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Scottish Parliament & Scottish Executive

Devolution established the Scottish Parliament with responsibility for devolved matters while the UK Parliament remains responsible for 'reserved matters' in Scotland. The Scottish Parliament has full legislative competence (in other words, it can pass both primary and secondary legislation) across a wide range of devolved subjects. The Scotland Act does not set out devolved subjects but instead lists 'reserved matters' for which the UK Parliament retains responsibility. The Parliament has no competence to legislate on these matters. By definition, devolved matters on which the Parliament can legislate are all those which are not specifically reserved (with certain provisos set out in the Act).

The first Scottish Parliament elections were held in May 1999. The elections were conducted on the basis of combining the traditional first past the post system (to elect 73 constituency members) and a form of proportional representation called the Additional Member System (to elect 56 regional members – 7 for each of the eight regions used in European Parliament elections). The regional seats ensure that each party's representation in the Parliament broadly reflects its overall share of the vote. The outcome of the May 1999 elections (turnout 58%) was as follows:

Party Seats
Labour Party 56 seats
Scottish National Party 35 seats
Conservative & Unionists 18 seats
Liberal Democrats 17 seats
Others 3 seats

The Scottish Executive (the devolved administration in Scotland) was formed by a coalition between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. These same parties formed a second coalition following the May 2003 election (turnout 49%). The outcome was as follows:

Party Seats
Labour Party 50 seats
Scottish National Party 27 seats
Conservative & Unionists 18 seats
Liberal Democrats 17 seats
Green Party 7 seats
Scottish Socialist Party 6 seats
Others 4 seats

The Scottish Executive (www.scotland.gov.uk) is led by the First Minister, Jack McConnell, and consists of a total of 18 Ministers and Deputies as well as two Law Officers – the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland.

The first meeting of the Scottish Parliament was held in May 1999 and it assumed its full powers and was opened formally by Her Majesty the Queen on 1 July 1999. That historic date also marked the transfer of the powers on devolved matters which had previously been exercised by the Secretary of State for Scotland (and other UK Ministers) to Scottish Executive Ministers.

Matters which were devolved include:

  • Health and social work
  • Education and training
  • Local government and housing
  • Justice and police
  • Agriculture, forestry and fisheries
  • The environment
  • Tourism, sport and heritage
  • Economic development and internal transport

In September 1999 the Scottish Executive published its agreed work programme, entitled Making it Work Together. It consisted of a detailed programme of action, with timed targets, across the range of policy areas for which the Scottish Executive is responsible. Successor documents have since been published, including Partnership for a Better Scotland 2003.

Printed from: www.scotlandoffice.gov.uk/devolution/parliament-and-executive.html on 4 October 2006