4. The New Parliament

Scottish Parliament

Following a referendum of the Scottish people in 1997, the new Scottish Parliament was established by the Scotland (Act) 1998. Not a wholly independent assembly, it has devolved jurisdiction over certain areas of government, including health, education, criminal justice, local government, environment and civil justice. However, certain areas are reserved to Westminster, including defence, international relations, fiscal and economic policy, drugs law and broadcasting.

It also retains limited tax raising powers.

The Scottish Parliament has had an interesting, sometimes turbulent and often controversial nascent history notwithstanding its realtive youth. It has had no fewer than four First Ministers while Tony Blair remained the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – Donald Dewar, who died in office, Henry McLeish, who was forced to resign amid scandal, Jack McConnell, and Alex Salmond, the first Scottish Nationalist First Minister.

The Parliament Building in Edinburgh also caused significant controversy with the final construction bill coming to several times the original budget.

Above are outside and inside photographs of the new Scottish Parliament. The interior shows the debating chamber, where 129 Members of the Scottish Parliemant may take part in debates on bills and other issues. 73 of these MSP’s are elected by local constituencies, whereas the rest are returned from regional lists. Accordingly, the Parliament combines ‘first past the post’ with ‘proportional respresentation’ voting.

The Scottish Parliament has taken a progressive approach to law-making, often enacting laws that are novel or differ from their English equivalents, e.g. Scotland adopted a public smoking ban over a year before England.

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