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Thursday, October 1, 1998 Published at 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK


UK Politics: Talking Politics

Scottish devolution - past, present and future



BBC Scotland's Political Editor Brian Taylor takes an in-depth look at the past, present and future of Scottish devolution.

Click on the links below for a detailed analysis of that particular topic:

Brian Taylor begins by asking what Scottish devolution really is? Is it a passionately-held desire for self-determination and a mould-breaking constitutional reform, or just an arid constitutional squabble with an uncertain outcome and of little relevance to popular concerns?

In the current debate about Scottish and Welsh devolution, it is easy to forget that the campaign for Scottish Home Rule has a long history.

The current Bill is huge and complex, but the key change is that legislation governing Scotland will in future be determined by a popular mandate of the Scottish electorate, rather than the whole of the UK and which may or may not match the aspirations of those casting their vote in Scotland.

This situation is not without controversy, however, particularly over the power of the Scottish Parliament to vary rates of income tax and the general level of subsidy which the country enjoys.

There are also possible constitutional wrangles between Edinburgh and Westminster, such as over what might happen if those wanting full independence win a majority in the Scottish Parliament. There are also doubts over the role of any future Scottish Secretary.

Another potential area of conflict is relations with the European Union, which the Bill lays down must be handled by the UK government.

Westminster has also reserved control over two contentious issues - abortion and broadcasting.

And, of course, there is the 'West Lothian Question' - an unanswerable conundrum about the powers which Scottish MPs at Westminster have over English law, while their English colleagues have no power over Scotland.

When devolution was first proposed, many Labour politicians were opposed to a referendum, but the thumping Yes vote it delivered is helping to ease the passage of the Bill through Parliament.

Now, the parties are turning their minds to selecting candidates for the Scottish parliamentary elections, with much of the emphasis being on the proportion of women.

And with the elections less than a year away, Brian Taylor looks at what the opinion polls show, particularly the suggestion that the Scottish electorate might vote for the Scottish Nationalists in their own parliament, while continuing to support a Labour government at Westminster.



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