You do not need to have formal qualifications, but many have a degree (SCQF Levels 9-10) or a professional qualification.
Most members go into parliament after another career, often in law, economics, journalism or trade union work.
Entry is very competitive: local people must elect you.
If you want to represent a political party, the party nationally must approve you and the constituency party must select you before you stand for election.
Before being selected you would normally need long experience of working for the party, either paid or unpaid, and you may have been a local councillor or political researcher.
It helps to attend party conferences and events and to network with party staff members.
You must be at least 18 and eligible to vote in elections for the parliament you are trying to enter.
What Does it Take?
You should be:
well informed about current affairs
able to speak well in public
able to ‘think on your feet’
confident and ambitious
able to talk to people from all backgrounds
willing to stick by unpopular decisions
able to work under pressure and to meet deadlines
of smart appearance.
You should have:
strong political beliefs
a good memory for facts, figures, faces and names
an enquiring mind
negotiating and problem solving skills
a lot of stamina.
Most parties run training courses on subjects such as election law and procedures, public speaking and personal presentation.
With experience, you could move on to become a party 'whip' (ensuring that fellow members follow party policy) or a spokesperson on a particular subject.
If your party is in government you could become a junior minister or cabinet member.
You could lose your job at any election, but if you do, you will probably be able to use your contacts to find a related job, perhaps in the media or as a business consultant.
Each parliament deals with different issues. These are summarised below.
The Scottish Parliament passes laws on domestic matters including health, education, housing, transport, local government, justice, agriculture and fisheries, the environment and economic development.
The UK Parliament passes laws on matters such as defence, taxation, welfare benefits, energy and immigration, as well as domestic affairs for England and sometimes Wales. It also has responsibility for UK foreign policy.
You can find a list of Scottish Political Parties below.