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Petitioning

Starting a petition can be an effective way to raise awareness of an issue and get it on the Parliament’s agenda, demonstrate to government that an issue matters to you, and potentially influence decision making to bring about changes you would like to see. You can view a successful national petition here.

There is guidance available on the Scottish Government website regarding how to petition. Here, we summarise some key points but please visit this web-page if you are interested in finding out more.

Petition rules

Petitions to the Scottish Parliament must:

  1. be about a devolved matter so that the Scottish Parliament has the power to deal with the issue
  2. be about a national policy or practice, i.e. they should be relevant at a national level and not just a personal one
  3. not ask the Parliament to deal with a local or individual matter, or to deal with decision making that should be carried out by another organisation

This means that you can’t ask the Scottish Parliament to, for example, stop the closure of a public library. However, you could petition for them to review their national policies or guidance on library services that local authorities need to follow when making decisions about closures.

How should I lay out my petition? 

Petitions must be laid out in a specific format:

  1. Provide details about yourself such as your name, address, and email address.
  2. Provide your ‘Petition Title’ which should concisely summarise what the petition is about.
  3. Provide a ‘Petition Summary’ where you explain to the Parliament what you want it to do in a few short and clear sentences – outline the issue and what action you want to see.
  4. Outline what previous action you have taken. Before starting a petition, you should have already engaged in some attempts to draw attention to the issue, for example through contacting an MSP about it. You should make clear any such action that you have taken. You can read more guidance on contacting MSPs here.
  5. Offer some background information on the issue. This can be anything that you think Parliament should know to help them to understand the issue you have raised. This information should also help to demonstrate why the issue is important and why it is worthwhile for MSPs to consider. This should be no longer that three A4 pages and should be writtne in Arial, font size 12.

Be sure that your petition meets this format as otherwise it will be sent back to you.

How do I start my petition? 

You need to use the Parliament’s petition system. This will require you to create an account on the online system. After you have registered, you will be asked to fill out information in each of the areas outlined above. Once you have filled out all of this required information, make sure to hit the ‘Submit’ button so that the petition is sent to the the Parliament’s petitions team. The petitions team will then review it and may offer some advice for changes to ensure it meets all of the rules or to make it more clear. When the final version is agreed upon, the petition will go live on the petitions website.

Petitions to the Scottish Parliament only require one signature (your own), though you can collect others for a maximum of 6 weeks if you would like to.  Though this is not necessary, collecting signatures can help emphasise the importance of the issue and show that it is of concern to a wide number of people.

Consideration by the Public Petitions Committee

After the petition goes live, it will be scheduled for consideration by the Public Petitions Committee who may invite you to meet in person to provide further evidence and explanation on the issue. After it has been discussed, the Committee will let you know what action they will take. This action could be anything from requesting time for the petition to be debated in parliament to formally closing the petition.

Any queries or concerns related to creating and submitting your petition can be directed to petitions@parliament.scot. All of the information provided here was gathered from the Scottish Governments guidance on petitioning, available here.

Petitions to the UK Government

It is unlikely, but if the issue you are concerned with is not a devolved matter then you will need to petition the UK Government. Anybody who is a British Citizen can do this and again the petition needs to be about something that the UK Parliament or government has responsibility for, not any issues which are devolved. You can create a petition online here and once it gains 10,000 signatures the government will respond to it. After 100,000 signatures, petitions will be considered for debate in Parliament.