Devolution in Scotland

There had been administrative devolution in Scotland since the nineteenth century. What this meant was that a non-elected Scottish Executive administered various services in Scotland on behalf of the UK government. Matters such as education, health, local authority services and policing were managed separately in Scotland. The country also had its own laws. However, there had been no Scottish Parliament to pass these laws since 1707. Rather strangely, it was the UK Parliament in Westminster that made the laws for Scotland. So Scotland was partly on the road to devolution before 1997. In addition, it should be noted that nationalist sentiment was much stronger in Scotland than it was in Wales or Northern Ireland, sodevolution was all the more urgent a matter.

Scotland Act 1998

In 1997 a referendum was held in Scotland to gauge support for devolution. The Scots voted overwhelmingly in favour, by 74% to 26% on a 60% turnout. The following year the Scotland Act was passed, granting devolution. It was implemented in 1999 and the f rst Scottish Parliament was elected. The main powers that were devolved to this parliament, and the executive which was drawn from it, were as follows:

At the same time, a new electoral system was introduced for the Scottish Parliament. This was the additional member system. The government of Scotland would be formed by the largest party in the parliament or by a coalition. The first minister,leader of the largest party, would head the government.

Devolution has been the most significant change to the UK’s constitutional arrangements since 1997. The first elections for the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales (usually known as the Welsh Assembly) were held in 1999, following successful referendums in 1997

More extensive changes have taken place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Devolution in these parts of the UK involved the transfer of powers over certain policy areas to new, sub-national bodies. In each case Westminster retained control of what are known as 'reserved powers', which include defence, foreign policy, constitutional matters, welfare benefits and important areas of economic policy including trade, the currency and interest rates. These are the main powers that indicate a fully fledged independent state. They were not granted to the devolved bodies because the purpose of devolution was to keep the four nations within the United Kingdom.

Scottish devolution 20 years on

Has Devolution been a success?




Has not led to a break up of the UK

In the Scottish people rejected independence

Devolved Assemblies are very popular- and have been given more powers- In 1989 the Welsh voted by a majority of under 1% for an Assembly but in 2011 they voted to give the assembly more powers.

It secured peace in N Ireland after 20 years of conflict


Elected Mayors and the transfer of power to  cities has created a greater regional identity

2000- A mayor and Assembly for London

2012 Leicester, Bristol and Liverpool elected mayors

2017 Meto Mayors were given greater powers and larger areas in

Greater Mancher

Liverpool City Region

West Midlands

Tees Valley

West of England

Cambridge and Peterborough

Sheffield City Region (2018)

It has provided some answer to the democratic deficit- by extending democratic participation

It has encouraged innovation in social policy- (laboratories of policy) energy conservation in Scotland and Wales.

Congestion Charge London




It has led to inequality in social policy. In Scotland, nursing care for the elderly and Higher education is free- but not in England

England still subsidizes Scot’s economy through the Barnet Formula- which transfer money from English taxpayers to Scotland

The power-sharing government in N Ireland has been suspended since 2018

England rejected regional devolved assemblies.

It was rejected in 2004 in the North East by 74%

Turnout in devolved elections is low

The desire for independence has increased in Scotland

The West Lothian Question remains