent by e-mail to the MSP who lodged the Question. The timing of the announcement should be discussed and agreed with the Minister for Parliamentary Business and the Parliamentary Clerk's Office;

(c) Ministers should not give undertakings, either within or outside the Parliament, that an oral statement will be made to the Parliament on any subject at a specific time or within a particular period until agreement has been given by the First Minister and the Minister for Parliamentary Business to the proposed timing, and by the Ministers concerned to the terms of the statement;

(d) Ministers should take account of the pressures of other Parliamentary business when considering the timing of statements. Where possible, the Government's intention to make a statement should be intimated in time for it to be taken into account by the Parliamentary Bureau in drawing up a business programme for the period in question. Where the need for an urgent statement emerges subsequently, early notice must be given to the Private Secretaries to the Minister for Parliamentary Business to allow the necessary request to be made to the Presiding Officer. Such requests must be submitted no later than 12 noon on the day the statement is to be made;

(e) Copies of the final version of such announcements should be sent to the First Minister, the Minister for Parliamentary Business, the Permanent Secretary, the Cabinet Secretariat and the First Minister's Communications desk as soon as they are available;

(f) A copy of the text of any oral statement should normally be passed to the non-Government parties one hour before it is made. For this purpose the final text must reach the office of the Minister for Parliamentary Business in the Parliament at least one and a half hours before the statement is due to be made;

(g) The office of the Minister for Parliamentary Business will arrange for a copy of the final text of an oral statement to be sent in advance to the Presiding Officer;

(h) Copies of any Ministerial statement made in the Parliament and of any document being published by means of the statement should be passed, via the office of the Minister for Parliamentary Business, to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre ( SPICe). This affords Members an opportunity of studying the statement in advance of its publication in the Official Report;

(i) All advance copies should be marked " check against delivery - embargoed until [insert date]", to indicate that Ministers can and will make changes to their statements up to and including the point of delivery; and

(j) Every effort should be made to avoid leaving significant announcements to the last day before a recess.

Supply of Publications

3.7 A Minister in charge of an item of business in the Parliament is responsible for supplying SPICe in advance with a list of all those papers which he or she considers relevant to consideration of the item. The Minister must ensure that a reasonable number of copies of any documents published during the previous two years which may be needed for the debate are passed to SPICe if requested. When any document is out of print, the Minister should decide whether or not a reprint is required. Where any doubt exists about the need for any document to be available for a debate, the Minister should consult the Minister for Parliamentary Business.

Financial Resolutions

3.8 All motions for Financial Resolutions are lodged in the name of the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution. However, he or she is not responsible for securing Parliamentary approval for the Resolution. This responsibility falls to the Minister responsible for the Bill to which the Financial Resolution relates.

Ministerial Availability

3.9 It is expected that Ministers' commitments in Parliament will normally take precedence over other engagements, and it is each Minister's responsibility to ensure that requests for absence from Parliament are submitted and cleared in advance by the Minister for Parliamentary Business.

Membership of Cross-Party Groups

3.10 In order to avoid any conflict of interest, Ministers should not take up membership of any Parliamentary Cross-Party Groups. On taking up office, they should relinquish membership of any such groups of which they are, at that time, a member.

Appearing before a Select Committee of the UK Parliament

3.11 A Select Committee of the UK Parliament may invite a Scottish Minister to attend and give evidence at one of its meetings. Where possible, Scottish Ministers should normally accept such invitations and should provide the Committee with relevant information about Scottish Government policy and practice.


Email: Robin Benn,

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