The Scotland Act

The Scotland Act 1998 was passed by the UK Parliament at Westminster. It was the law that set up the Scottish Parliament.

The Act is divided into several parts and schedules that deal with different topics and areas of the Parliament’s powers. These are:

  • Part I – Elections
  • Part II – The Scottish Administration (The Scottish Executive, the First Minister, Ministers and Law officers, the Civil Service)
  • Part III – Financial Provisions
  • Part IV – Tax Varying Power
  • Part V Miscellaneous and General (Pay of MSPs and Executive relations with Westminster)
  • Part VI – Supplementary
    • Schedule 1 – constituencies, regions and regional members
    • Schedule 2 – Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body
    • Schedule 3 – Standing Orders
    • Schedule 4 – Enactments
    • Schedule 5 – Reserved Matters
    • Schedule 6 – Devolution issues
    • Schedule 7 - Procedures for subordinate legislation
    • Schedule 8 – Modifications of enactments
    • Schedule 9 – Repeals

The Scotland Act sets down the issues which are kept in Westminster, not those which can be legislated on in Holyrood. If it’s not on the list in Schedule 5, then it can be assumed that it is a devolved matter.

Broadly speaking, the devolved matters are as follows: health, education, housing, sport and arts, agriculture, forestry & fishing, emergency services, planning, social work, heritage, some transport, and tourism

Reserved powers mainly deal with matters of a UK or international concern, such as the armed forces, the benefits system, the constitution and elections and relations with other countries.

All legislation that comes before the Scottish Parliament must receive a statement of competence from the Presiding Officer to show that the topic of the bill falls under a devolved matter and can be legislated on by the Parliament.

Update to the Scotland Act 2012

In 2010, a new Scotland Bill began its process through the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. This bill would give the Scottish Parliament more powers in various areas. Discussions were held with MSPs and a Scottish Parliament committee to look at the Westminster bill was convened. It made a report with recommendations.

In 2011, after the Scottish Parliament elections, further requests for more powers were made by the SNP government.

The Scotland Act 2012 received Royal Assent on 1st May 2012. It gives more powers to the Scottish Parliament, including the transfer of some significant financial powers.

The new Scotland Act will mean the Scottish Parliament will be responsible for raising around a third of the annual budget, meaning that as well as being accountable for spending the money, MSPs will also be responsbile for raising some of the money.

The new powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament include:

  • a new Scottish rate of income tax to be in place from April 2016
  • new borrowing powers for the Scottish Government
  • full control of stamp duty land tax and landfull tax from April 2015
  • the power to introduce new taxes, subject to agreement of the UK Government
  • the power to legislate on matters relating to air weapons 
  • giving Scottish Ministers powers relating to the misuse of drugs
  • giving Scottish Ministers powers to set regulations for the drink-drive limit
  • giving Scottish Ministers powers to set the national speed limit
  • giving Scottish Ministers powers relating to the administration of elections to the Scottish Parliament
  • The Act also formally changes the name of the Scottish Executive to the Scottish Government.