Scottish Parliament – Question Time

Departmental Oral Questions

The weekly 60-minute question session for Scottish ministers and law officers allows MSPs to ask oral questions of relevant Scottish ministers on a pre-determined theme for 40 minutes, followed by a general question time lasting 20 minutes.

This takes place on Thursday afternoon.

Questions to Scottish ministers and the law officers can be tabled between 14 and eight days before Thursday’s question time. Questions are randomly selected for answer; their order is random too.

At the scheduled time, the presiding officer calls questions in the order that they appear on the list. The minister responds to the questioner’s tabled question. The questioner then asks a follow-up or ‘supplementary’ question on the same subject. After the minister has responded, the presiding officer may call MSPs from other parties to ask a supplementary on the same subject, with opposition spokespersons given priority. When the chair deems the subject to be exhausted, the next question is called.

First Ministers Question Time

First Minister’s Question Time, also known as FMQs, lasts for 30 minutes and is held at noon on a Thursday. Questions to the first minister can be tabled up to three days before Thursday’s question time.

The presiding officer selects six questions for answer based on their topicality and on the need for political balance. The leaders of main parties are normally selected.  During this Question Time, the leaders of main parties are entitled to more than one supplementary.

Questions not reached during question time receive a written answer.

Written Questions

Written questions to specific ministers are tabled in the same manner as oral questions. When the parliament is sitting, answers are normally given within ten ‘counting’ days (20 days during a recess). A holding answer may be given.

Written questions can be tabled and answered during a recess. The Official Report of the answer to a written question is normally made available after one or two days.