What does the Scottish Parliament do?
Since the Scottish Parliament reconvened in 1999, decision making power has been split between the UK Parliament at Westminster, in London and the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, in Edinburgh. Scotland elects MPs to the UK Parliament and MSPs to the Scottish Parliament.
The UK Parliament devolves some powers to the Scottish Parliament and reserves a range of issues to itself. Thus the Scottish Parliament can make laws on devolved matters whilst reserved matters remain the responsibility of the UK Government at Westminster.
Since 1999 a limited level of further devolution has taken place, or is in the process of being considered for implementation, following the Scotland Acts of 2012 and 2016.
The following table broadly outlines the current situation regarding devolved and reserved powers. It's also a quick guide to the areas I can help you with – the issues devolved to the Scottish Parliament (e.g. housing and health) - and the issues relating to powers reserved to Westminster where you need to go to your MP (e.g. most welfare benefits, immigration). But don't be afraid to ask us first, we can easily refer you to the right place.
Devolved to the Scottish Parliament
- Agriculture, forestry and fisheries
- Culture and the arts
- Economic development
- Education and training
- Health and social care
- Law and order
- Local government
- Social Work
- Taxation (some, limited)
- Transport (some, limited)
- Welfare benefits and employment schemes (some, limited, currently being introduced)
Reserved by the UK Parliament
- Welfare benefits and social security (most)
- Foreign policy
- Trade and industry
- Nuclear energy, oil, coal, gas and electricity
- Consumer rights
- Data protection
- The Constitution
Committees and Groups
There's a lot more to the Scottish Parliament than the debating chamber! MSPs sit on a range of committees and groups designed to ensure that they get the best possible evidence and information from the widest range of expert sources. Some of the key groups/roles are:
I'm a member of the Finance Committee and the Health & Sport Committee
Committees of the Scottish Parliament are established by the Parliament as a whole and have a formal set of roles. They are empowered to scrutinise legislation and also to initiate it. The job of the committee is to consider matters within its remit and report on them to the Parliament. This includes: conducting inquiries scrutinising the policy and administration of the Scottish Government scrutinising Bills, statutory instruments, proposals for European Communities legislation or other proposals to change the law initiating a Committee Bill or considering the need for reform of the law considering the financial proposals and financial administration of the Scottish Government. Committees meet every week when Parliament is sitting. They meet and take evidence from external agencies and individuals, consider issues and produce reports to Parliament.
I'm a member of a number of CPGs
Less formal are Cross-Party Groups (CPGs) which, as their name suggests, comprise at least three (currently) different political parties represented in the Parliament. Individuals and external organisations with an interest in the topic can also join. They are initiated by an MSP with a particular interest in an issue and all MSPs are eligible to join. Only those Groups approved by the Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee are permitted to use the title ‘Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament’. Whilst CPGs don’t have the power to take decisions that affect the law, they provide an opportunity for MPs of all parties, outside organisations and members of the public to meet and discuss a shared interest in a particular cause or subject.
Parliamentary Liaison Officers
I'm Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO) to Keith Brown the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work.
Parliamentary Liaison Officers (PLOs) are MSPs appointed by the First Minister on the recommendation of Government Ministers whom they assist in carrying out their work. PLOs are unpaid and are not part of the Scottish Government.