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Last Updated: Monday, 14 October 2002, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Devolution to Scotland

In July 1997, the Government published its White Paper, 'Scotland's Parliament', which outlined its proposals for devolution in Scotland.

The White Paper contains 40,000 words of precise, legislative prose. It took 60,000 person hours of Ministerial and official effort to produce.

It has 116 clauses. There are eight back-up schedules setting out the consequences of devolution in extensive detail.

The proposals were approved in the referendum of September 1997 Some of the main proposals set out in the White Paper included:

  • A directly elected Scottish Parliament with 129 members

  • Issues that are reserved for Westminster decision-making ranging from the Constitution to "the regulation of activities in outer space"

  • Everything else by definition is devolved

  • The Parliament will elect a First Minister - who will head the Scottish government

    Devolution has enabled Scotland to benefit from a wide range of reforms for which time would never have been found at Westminster
    Robin Cook MP
    April 2002

  • Funding will come by Block Grant from the common UK Treasury

  • The Scottish Parliament will have the power to vary the basic rate of personal income tax by a maximum of 3p in the pound. There is no power over corporation tax

  • Legislation governing Scotland - and the back-up administration - will be determined by a popular mandate of the Scottish electorate, rather than a mandate derived from Westminster elections

Legislation was passed in the Parliamentary session 1997-98 resulting in the Scotland Act 1998.

The Legislation was implemented in 1999 when the first elections took place.


'An Act to provide for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament and Administration and other changes in the government of Scotland; to provide for changes in the constitution and functions of certain public authorities; to provide for the variation of the basic rate of income tax in relation to income of Scottish taxpayers in accordance with a resolution of the Scottish Parliament; to amend the law about parliamentary constituencies in Scotland; and for connected purposes'.
[19th November 1998]

The Act runs parallel to the White Paper with a few notable exceptions with regard to the power to legislate contained within Section 29.

Section 1 of the Act establishes that there 'shall be a Scottish Parliament'.

Seats won in Scottish elections in May 1999
Labour 56
SNP 35
Liberal Democrats 17
Conservatives 18
Green 1
Socialist 1
Independent 1

The Executive is now responsible for many of the day-to-day issues that affect the people of Scotland including education, health, transport, justice and rural affairs.

It manages an annual budget of approximately 20 billion.

There are 129 members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) - 73 are elected by first past the post and 56 from party lists for each of eight constituencies based on the European Parliamentary Constituencies.

One of the most notable Parliamentary figures is the Presiding Officer, whose role is comparable in many ways to that of the UK Parliament's Speaker.

Part II of the Act, Section 44, provides that there will be a Scottish Executive comprising of the First Minister, other Ministers appointed by the First Minister, the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General.


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