The glossary provides definitions for parliamentary terms to help you understand the Parliament and how it works.  The terms are arranged alphabetically so select a letter to find the term you would like to have explained.


absolute majority

When the number of members voting for a proposition is more than half of the total number of seats for members of the Parliament or, in the case of a committee or sub-committee, more than half of the number of members of that committee or sub-committee. In a Parliament with 129 seats, 65 votes would be required to obtain an absolute majority. An example of a motion which requires such a majority is one that seeks to remove from office the Presiding Officer or a deputy Presiding Officer (rule 3.5.2).

accompanying documents

The documents that accompany a bill on its introduction.

accountable officer

An officer accountable to the Parliament for the actions, including the accounts and audit, of a particular public body, under the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000, based on the report of the Financial Issues Advisory Group. For example, the Clerk is the principal accountable officer for the parliamentary corporation.

Acts of the Parliament of Scotland

The laws passed by the former Scottish Parliament which ceased to exist in 1707 on the union of the Parliaments.

Acts of Union

The respective Acts of the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament ratifying the 1707 union of the two Kingdoms set out in the Treaty of Union.

ad hoc committee

A committee of the Scottish Parliament established for a specific purpose, for example, to consider particular types of bills such as private bills and consolidation bills.

additional member system

The form of voting system used to elect the Scottish Parliament.

admissibility criteria

Criteria set out in the Standing Orders that motions, amendments, questions and petitions must satisfy in order to be lodged. For example, amendments to bills must be relevant to the subject matter of the bill.


A person who can be appointed by to assist a committee or sub-committee with an inquiry.

Advocate General for Scotland

The UK government’s Law Officer for Scottish matters.


On being returned as members, all MSPs are required either to take the oath of allegiance or to make the solemn affirmation before the Clerk at a meeting of the Parliament. The form of the oath is set out in the Promissory Oaths Act 1868, and the corresponding affirmation, which may be taken instead, is set out in the Oaths Act 1978. An MSP may not participate in any other proceedings of the Parliament until he or she has taken the oath or made the solemn affirmation. An MSP that does not do this, normally within a 2 month period of being returned as an MSP, will cease to be an MSP.

Affirmative Instrument

A statutory instrument that requires the approval of the Parliament before coming into force or remaining in force. Usually laid before the Parliament in draft form.  The lead committee must recommend to the Parliament either that it approves the instrument or not.

allowances code

The rules governing the proper use of expenses payable under the members' expenses scheme.

Allowances Office

The office that is responsible for administering the members’ expenses scheme.


Proposed textual changes to motions or bills.

Annual Evaluation Report

A spending plan provided by the Scottish Ministers to the Parliament by 31 March each year (or by the first sitting day thereafter), under the written agreement between the Scottish Ministers and the Parliament (SP Paper 155, June 2000), setting out general expenditure proposals for those years for which aggregate figures are then available. The document is provided by the Executive for parliamentary scrutiny in Stage 1 of the annual budget process, leading to the draft budget and the budget bill.

Annual Report

The Parliament publishes an annual report of its activities during the previous year. Each mandatory and subject committee also publishes an annual report on its activities during the Parliamentary year.

appointed day

The day when legislative provisions in an Act come into force.

approval (of a bill)

Where a private or public bill has had to go through a process of Reconsideration, the final step of that process is for Parliament to decide whether to approve the bill.

Audit Adviser

The Parliament official reporting to the Chief Executive, who provides advice on public sector audit, finance and corporate governance matters.

Audit Scotland

The public sector audit service for Scotland.

Auditor General for Scotland (AGS)

An officer appointed by the Queen on the Scottish Parliament’s nomination who acts independently of the Parliament and the Executive when carrying out his or her statutory functions in relation to financial control, accounting and audit. The Auditor General for Scotland is responsible for ensuring that bodies which spend public funds provide value for money and adhere to high standards of financial management. Bodies that fall within the remit of the Auditor General for Scotland include departments of the Scottish Executive, National Health Service boards and Scottish Water. The role of the AGS is comparable to that of the UK Comptroller and Auditor General.

Auditor General's report

If a bill contains any provisions charging expenditure on the Scottish Consolidated Fund, one of the accompanying documents required is a report signed by the Auditor General for Scotland setting out his or her views on whether the charge is appropriate.

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