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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide




Public Petitions Briefing

Petitioning has an important symbolic value for the new Scottish Parliament. It promotes accountability, access, transparency, pluralism and democratic participation in Scotland. This was in reaction to the lack of scrutiny of, and interest in, the petitions system in Westminster. The Scottish Parliament is open to petitioning by ordinary members of the public and supported organisations like UNISON. The Public Petitions Committee (PPC) is a mandatory committee written into the Standing Orders. Anyone can petition, but there are conditions for a petition to be admissible.

What is a petition?

A petition is little more than a political statement, however the Scottish Parliament's Standing Orders (or rules) commit it to considering any petition that meets certain rules on admissibility.


Unlike the normal procedure of holding rallies, marches etc. and collecting thousands of signatures, the Scottish Parliament allows individuals to petition it directly. There are no restrictions on who can submit a petition. However it is necessary to follow a procedure when submitting a petition to the Parliament.


A petition can make a request for the Parliament to:

  • take a view on a matter of public interest or concern; or
  • amend existing legislation or introduce new legislation.

The Parliament can only amend or introduce legislation in relation to those matters which are devolved. It cannot legislate on any matter which is reserved to the UK Parliament.


The Parliament does not have any remit to interfere with or overturn the executive decisions of other public bodies in Scotland.


It is not the role of the Public Petitions Committee (PPC) to recommend further action in respect of petitions which relate to cases which are or have been subject to legal or court proceedings, industrial tribunals, appeals procedures and the like. The PPC could however consider proposals to change laws, procedures or rules which are prompted by such cases, where there is clear justification for such a change.

  • Petitions should be in the public interest.
  • They should not ask the Parliament to do something which may be unlawful.
  • The wording of a petition should not disclose any information which is protected by an interdict or court order (e.g. the identities of children in custody disputes) or which is commercially sensitive, confidential or the publication of which may cause personal distress or loss.
  • Particular care should be taken over petitions that give the names of individuals in relation to criminal accusations or issues of national security.
  • Petitions should not relate to matters that are subjudice ( matters which are the subject of any court proceedings).
  • The information contained in petitions must be submitted in good faith.

Form and Content of Petitions


Your petition should include a brief title and a short, clear and concise statement covering the subject matter of the petition. The petition should make it clear what action the petitioner wishes the Parliament to take.

Special Needs
It may also be possible in appropriate circumstances for petitions to be submitted in other formats by those with special needs. For practical reasons, petitions submitted in Braille or other formats should be accompanied by a copy of the petition in printed form.

Submission of petitions

When your petition is ready it should be submitted to the Clerk to the Public Petitions Committee.
If you choose to submit your petition in electronic form, you can use the pro-forma which can be found on the Scottish Parliament's Internet site - http://www.scottish.parliament.uk Full details can be found on the e-petitioner website (http://www.e-petitioner.org.uk/).

Consideration of Petitions

The PPC will consider each admissible petition and make a decision on the action to be taken in each case.

The PPC has several courses of action it may take. It can:

(a) consider and agree to take no further action;
(b) consider and forward to another committee of the Parliament or to another body or person within the Parliament such as the Presiding Officer, the Parliamentary Bureau or the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body for its consideration;
(c) consider and forward to another body or organisation (outwith Parliament) e.g. the Scottish Executive, for consideration and response;
(d) consider and recommend to the Parliamentary Bureau that the petition be debated at a meeting of the Parliament;
(e) invite the petitioner(s) to appear before it;
(f) invite the petitioner(s) to provide additional information to assist it in reaching a decision on the action to be taken in relation to the petition; or
(g) take any other action it considers appropriate.

The PPC will select one of the above options on a case by case basis. It will then respond formally to the petitioner following this consideration stating clearly the action which is to be taken or to give notice in cases where no action is to be taken.

The PPC will monitor the action taken in respect of all petitions submitted to the Parliament. It will also publish an annual report which will provide a summary of its activities.

Action for Branches

  • Identify issue for petition, it is important that petitions are used prudently for major campaigns, not trivial issues
  • Discuss with members/ Regional Officer
  • Satisfy that the correct procedure for submission is followed.

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Further Information

Scottish Parliament's Internet site - www.scottish.parliament.uk

Full details can be found on the e-petitioner website

Contacts list:

Dave Watson -

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572