How are Motions Debated at The Scottish Parliament?


We recently asked the Scottish Parliament how Members’ business debates are decided. We wanted to know how Members’ business debates work and how, as an MSP, you would put forward an item for Members’ business?

Below is an edited version of the very useful response we received from the Public Information and Resources Team at The Scottish Parliament.

Image used with permission under Open Government License

Image used with permission under Open Government License


Most of the following information has been taken from the Motions Guidance on the Parliament website.


Members’ Business Motions

The Parliamentary Bureau selects motions for Members’ business debate using the following criteria:


  1. must be explicitly of only local or regional relevance; or

  2. must raise issues of policy in a local or regional context and have cross-party support*; or

  3. must raise issue-commemorating anniversaries or mark national “weeks” or special events and have cross-party support; and

  4. must not “call on” anyone or any organisation to do anything, which includes taking or reversing decisions.

*Cross-party support means that Members’ business motions require the support of at least three parties or groupings represented on the Parliamentary Bureau.

The Parliamentary Bureau selects motions for debate only from those motions that comply with this guidance and that have been lodged by the Monday of the week preceding the debate.

The process by which Members’ business motions are debated in the Chamber is as follows:

  • The motion is moved and spoken to by the MSP whose name the motion is in;

  • Other MSPs may then participate in the open debate;

  • A member of the Scottish Government, usually with responsibility for the portfolio which the motion falls under, will respond to the debate.

A Members’ business debate is distinct from other debates in that no question is put following the debate (i.e. the motion is not voted on).

Business Bulletin

The Scottish Parliament offers a free eBulletin newsletter with information about future debates and events. This is issued each week, normally on Friday afternoon. Sign up here.



Culture Counts’ Members are the major cultural organisations in Scotland. Individuals can join (free) as supporters of Culture Counts.

NewsAndy Robertson