Section 2: About the Scottish Government
Legislative framework and powers
The Scottish Government was established in 1999 under the Scotland Act 1998 (the Scotland Act). In that Act, it is referred to as the 'Scottish Executive' which remains its legal name but it was rebranded the 'Scottish Government' by the current administration in September 2007.
The Scottish Government is responsible for all issues that are not explicitly reserved to the UK Parliament at Westminster under the Scotland Act. In practice, this means that it is responsible for most of the issues of day to day concern to the people of Scotland, including NHS Scotland, education, justice, rural affairs and transport. In 2007-2008 it managed an annual budget of more than £30 billion.
Composition and structure of the current Government
The Scottish Government is currently formed by the Scottish National Party which won the 2007 Scottish general election. Although it is the largest party in the Scottish Parliament it does not have an overall majority.
The Government is led by Alex Salmond who is known as the First Minister. The First Minister is assisted by 5 Cabinet Secretaries and 10 Ministers (each Minister reports to a Cabinet Secretary) who have individual portfolios and remits. He is also assisted by the Law Officers (the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland) who advise on legal matters and represents its interests in court. The First Minister, the Cabinet Secretaries and the Law Officers are the members of the Scottish Executive as set out in the Scotland Act. They are collectively known as the Scottish Ministers. Strictly speaking, the obligation under section 23 of FOISA to maintain a publication scheme falls on the Scottish Ministers. However, in practical terms this means the Scottish Government (and its Agencies as explained below) which is why this scheme is entitled the publication scheme of the Scottish Government.
Purpose and Strategic Objectives
The Scottish Government have set for themselves the following overall Purpose -
"To focus Government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth."
This overall purpose is supported by 5 Strategic Objectives -
- Wealthier and Fairer: Enable businesses and people to increase their wealth and more people to share fairly in that wealth.
- Healthier: Help people to sustain and improve their health, especially in disadvantaged communities, ensuring better, local and faster access to health care.
- Safer and Stronger: Help local communities to flourish, becoming stronger, safer place to live, offering improved opportunities and a better quality of life.
- Smarter: Expand opportunities for Scots to succeed from nurture through to life long learning ensuring higher and more widely shared achievements.
- Greener: Improve Scotland's natural and built environment and the sustainable use and enjoyment of it.
Scottish Government civil servants
Scottish Government civil servants support the Scottish Government in the delivery of their objectives. The Permanent Secretary is the top civil servant in Scotland and he is supported by 5 Directors-General each of whom oversee a number of Directorates and lead in relation to one of the 5 Strategic Objectives. The Permanent Secretary, the Directors-General and two external members make up the Strategic Board which meets monthly to consider issues of importance to the delivery of Government Business.
Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is the prosecuting authority in Scotland and is also responsible for investigating sudden deaths. It is part of the Scottish Government. COPFS has its own publication scheme (approved by the Scottish Information Commissioner as part of the main Scottish Government scheme) which is available from its website and also available in hard copy. The Crown Office can be contacted at:-
25 Chambers Street
0131 226 2626 or 0844 561 2000
The Scottish Government also includes 17 Agencies. These Agencies have been established to carry out particular functions of the Scottish Government within a resource and policy framework set by the Government.
Each of the Agencies has its own publication scheme (approved by the Scottish Information Commissioner as part of the Scottish Government's main scheme) which is available from the relevant Agency's website. Section 3 provides more information on those Agencies and how to get a copy of their publication schemes.
For the avoidance of any doubt, organisations known as Non-Departmental Public Bodies are distinct from Agencies and are not part of the Scottish Government. As such, unlike Agencies, they are not staffed by civil servants and are not covered by this publication scheme. If you wish to access their information you should contact them directly.
Wholly owned companies
There are several organisations which are wholly owned by Scottish Ministers. They are also subject to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. Requests for information held by them should be made direct to them, and not the Scottish Government. These are -
- Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd
- David MacBrayne Ltd
- Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd
- Architecture & Design Scotland
- Skills Development Scotland
- Learning and Teaching Scotland
- Scottish Futures Trust