Scottish Parliament : How it works

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, following the Scotland Act of 2012. This Act gave the Scottish Parliament full control of stamp duty land tax and landfill tax from April 2015 – the first new national Scottish taxes introduced by a Scottish Parliament in more than 300 years. Powers to make laws on matters including air weapons, the drink-drive limit and the national speed limit were also devolved.

The following list outlines the current situation regarding devolved and reserved powers. This is a quick guide showing the areas I can help you with, which are the issues devolved to the Scottish Parliament, such as housing and health. If you have issues relating to powers that remain reserved to Westminster, such as most welfare benefits and immigration, you need to go to your MP in London. 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
  • Education and training
  • Environment
  • Health and social services
  • Housing
  • Law and order
  • Local government
  • Sport and the arts
  • Tourism and economic development
  • Many aspects of transport

Reserved by the UK Parliament

  • Benefits and social security
  • Immigration
  • Defence
  • Foreign policy
  • Employment
  • Broadcasting
  • Trade and industry
  • Nuclear energy, oil, coal, gas and electricity
  • Consumer rights
  • Data protection
  • The Constitution

Scotland Act 2016 - Further Devolved Powers

As a result of the promises made by the Better Together campaign in the 2014 Independence Referendum, Westminster has allowed a further set of powers to be devolved to Holyrood. The Scotland Act 2016 transfers the following powers to the Scottish Parliament over the coming months:

  • Powers to set rates and thresholds of Income Tax, and devolution of Air Passenger Duty
  • Some social security powers including disability and carers’ benefits and Winter Fuel
  • The power to create new benefits in devolved areas and to top-up reserved benefits
  • The power to adjust aspects of Universal Credit in Scotland including the housing element
  • Devolution of some employment services
  • Devolution of the Crown Estate in Scotland
  • The arrangements for elections to the Scottish Parliament
  • Devolution of tribunals in reserved areas – such as Employment Tribunals – in Scotland
  • Devolution of additional powers over equal opportunities, including to legislate for gender balance on public boards
  • Devolution of British Transport Police

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 outlined below.

Committees

Ivan is 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.

Cross-Party Groups

Ivan is 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

Ivan is 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.

 

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