Scottish Government - History & Structure

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The local government’s history of Scotland is a combination of a complex story of ancient and well-established political units which were replaced after middle times in the 20th century through the changing series of various arrangements on local governments.

Talking about ancient times, the entire territory of Scotland came from the combinations of the groups of Brythonic (Cumbrians and Picts) and Angles.

Cumbrians are based in the southwest portion of the country, with two main kingdoms such as Strathclyde and Rheged (lands bordering Solway Firth, reaching up to the modern Cumbria).

Picts are also based in the northern part of the country, with traditional 7 main kingdoms such as:

  1. Fib (Fife peninsula)
  2. Cat (Far North)
  3. Circinn (the southeast of the Cairngorms, approximately between Dee and Isla)
  4. Fotla (the expanded Atholl)
  5. Ce (from the Deeside to the Speyside)
  6. Fidach
  7. Fortriu (areas to west and north of Grampians, which include Great Glen, stretching to Atlantic coast up to Dornoch Firth)

Angles are mainly based on the southeast portion of the country, at the territory of Northumbria, which is divided into several sub-kingdoms.

Some of these kingdoms that are situated in territories now part of Scotland are the Bernicia (bordering the North Sea up to Tees) and the Lothian (bordering Firth of the Forth).

Government Structure of Scottish

The Scottish government was structured into numerous directorates.

The directorates and the connected public bodies have responsibilities for making sure that the government policies will be put into practice.

Leslie Evans, the main policy adviser to First Minister, is the recent Permanent Secretary in the Scotland government.

Leslie Evans is also recognized as the main accountable officer who has a responsibility to make sure that the resources and money of the government are properly and effectively used for public essential purposes.

Directorates and Directors-General

The civil service of Scottish was headed by 6 directors-general, the ones managing several agencies and directorates that are responsible for proposing legislation and put the government policy of Scottish into practice.

Public Bodies

The departments of non-ministers are headed and regulated by those non-ministers and senior civil servants, who usually have an inspection or regulatory function same with the Scottish Charity Regulator’s Office.

The executive agencies and departments are part of the Scottish government, which mainly have a strong focus on the direct delivery and management of public services. However, they can also give strategical policy input to the country.

Executive NDPBs or Non-Departmental Public Bodies carry out commercial, administrative, regulatory, and executive functions, and procedures on behalf of the government.

Those advisory NGPBs give independent professional pieces of advice that are related to some specialist ranges of law and perform judicial functions or procedures like determining obligations and rights or the private citizens, even though they aren’t categorized as part of the system.

At some point, those commercial and industrial enterprises publicly owned corporations are under the direct control of the government.

Health bodies are comprised of fourteen health boards from the region, another eight special boards, and the MWC or Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.

Public bodies have an essential role when it comes to the proper delivery of the public services of the country.

The functions of these public bodies range from culture, built environment, and social care and health aspects.

Public bodies also contribute to the proper delivery of National Outcomes being set by the National Performance Framework.

As what being mentioned a while ago, they also perform regulatory, statutory, or advisory functions from the central government; so, they are said to be essential in the government’s structural organization.

Scotland Politics and Government

Scottish Parliament Building

The original Scottish Parliament is the national legislature on independent Scotland’s kingdom, and this existed from the beginning of the 13th century ’til the territory of Scotland was merged with the territory of England under Acts of Union 1707, forming the Great Britain Kingdom.

Consequently, Scotland Parliament merged with England Parliament, forming Great Britain Parliament, which then sat at the Westminster, London.

Following the referendum in 1997, wherein the electorate Scottish provided their consent, recent Parliament was the established by Scotland Act of 1998; and this sets out powers as a devolved legislature.

This Act describes the competence of the legislative of a Parliament – the parts on which this can create laws – through clearly specifying powers which are reserved on the United Kingdom Parliament.

British Parliament sustains the capability to change the reference terms of the Scottish Parliament, and it can also reduce or extend the areas wherein this can create laws.

It was May 12, 1999 that the initial meeting of the new Parliament was conducted and took place.

In August 2007, the incoming Scottish National Party administration decided to rename Scottish Executive into “Scottish Government.” This term was typically adopted by media and some political parties.

There’s also the so-called “Scotland Bill 2010-11” that modifies the Scotland Act for the replacement of Scottish Executive to Scottish Government.

The Scottish government has the duty and responsibility in the country for all types of issues that are not plainly reserved to UK Parliament in Westminster by Schedule #5 of Scotland Act of 1998.

The devolved matters are NHS Scotland, justice policies, education, economical transport & development, and rural affairs.

Moreover, the Scottish government is plainly responsible for the yearly budget of the country.

First Minister

The Scottish government is primarily led by a First Minister.

The Parliament in Scotland nominates a member from them whom to be appointed as the Queen’s First Minister.

The First Minister is then assisted by the different Ministers or Cabinet Secretaries with individual remits and portfolios, who are also chosen by him with Parliament’s approval.

The Junior Ministers or Scotland are likewise appointed to help and support the Cabinet Secretaries related to their work.

However, Lord Advocate, Solicitor General, and those Law Officers of Scotland can be chosen from the outside of Parliament’s membership; this is still subject to approval.

The Scottish Government members are the collective groups prominently known as “Scottish Ministers,” and these are the Law Officers of the country, the First Minister, and its Cabinet Secretaries.

The government members have a great influence on Scotland’s legislation while taking the Bills into consideration.

Since 2007, the Scottish Government was formed by SNP or Scottish National Party, a largest party on the Parliament in Scotland.

During the election on Scottish Parliament held last 2011, SNP won the 1st overall majority in the Scottish Parliament history.

On September 18, 2014, a referendum was conducted wherein the Scots can vote for their independence.

It then resulted out that voters for “No” won over those who voted for “Yes.”

Scottish Cabinet

Scottish Cabinet generally meets every Tuesday afternoon at Bute House, First Minister’s official residence.

This weekly meeting is considered the supreme collaborative decision-making system of the government.

The Cabinet comprises of the Cabinet Secretaries or the so-called “Scottish Ministers.”

In this meeting, Solicitor General and Lord Advocate are excluded.

Lord Advocate only attends meetings of Cabinet once the First Minister requested for its presence. That’s why Lord Advocate is not formally considered as a member.

Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament, a devolved unicameral/national legislature of the country, is situated in Edinburgh. It is the capital’s Holyrood area.

The Parliament, which is informally recognized as Holyrood, is a constitutionally elected body that comprises 129 members, prominently known as MSPs or Members of Scottish Parliament.

The members are the elected 4-year terms in the combined system of member’s proportional representation.

Consequently, 73 Members of Scottish Parliaments represent every geographical constituency who are elected by the majority, with an additional fifty-six returned from the eight extra member regions, and each of them elects 7 MSPs.

It was on May 5, 2011, which the recent principal election to Parliament was conducted.


As many people expect, Scottish Government has a diverse organizational structure, with a wide range of numerous directorates who deal with several topics while handling different types of issues in the country.

This country – Scotland – is always a separate state with its own culture, own parliament, and own royal families.

The Scottish government system has a strong foundation that monitors and supervises public matters and the entire nation.

Because of its expert directorates and officers, Scotland is considered a well-progressive and peaceful country across the world.

In fact, it is one of the peaceful countries in Europe that provides a great avenue for all people and residents in the country.

Many people would love to visit Scotland because of the great way of managing issues in the country and having a government as a whole.

Aside from that, the country is also filled with numerous best places to go with.

As visitors, guests, or tourists in this country, anyone has the chance to experience the best way of living while in this nation.

The government also have a guarantee to both residents and tourists that they will be protected by their policies, rules, and laws while staying in the nation.

So, those visitors who also wanted to go and visit this place can have their chance to experience something new in the country.

Rest assured that Scotland will be a perfect place to anyone who wants to explore the place for vacation!

About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: October 31, 2023