"The devolution settlement means that Scotland has a parliament with ‘devolved’ powers within the United Kingdom. Any powers which remain with the UK Parliament at Westminster are reserved."

With the Treaty of Union in 1707 there was an outcry within Scotland. The Scottish Parliament had been ceded to the English in what many ordinary people saw as a treacherous move by the landed aristocracy who had sold them out. Unlike in other parts of the country such as Wales, these institutions were allowed to remain as per the 1707 settlement. The new Scottish Parliament has very different duties and systems to that one from three centuries ago. The unicameral body has aspects which differ from Westminster immensely and some aspects which still connect the two : even the system by which they are voted in is different.

The Parliament has always retained it's connections with the church. State religion and heads of the church were an ever present force in the Parliament, being so much in control of the education and welfare systems as they were. Law, too, is very different in Scotland as compared to England, with Scotland not ceding it's right to these primary institutions.

The Scottish Parliament has had a turbulent history which goes back to it's roots in the 12th century. Brought together by a grouping of the nobles, clergy and representatives of the burghs, it was based loosely on the English parliament as well as the other parliaments which were sprouting up in Europe. It did, of course, have it's own distinct Scottish "flavour" which was more suited to the cultural and social situation of the time. As with many such bodies at this time its monarchy had a greater control over it as well as The Privy Council and Convention of Royal Burghs. This meant that the Parliament had less control over what happened. It was also only very loosely organised, with the Monarch calling Parliament wherever he or she happened to be at that time. If the Sovereign of the time backed any particular process it was likely to be done. Even at this time, though, committees and sub-committees were created and organised to deal with particular matters. When in 1560 Mary Queen of Scots allowed Parliament to meet without their monarch present it began a step towards autonomy. The church, as they had been at the start, were still present in this Scottish Parliament but in 1638 were disallowed due to demands by the differing religious groups within Scotland, From James VI there seemed to be a stricter monarchic control over the Parliament and this was followed up by his Predecessor Charles. In 1651, after Charles' execution, Scotland was beaten into accepting the rule of the English Parliament, sending only 30MP's to represent the whole country. It surfaced again in 1661 until, in 1707, it merged with the English Parliament. In the new Parliament the Scottish ministers were barely represented themselves but this slowly changed throughout the centuries.

In the more recent past there was, in the 1970's, a great push towards devolution which proposed that if 40% of the entire electorate supported it then there would be devolution. Although 52% of those voting supported it, only 33 percent of the electorate were represented and so it did not pass. This, in the end, might have been a good thing for the deal at that time would have left Scotland with far less power than the more recent attempts which came about in the 90's.

The White Paper, the plan for devolution in Scotland was brought about at the end of 1997. It set down what would happen within the Scottish Parliament, what was within it's jurisdiction and how it would be set up. It allowed 19 elected representatives (or MSPs), the Power to pass Legislation on matters which were not reserved and the power to alter tax. It was to be made up of a First Minister, Lord Advocate, Solicitor General and ministers.

The new Parliament, of course, has it's representatives. MSP's (members of the Scottish Parliament ) are elected to their post and serve the people from their area. Like the procedure in Westminster, ministers are given jobs and areas to work by the First Minister. Junior ministers are also appointed by the First Minister.

The First Minister is chosen by the Scottish Parliament and is given formal consent by the queen. His duties and responsibilities are not unlike that of the Prime Minister. He is supported by the Scottish Law officers : the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General. The Scottish Parliament also has it's own officials and dedicated civil servants who, although they are still linked to Westminster, have their priorities in the Scottish Parliament. Unlike in Westminster, though, there is no second house. The Scottish Parliament has only it's main Parliamentary body. It does, though, have a very different method of procedure when it comes to legislation.

When the Parliament was opened in Scotland the decision was made to look at and adopt the voting systems of other countries within Europe who had more representative, proportional systems. With Scotland being as diverse is it is, proportional representation of some form would be best suited to it, meaning that there would be no one party which held control, but a plethora of smaller groups who could all have input on how things were to be done. The system they introduced was the Additional Member System. This system, also used by Germany, involves electing constituency MPs by the "first past the post" system (Which is what Westminster uses) and "additional members" which are MSPs who represent part of the larger regional areas (of which there are 8) The regional members are set on a list and it is their party, not they themselves who are voted for. Depending on how many votes they are for their party will determine weather they become an MSP. If they are at the top of the list they are likely to, but those at the bottom of the list are unlikely to get into Parliament. This system means that each person has 8 MSPs to represent them : their constituency member and the 7 regional members which are chosen. Another small difference between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster is that the Scottish Election dates are fixed to every four years. In Westminster the Prime Minister sets a date for the election but in Scotland this can only be done by a 2/3rds majority of the parliament.

"The UK Parliament at Westminster retains power to legislate on any matter, but the convention of devolution is that the UK Parliament will not normally legislate on devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament."

Some aspects of agriculture, farming and fisheries; sport, language, broadcasting, education, foreign policy, most health service issues, the criminal justice and legal systems, and transport all fall under the new Scottish Parliaments jurisdiction as well as the allowance to vary the rate of tax. Each area which is now devolved allows Scotland to decide independently of Westminster what it would like to do in that area. Although the powers are limited, they deal directly with issues which are important to the running of the country : Health, Education, Agriculture. Self-determination in these aspects allows Scotland to pass legislation on any of these matters and thus allows a greater control for its people over their own country.

Westminster of course still has some measure of control in Scotland. there are areas in which the Scottish Executive cannot legislate such as international matters. Although the First Minister is responsible to the Scottish Parliament, the secretary of state is not. He or she is responsible to Westminster.

MSPs, because of the system which elects them, are a check and balance system within themselves. The additional members system of voting means that there is a more mixed selection of MSP's and thus a wider representation of views, all of whom must work together, creating compromises and alliances to pass legislation. Topics for discussion, proposals etc. can be brought to the Parliament by MSP's who have had the subject raised in their constituency /region. Committees may be set up or may already be in place to look over a particular topic.

There is a wide ranging committee system within the Scottish Parliament. they are set up to deal with things quickly and effectively as well as allowing a wider public access. Committees within the Scottish Parliament may look into an issue or have one brought to them by the Parliament. A committee may be of two types : mandatory or subject. Mandatory committees include ones such as the Finance committee and European committee which are present by law. The Subject committees are created to deal with particular subject areas, such as the education, culture and sport committee. In either type there can be as many as fifteen members, which will generally not include a minister, and which will represent the varied viewpoints which are held within the subject. They sometimes also include advisors who can be appointed. Sub-Committees are not uncommon within the committee structure. All of these procedures are open to the Scottish public.

From such a committee or from MSP's or ministers a bill may be introduced ( these are known as committee, members and executive bills respectively ) Most ministers, though, will take the advice of a committee on their bill before the put it forward to be scrutinised and decided upon. The path that a bill follows through Parliament is not unlike the procedure in Westminster; it is looked at on it's basic sentiments by one of the parliamentary committees or by the Parliament itself. If it passes this stage it then goes on to an appropriate committee or the executive to be looked over in detail. Once it has been amended and very usually compromised upon by the various factions it is sent forward to the Parliament. The bill may pass or may be put back to be considered further, usually with recommendations. Once a bill has finally passed, however, it will be sent to gain Royal Assent so that it may become a legal act of the Scottish Parliament. As has been mentioned, this process is similar to Westminster, with the exception that it is committees who scrutinise bills and proposals instead of the House of Lords.

Within Scotland, the nature of politics is very much changed from a few years previously. with the coming of devolution, politics has become more noticeable. The new Parliament has striven to give its people a say in their country's running as well as setting a system up so that their votes will gain a better representation within Parliament. The cultural and social differences that Scotland has always retained have of course been carried on, the Parliament's law officers and education ministries being set specifically to deal with the Scottish system.

A guide to the Scottish Parliament, Robert McLean, H.N.S.O, 1999
The New British Politics, Ian Budge et al, Longman, 2001
Devolution in the United Kingdom, Vernon Bogdanor, Oxford University Press 2001

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