Scottish ministers, including the First Minister, are accountable to the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Government's policies and activities. Any minister, including the First Minister, may participate in discussions and vote in the Scottish Parliament's main chamber as an MSP. However, they cannot be removed from office unless they resign or are expelled by their party.
The First Minister is elected by the members of the Scottish Parliament. She or he can remain in office indefinitely. The position can also be held temporarily by an acting First Minister. If the First Minister dies or is otherwise unable to discharge his or her duties, then the Secretary of State for Scotland may appoint a deputy who would become the new First Minister. However, they too can only remain in post until they are elected by the people or lose their seat at an election.
In May 2014, Nicola Sturgeon was appointed Deputy First Minister by Scottish Prime Minister David Cameron, making her the first woman to hold this position.
All Scottish ministers are required by law to be members of one of the two main political parties - the SNP or the Labour Party. However, several have left these parties to work with other groups in the Scottish Parliament or have formed independent ministries.
Currently, the SNP has 59 seats in the Scottish Parliament while the Labour Party has 44. The remaining 7 seats are divided between 4 other parties and 2 independent MSPs.
The Scottish Parliament is made up of all elected members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and is the devolved law-making body. It evaluates new legislation and scrutinizes the Scottish Government's operations and policies through debates, parliamentary questions, and committee work. The Parliament meets at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.
Its powers are derived from the Scotland Act 1998, which covers everything from agriculture to taxation. There is also a separate but equally important set of statutes that cover issues such as elections and committees. These are known as "Schedules" to the Scotland Act; there are five of them. Together, the two sets of laws form what is called "Parliamentary Business".
All MSPs have equal status within the Parliament and can ask any question about anything covered by the act. If an MSP feels that another member has given an inaccurate answer or not answered at all, he or she can raise a point of order. Once this has been resolved, business can continue as usual. In cases where an MSP believes that the government is acting unconstitutionally, he or she can seek a judicial review. Courts will only do this if they believe that the issue is serious enough to merit it.
There are also a number of non-debatable items in the act that cannot be removed except by a vote of the whole Parliament.
The Scottish Parliament (Scottish Parliament) 1.2. The Scottish government and public entities in Scotland are accountable to the Scottish Parliament. 1.3. Formal responsibilities to perform services, submit reports, and account can only be imposed by the supporting legislation, according to the criteria outlined below. These bodies include: • The Scottish Ministers, who act on behalf of the Queen in appointing officials and members of boards and committees. They also have responsibility for issuing statutory instruments. • Executive agencies including the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, the Scottish Prison Service, and the Scottish National Health Service (which is partly state owned). • Other public bodies such as Police Scotland and Transport for Edinburgh (which is supported by the Scottish Government but operates independently from it).
In addition, there are a number of other entities which are not formal governments departments but which still have responsibility to account to the Scottish Parliament. These include the Lord President of the Court of Session, who has oversight function over the Scottish Justice system; the Provost of Glasgow, who leads the Glasgow City Council; and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who has oversight function over the Scottish church. There are also eight elected mayors in Scotland's local authority areas who work with their councils to provide leadership on issues including housing, health, education, and economic development.
MSPs can scrutinize the operations of the First Minister and their Cabinet in the Scottish Parliament by tabling written questions or asking oral questions. When Parliament meets on Thursdays at noon, the First Minister is directly questioned. If they have staff to answer questions, they will receive copies of the questions ahead of time. If there are issues about answering specific questions, then it is possible that some information would be withheld.
To date, every First Minister has responded to at least one parliamentary question. The first minister to hold office was Donald Dewar, who from 1999 to 2001 handled most of the administrative duties currently performed by an executive deputy. He answered 72 questions from various parties across the chamber.
The current First Minister is Nicola Sturgeon, who replaced David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party in November 2016 and as First Minister two months later. She is the first female leader of a major party in Britain's modern political history.
Sturgeon took office at a difficult time for her party: after winning only one seat in 2015, the Conservatives were reduced to just eight members in the House of Commons. She also faced strong opposition from within her own party to her decision to call a second independence referendum, which many members believed should not have been put to the vote of the people.