Page last updated at 21:28 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 22:28 UK

What has devolution done for us?

Scottish Parliament building

By Andrew Black
Political reporter, BBC Scotland news website

The first decade of Scottish devolution has experienced many highs and lows.

From historic legislation to high-profile resignation, Holyrood has seen it all - here are some of the main highlights, and events some MSPs would rather forget.


Following the 1999 Holyrood elections, the Scottish Parliament sat for the first time in 292 years, on 12 May, to swear in its new MSPs.

Some chose to make a political point by declaring their allegiance to the Scottish people, rather than the monarchy, in the temporary parliament building on the Mound in Edinburgh.

The oldest MSP, SNP veteran Winnie Ewing, famously declared: "The Scottish Parliament adjourned on the 25th day of March 1707 is hereby reconvened."


The first of several so-called "gates" to envelop the Scottish Parliament.

In 1999, the Observer newspaper reported that one of Scotland's largest public relations firms, Beattie Media, touted for business by offering privileged access to Scottish ministers, including Jack McConnell, who held the finance brief at the time.

Beattie Media executives, including Kevin Reid, the son of former Scottish Secretary John Reid, were filmed telling an Observer journalist posing as a businessman that they had influence with ministers and, in particular, Mr McConnell - who had worked for the firm.

The company denied the allegations surrounding the Lobbygate controversy and the Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee later cleared McConnell of acting improperly - but voiced concern over an apparent conflict in evidence given by his constituency secretary, Christina Marshall, and lobbyist Alex Barr.


A long-running controversy which dogged the early days of devolution.

The first Labour-Lib Dem Scottish Government embarked on a mission to repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, forbidding the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.

The SNP backed the move, which was eventually passed in June 2000, but the Tories opposed, while Stagecoach millionaire Brian Souter backed the high-profile Keep the Clause campaign.

Eventually, ministers accepted the importance of marriage would be spotlighted in the legally binding guidance on sex education which went to schools.


First Minister Donald Dewar, the architect of Scottish devolution, died from a brain haemorrhage in October 2000.

The 63-year-old was admitted to hospital after falling outside his official Edinburgh residence, Bute House.

Announcing the news, Mr Dewar's spokesman, David Whitton, declared: "Scotland has lost a great man."

Henry McLeish succeeded Mr Dewar as first minister.


Legislation to scrap up-front university tuition fees in Scotland was passed in March 2001, despite objections from opposition parties.

The move brought in the graduate endowment, described by critics as "tuition fees by the back door", which was later abolished by SNP ministers.


Following a continuing row over his Westminster constituency office expenses, Henry McLeish announced he was quitting as first minister in November 2001.

He admitted receiving £36,000 in rent from several companies while a Westminster MP, without registering the income with the Commons authorities.

Mr McLeish famously described the episode as "a muddle, not a fiddle".

Jack McConnell was elected first minister - wondering at the time of his appointment whether devolution could survive.


A legislative landmark was reached in February 2002, when parliament unanimously voted in favour of plans to provide free personal care for the elderly.

The changes meant all personal care charges for people cared for in their own homes were abolished, ensuring everyone who needed nursing care received it free of charge.

The move hit a few funding snags in later years, including a row with councils over confusion concerning the rules on food preparation - which resulted in some authorities having to refund people they had wrongly charged for the service.


February 2002, and MSPs passed legislation banning hunting with dogs in Scotland, after a debate which lasted more than six hours.

As as result, Scotland became the first part of the United Kingdom to ban mounted hunting with hounds - effectively outlawing fox-hunting, fox-baiting and hare coursing.

But critics said the legislation was full of loopholes which would allow it to be challenged in the courts - and some suggested it would allow mounted hunts to carry on in a restricted form.


In one of the Scottish Parliament's most significant pieces of legislation, MSPs passed the Land Reform Bill in January 2003.

It established statutory access rights for ramblers - the so-called right to roam law - and created new opportunities for the community ownership of land.

The Tories' Bill Aitken attacked the legislation, saying it was a "land-grab of which Robert Mugabe would have been proud".

And Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, who owns the lavish Balnagowan Castle on the shores of the Cromarty Firth, raised privacy concerns, suggesting MSPs be "sent to a mental asylum".


Or "porky-pie gate", as it was also known, resulted in the then tourism minister, Frank McAveety, having to apologise for misleading parliament.

The MSP turned up late for ministerial question time, telling parliament he had been detained on government business - when he was actually having lunch in the canteen.

Mr McAveety's apology, after the incident in June 2004, failed to save his ministerial career.


Perhaps the biggest parliamentary controversy of the lot was the cost and construction of the £414m Holyrood building itself.

Following a series of delays, the new Scottish Parliament building was finally opened three years late, at 10 times the original estimated cost.

Lord Fraser, who conducted the inquiry into the building fiasco, delivered his findings in September 2004, concluding there was no single "villain of the piece" when it came to the problems and spiralling costs which plagued the project.


Jack McConnell's proudest moment and the act people most associate with the Scottish Parliament.

In June 2005, MSPs passed a piece of legislation known as the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill - it happened to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and all public places.

Despite initial scepticism over whether a ban could be enforced - Scotland went on to lead the rest of the UK in taking what it saw as a bold stand against smoking-related disease.


Not strictly a parliamentary occasion, but still one of the most bizarre and unexplained Scottish political events ever.

MSP Lord Watson, the Labour-appointed peer previously known as Mike, was jailed for 16 months in September 2005 after starting a fire which endangered lives at the Prestonfield House Hotel, in Edinburgh.

He admitted setting fire to a curtain after a heavy drinking session at the Scottish Politician of the Year awards ceremony.

Not missing an opportunity, news broadcasters later took to using pictures of the peer - usually accompanied by the tune "Firestarter" by dance band The Prodigy - with computer-generated flames licking viewers' TV screens.


In October 2005, David McLetchie quit as Scottish Conservative leader, after pressure over his Holyrood taxi expenses.

The Edinburgh Pentlands MSP spent £11,500 during five years - more than any other MSP - but insisted the claims were made in good faith.

Mr McLetchie - who had been one of the most vocal critics of Henry McLeish during the Officegate row - recognised the coverage was damaging his party.


Anyone remember Keith Raffan?

The Conservative MP-turned Liberal Democrat MSP quit Holyrood, blaming a long-running back problem - but not before submitting a £41,000 mileage claim, which was double that of any other member.

In October 2005, Holyrood officials decided to withhold £6,000 from his one-off £25,000 ill health payment following an independent audit of Mr Raffan's claim, pending an explanation of the irregularities.


In May 2007, the Scottish National Party broke Labour's eight-year dominance of the Scottish Parliament when it won the Holyrood election by one seat.

Election night was marred by the voting fiasco, which saw more than 140,000 papers rejected and the suspension of several counts, after the public was asked to use three different voting systems to vote in both the local and national elections at the same time.

The SNP set up Holyrood's first minority government, while Jack McConnell, ousted from power, quit as Scottish Labour leader, to be replaced by Wendy Alexander.


After years of serving as a minister and on the backbenches, Wendy Alexander seized her opportunity to become Scottish Labour leader.

But the appointment was short-lived, when she quit in June 2008, after breaking rules on declaring donations to her leadership campaign on the MSPs' register of interests.

Throughout, Ms Alexander said she acted in "good faith" and on the written advice of the parliamentary authorities, but said the row had become a distraction from other important issues facing Scotland.


The Scottish Government announced plans to scrap the £2,000 fee paid by students after graduation.

Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop argued the graduate endowment had "clearly failed", saying that, in it's three-year lifespan, two thirds of those due to pay had not done so directly but just added it to their student loan.

Labour and the Tories said her plan, announced in June 2007, lacked detail.


In a first - the Scottish Government's budget was rejected by parliament in January 2009, despite ministers making last-minute concessions.

The SNP's £33bn plans fell on the casting vote of the presiding officer after being tied at 64 votes to 64.

Following talks with opposition parties, the budget was passed second time round.


In a report which hopes to define the next 10 years of devolution, the Calman Commission review recommended Holyrood should take charge of half the income tax raised in Scotland.

The commission also said the Scottish Parliament should control national speed limits, drink-driving laws and airguns legislation.

But the report was contentious - derided by First Minister Alex Salmond for ruling out looking at the issue of independence.

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