As of 2016, the Presiding Officer (i.e. Speaker) in the Scottish Parliament is Ken Macintosh.

The curious thing is that Macintosh is a former member of the Labour Party (Presiding Officers are expected to renounce party affiliation while in office), while the ruling party has been Scottish National Party during the same period.

If conventional wisdom serves, shouldn't the Presiding Officer be someone from the Scottish National Party? What is the political calculus that led to this result?

1 Answer 1


In the UK system, the speaker is politically neutral, and this requirement of neutrality has been taken seriously by generations of speakers. Moreover it is quite common for the speaker not to be from the majority party. The speaker is not a governmental position, and it is quite common for the speaker to come from a minority party. The current Westminster speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle is from the Labour party. The previous speaker (Bercow, Conservative) was elected while the Labour party was in power.

The same principles have been applied to the Scottish Parliament. The first Presiding Officer was David Steele, of the Liberal Democrats. Followed by George Reid (SNP) while Labour was the majority party, then the conservative, Alex Fergason and so on. Indeed it is the exception that the Presiding officer is from the majority party.

The role of speaker in the Parliaments of the UK is quite different from then partisan position with a similar title in the USA

  • 9
    The current Speaker Of The House Of Commons is referred to as ‘Sir Lindsay’, or ‘Sir Lindsay Hoyle’.  (Preferably the latter in this case, to avoid ambiguity.)  ‘Sir’ is never followed by a surname (at least, not in the UK or other Commonwealth nations).
    – gidds
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 15:16
  • Well said An^H^H that man. I'd add that as I understand it in some countries "speaker" explicitly means the leader of the majority party, while in the UK the speaker might actually have seen several governments of different complexion during his tenure. Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 17:59
  • 8
    @Valorum The Speaker is not supposed to be apolitical, he’s not supposed to be party political. He is, for example, supposed to protect Parliament’s prerogatives, which is a very political task. Standing up for Parliament against government can look like bias against the governing party, but it isn’t.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 13:42
  • Maybe worth noting that John Bercow is considered by many to be the worst speaker of the modern era precisely because he involved himself in partisan politics.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 17:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .