Government is vital to human society, and raises large questions. There are three definitions of who or what the government of Scotland actually was. The first definition focuses on the everyday business of central government and on the people and institutions most responsible for it. These people were the monarch, plus his or her officers of state and other members of the privy council, and leading courtiers and nobles resident at court. The second definition focuses on the large-scale, set-piece occasions when the political community assembled to deal with the big issues. These were parliaments that passed the legislation that so many of these issues called for; they also exercised a check on the crown's advisers, partly for that reason (it could never be taken wholly for granted that a controversial legislative proposal by the crown would be passed by parliament), but also because the crown's day-to-day exercise of authority required money — taxes — that parliaments could choose to grant or withhold. The third definition focuses on power as it was experienced directly by common people: local power.
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