Government and policies in Scotland

With our own parliament since 1999, Scotland’s political landscape is incredibly vibrant.

TalentScotland Edinburgh Parliament

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since 1999 Scotland has had its own parliament, which controls certain affairs known as devolved matters. The Scottish Government has responsibility for devolved areas including health, education, justice, rural affairs, housing and transport.

Under the devolved government, the Scottish Parliament has offered solutions to help people in Scotland such as providing free personal care for the elderly, getting rid of prescription charges and introducing a smoking ban in public places.

Scotland now has its first female First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

The government’s commitment to Scotland

The Scottish Government is dedicated to creating a successful country with opportunities for all and a prosperous economy. This includes creating a wealthier, fairer, smarter, healthier, safer, stronger and greener Scotland.

Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament is overseen by the presiding officer and made up of 129 MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament). The Scottish Parliament passes laws in relation to devolved matters and scrutinises the work and policies of the Scottish Government. It also has the power to raise certain taxes.


If you’re British or a national of an EU or Commonwealth country, you can vote in Scottish elections and referendums when you’re 16 years old – and at 18 for all other elections and referendums in the UK.

However, you must register before you can vote. You can do this in Scotland from the age of 14, by post or online. After you successfully do this, your name and address will appear electoral register. If your name or address change , you must update your details with the electoral registration office so you continue to be eligible to vote.

UK parliament

The Scottish Parliament legislates for Scotland on devolved matters. The UK Parliament at Westminster in London continues to have control over and pass laws on national affairs known as reserved matters. These include things like the economy, defence, national security, foreign affairs and employment.

Elected Scottish MPs (Members of Parliament) sit in the House of Commons at Westminster representing their areas known as constituencies at national level on reserved matters. For reserved matters, Scotland is represented by the Scotland Office, headed by the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Local Authorities

There are 32 directly elected local authorities in Scotland. This local government provides many of Scotland’s day-to-day public services that allow people to live, work and visit communities across the country.