What are Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs)?
What is an MSP?
TL;DR MSPs represent an area of Scotland in the Scottish Parliament. They debate and vote on devolved legislation, campaign on local and national issues, and assist members of the public with relevant queries.
In Scotland, MSPs are elected to represent and act on the behalf of their constituents, both in the Scottish Parliament and in their constituency/region.
There are 129 MSPs in total; 73 constituency MSPs and 56 regional MSPs. All MSPs have equal status in Parliament.
Constituency MSPs represent a constituency whilst regional MSPs are elected to represent one of the eight larger Scottish Parliament electoral regions. Each person in Scotland is represented by eight MSPs; one constituency MSP & seven MSP representing their electoral region.
Discover who represents you through a postcode search on the Parliament website or contact public information.
What work do MSPs do?
MSPs make decisions on devolved matters that will ultimately impact their constituents.
Devolved matters include agriculture, education & training, environment, health & social, laws & order and many aspects of transport.
Devolution has meant that although UK Parliament has ultimate power to legislate on any matter, by convention, they won’t usually legislate on devolved matters without the Scottish Parliament’s consent
Their role in Parliament:
The Scottish Parliament was established in 1999 and is located in Holyrood, Edinburgh; it serves to debate issues and make laws for Scotland. MSPs attend Parliament and take part in debates and committee meetings.
The function of debate is to discuss important issues; this usually takes place in the debating chamber of the Parliament where all 129 MSPs have the right to vote and discuss bills and issues. MSPs can also question both ministers and the first minister.
Small groups of MSPs also attend committee meetings, these serve to address a particular issue (such as health or transport). They are expected to scrutinise bills, ministers and officials. MSPs also have power to propose amendments to bills, discuss & write committee reports. MSPs can contact outside groups to request evidence, which will help them to develop their ideas and ensure they have considered a wide range of views.
MSPs are permitted to lodge a motion, aiming to allow other MSPs to show their support or to gain support to have the issue debated in Parliament.
Their role in their constituency/region:
MSPs respond to letters, emails and phone calls. They hold surgeries and attend a variety of meetings and events, which often involve discussing issues with their constituents or people from other organisations. MSPs also work with their constituency party to hear the views and thoughts of party members
How are they elected?
The Scottish Parliament Elections use the Additional Member System (AMS) to elect MSPs.
Constituents have two votes- one for their constituency MSP and the other is used to decide their regional MSPs.
Voters choose between candidates running to represent their constituency; the candidate with the largest number of votes will win.
To elect regional MSPs, constituents are given a choice of political parties to vote for. In each region, parties are allocated seats depending on the number of votes they gain, and the number of constituency seats won.
The Scottish Parliament Elections take place every four years.