Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament

The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament (Scottish Gaelic: Oifigear-Riaghlaidh, Scots: Preses o the Scots Pairlament) is the speaker of the Scottish Parliament. The Presiding Officer is a member of the Scottish Parliament elected by the Scottish Parliament by means of an exhaustive ballot, and is ex officio the head of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. The Presiding Officer is considered a figurehead of the Scottish Parliament and has an office in Queensberry House.

Presiding Officer
of the Scottish Parliament
Alison Johnstone

since 13 May 2021
StylePresiding Officer
(Within Parliament)
The Right Honourable
Member ofScottish Parliamentary Corporate Body
Term lengthElected by the Scottish Parliament at the start of each session, and upon a vacancy
Inaugural holderDavid Steel
DeputyAnnabelle Ewing and
Liam McArthur[1]

Appointments to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom are made by the monarch, although in practice they are made only on the advice of the UK government. To date all presiding offficers have been appointed members of the Privy Council, and therefore entitled to use the style 'Right Honourable'.

The Office of the Presiding Officer was established by the Scotland Act 1998. The current Presiding Officer is Alison Johnstone, who was elected on 13 May 2021, following the 2021 Scottish Parliament election. She is the second woman to hold the office and the first former member of the Scottish Greens to do so.


The presiding officer presides over the Parliament's debates, determining which members may speak, and maintains order during debate.[2] The presiding officer is expected to be strictly non-partisan, with some similarities in this respect to the tradition of the Speaker of the House of Commons. For this reason, they renounce all affiliation with their former political party for the duration of their term.[3] They do not take part in debate, or vote except to break ties. Even then, the convention is that when the presiding officer uses their tie-breaking vote, they do so in favour of advancing debate, but on final ballots, retaining the status quo. The presiding officer is also assisted in their duties by 2 deputies. They have the same powers as the presiding officer but they keep their party affiliation but remain impartial when presiding.

In 2006 the St Andrews Fund for Scots Heraldry commemorated the hosting of the Heraldic & Genealogical Congress in Scotland by commissioning a ceremonial robe for the presiding officer to wear, however as of May 2017, it appears no presiding officer has worn the robe.[4]

The Scottish National Party proposes that in the event of independence, the presiding officer's post be replaced with that of chancellor of Scotland. In addition to presiding over the Scottish Parliament, the chancellor would possess additional constitutional powers during the absence of the monarch from Scotland; chiefly, the chancellor should act in a role similar to a governor-general in the other Commonwealth realms.[5]

List of presiding officers

No. Portrait Name

(birth and death)


Term of office Former party
1 Sir David Steel[lower-alpha 1]


MSP for Lothian

12 May 1999 7 May 2003 Scottish Liberal Democrats
2 George Reid


MSP for Ochil

7 May 2003 14 May 2007 Scottish National Party
3 Alex Fergusson


MSP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

14 May 2007 11 May 2011 Scottish Conservatives
4 Tricia Marwick


MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes

11 May 2011 12 May 2016 Scottish National Party
5 Ken Macintosh


MSP for West Scotland

12 May 2016 13 May 2021 Scottish Labour
6 Alison Johnstone


MSP for Lothian

13 May 2021 Incumbent Scottish Greens
  1. Officially styled as The Lord Steel of Aikwood, but he was known as Sir David Steel in the Scottish Parliament.

List of deputy presiding officers

Name Party Constituency / Region Name Party Constituency / Region
Patricia Ferguson 12 May 1999 – 27 November 2001 Scottish Labour Glasgow Maryhill George Reid
12 May 1999 – 7 May 2003
Scottish National Party Mid Scotland and Fife
Murray Tosh 29 November 2001 – 2 April 2007 Scottish Conservatives South of Scotland (1999–2003)
West of Scotland (2003–2007)
Trish Godman
7 May 2003 – 22 March 2011
Scottish Labour West Renfrewshire
Alasdair Morgan 10 May 2007 – 22 March 2011 Scottish National Party South of Scotland
John Scott 11 May 2011 – 12 May 2016 Scottish Conservatives Ayr Elaine Smith 11 May 2011 – 12 May 2016 Coatbridge and Chryston
Linda Fabiani 12 May 2016 – 12 May 2021 Scottish National Party East Kilbride Christine Grahame 12 May 2016 – 12 May 2021 Scottish National Party Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale
Lewis Macdonald (Interim) 1 April 2020 – 12 May 2021 Scottish Labour North East Scotland
Annabelle Ewing[1] 14 May 2021 - Scottish National Party Cowdenbeath Liam McArthur[1] 14 May 2021 - Scottish Liberal Democrats Orkney

Current presiding officer and deputy presiding officer

Position Current holder Term started Party Constituency / Region
Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament Alison Johnstone 13 May 2021 Scottish Greens
(Suspended during term as Presiding Officer)
Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament Annabelle Ewing 14 May 2021 Scottish National Party Cowdenbeath
Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament Liam McArthur 14 May 2021 Scottish Liberal Democrats Orkney

    See also


    1. Davidson, Jenni (14 May 2021). "Scottish Parliament's deputy presiding officers elected after five-hour voting session". Holyrood. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 17 May 2021. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
    2. Black, Andrew (14 May 2007). "Q&A: Holyrood presiding officer". BBC News. BBC.
    3. "Former Scottish Parliament Presiding Officers on the devolution years". Holyrood. 13 July 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
    4. Cusack, Andrew (3 June 2010). "The Presiding Officer's Gown |". Retrieved 12 May 2017.
    5. Principles of the Constitution, at (.pdf file)