This Guidance has been prepared by the Parliament’s Non-Government Bills Unit, mainly to assist:

·      people wishing to promote a Private Bill in the Scottish Parliament

·      anyone seeking to object to such a Bill

·      MSPs involved in the scrutiny of such a Bill.

The Guidance describes the procedures and requirements for the processing of a Private Bill through the Parliament, and aims to do so in as clear and understandable a way as possible. So far as possible, the Guidance follows the chronological order of events in the preparation and Parliamentary scrutiny of a Private Bill.  

·      Part 1 explains what a Private Bill is, and how it differs from a Public Bill.  It also puts the Parliament’s procedures for considering Private Bills in a wider context, contrasting them with the alternative mechanisms provided by the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936 and the Transport and Works (Scotland) Act 2007.

·      Part 2 sets out the steps a promoter must take in preparing for the introduction of a Private Bill.  In particular, this explains the information that must be included in all the accompanying documents required on introduction.

·      Part 3 explains the rights of affected persons to lodge objections to a Private Bill. 

·      Part 4 is about Private Bill Committees – their establishment, membership and role.

·      Part 5 describes the 3-stage process of scrutiny, in committee and in the Chamber, to which each Private Bill is subject.  This explains, in particular, the role that the promoter and any objectors have in presenting their arguments directly to the Private Bill Committee.

·      Part 6 provides additional detail on the amendment stages – including about how amendments are lodged, how they are marshalled and grouped for debate, and how they are moved and disposed of.

A series of annexes provides supplementary information, including the full text of the various “determinations” that have been made (by the Parliament’s Presiding Officer and corporate body) under powers conferred on them by the Rules.

The Rules that provide the procedural framework for the passage of Private Bills in the Parliament are set out in Chapter 9A of the Parliament’s Standing Orders.[1]

Chapter 9A was added to the Standing Orders in November 2000, based on recommendations by the Procedures Committee.[2]  The Chapter has since been amended on several occasions, the main changes being—

·       to enhance the scrutiny of the environmental impact of “works Bills”, to impose new restrictions on the membership of Private Bill Committees, and to allow a change of promoter,[3] and

·       to allow the appointment of an assessor to carry out detailed consideration of objections on behalf of a Private Bill Committee.[4]

This Session 6 version of the Guidance reflects changes to the Rules agreed by the Parliament in March 2021[5]. These changed the definition of a Private Bill, allowed assessors to be used more widely, and made a sequence of minor adjustments to other Rules. It has also been amended in consequence of post-Brexit changes to the Scotland Act 1998, and to reflect the move to a new Scottish Parliament website.

If you have any comments on Private Bill procedure generally, or this Guidance, these should be sent to—

The Non-Government Bills Unit

The Scottish Parliament


EH99 1SP

Tel: 0131 348 5246

[email protected]

For information in languages other than English or in alternative formats (for example Braille, large print or audio), please send your enquiry to Public Information, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP.

You can also contact Public Information by telephone on 0800 092 7500 (freephone) or 0131 348 5000, by using the Text Relay service or in British Sign Language (BSL) through contactSCOTLAND-BSL.

Alternatively, you can email [email protected] or text 07786 209888.  Written correspondence in any language is welcomed.

May 2021

[1] The Standing Orders can be accessed via the Parliament’s website (, under About / How the Parliament Works / Rules and Guidance.

[2] Procedures Committee, 2nd Report, 2000 (Session 1), Report on Private Legislation in the Scottish Parliament

[3] Procedures Committee, 4th Report, 2005 (Session 2), Private Legislation

[4] Procedures Committee, 1st Report, 2006 (Session 2), Private Bill Committee assessors

[5] Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, 6th Report, 2021 (Session 5), Standing Order Rule Changes – Private and Hybrid Bill procedures

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