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Scottish Parliament

Last Updated: Friday May 06 2011 15:22 GMT

All about the first minister

Alex Salmond

Who is the first minister?

Alex Salmond is the Scottish Parliament's first minister. That means he's its top politician. He's the leader of the Scottish National Party who are normally called the SNP.

What does the first minister do?

The first minister is leader of the Scottish Executive, the government. They get to choose which other MSPs can be members of that government, called ministers.

The Scottish Executive comes up with ideas for how Scotland should be run, and the first minister is in charge of turning those ideas into reality.

Another big part of the job is also to represent Scotland at meetings and on visits around the world.

How is a first minister chosen?

The people of Scotland vote for the MSPs in an election, then the MSPs vote for a first minister. They do this in the Scottish Parliament's main chamber using an electronic voting system.

So far this has meant that the leader of the largest political party ends up as first minister. That's because they have the most MSPs voting for them.

Alex Salmond is leader of the SNP, who have 65 MSPs after gaining an overall majority in the election of May 2011.