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2 how the sp works

  1. 1. The Scottish Parliament What you will learn - The background to the Scottish Parliament The role and functions of the Scottish Parliament How Scotland is governed How new laws are made in the Scottish Parliament The achievements of the Parliament since devolution The debate over Scotland’s constitutional future, including independence Why do we have a Scottish Parliament? Scottish identity Although Scotland was governed by the UK Parliament from 1707 until 1999, Scotland still retained several distinctive institutions. Scotland kept its own legal system, with Scots law differing from English law. This means that Scotland has a different court system, and can come to the “not proven” verdict which is not available in England. Scotland also has a separate education system from England. In the Scottish exam system most pupils sit Nationals and Highers, while England has GCSE’s and A-levels. Our exam board is called the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the curriculum we follow throughout school is different from the English curriculum. Furthermore, Scotland also has its own established Church, the Church of Scotland, while England has the Church of England. Scottish identity is also highlighted through culture and sport. Culturally, Scotland has a unique set of languages and dialects such as Scots and Scottish Gaelic. Song and dance such as folk music, Robert Burns, Highland dancing, and even the Proclaimers, all reinforce ‘Scottishness’. Moreover ‘Scottishness’ is emphasised through food and drink. Scotch whisky is famous Worldwide and fish and chips, shortbread and Irn-Bru hardly less so. In sports, perhaps more than any other area, Scottish identity is characterised. With Scotland having its own separate teams, support is patriotic and loyal. For example, many Scottish people were against the idea of Scottish football players playing for Team GB in the London 2012 Olympics. Lastly, Scotland has its own media, with Scottish newspapers such as the Daily Record, The Herald and the Scotsman, and even the Scottish editions of England-based newspapers such as The Scottish Sun and the Scottish Daily Mail. Scotland has a very strong national identity, unique in Great Britain. This contributed to the call for the independence referendum. 1
  2. 2. Activities 1. Produce a spider diagram showing features of the Scottish National identity. 2. Describe, in detail the features of Scottish Identity. (Nat.4 - 4 marks) (Nat.5 – 8 marks) Creating the Scottish Parliament From 1979 to 1997, the Conservative Party was in power in the UK. During this period many policies that the Conservatives introduced under Margaret Thatcher, such as the poll tax in 1989, were highly unpopular in Scotland. Because of the unpopularity of the Conservatives in Scotland, many people began to become disillusioned with how Scotland was being governed. This led to continued pressure for Scotland (and Wales) to have devolution and thus their own Parliaments. When Labour won the UK General election in 1997, they promised to hold a referendum to ask the Scottish people if they wanted a Scottish Parliament (question 1) and if the Parliament should have the power to set its own rate of taxes (question 2). In September 1997 the referendum took place, with 60.4% of Scottish electorate voting. No. of votes Percentage of votes Yes (agree) 1,775,045 74.3% No (disagree) 614,400 25.7% Result of the 1997 referendum, question 1: Do you agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament No. of votes Percentage of votes Yes (agree) 1,512,889 63.5% No (disagree) 870,263 36.5% Result of the 1997 referendum, question 2: Do you agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers? Almost 75% of people voted ‘yes’ to question 1 and 63.5% voted ‘yes’ to question 2. Scotland was to have its own Parliament for the first time since 1707. 2
  3. 3. The first election for the new Scottish Parliament took place on 6 May 1999 and the Queen officially opened the Parliament on 1 July 1999. The present Scottish Parliament building, based in Edinburgh, opened in 2004 after delays in the building work. Controversially, the final cost of the building was £414 million. Activities 1. Why were many people in Scotland in favour of a Scottish Parliament? 2. What were the 2 questions asked in the Scottish devolution Referendum in 1997? 3. When was the first election to the Scottish Parliament? 4. When did the new Scottish Parliament building open? 5. Why was the new building so controversial? 3
  4. 4. Devolved and reserved powers When the Scottish Parliament opened it received various powers to amend or create laws in certain areas which would apply to Scotland only. These are called devolved powers. Areas which were deemed to be of national importance (UK-wide) were to remain within the power of the UK Parliament; these powers are called reserved powers. The Scottish Parliament has no control over reserved powers and Scotland has to accept any changes in the law made in Westminster relating to these powers. Devolved and reserved powers Devolved powers Reserved powers Health Defence Education and training Social security Social work Foreign affairs Housing Constitutional matters Local government Immigration Tourism and economic development Broadcasting Law and home affairs Trade and industry Agriculture, forestry and fishing Energy: nuclear, coal and gas Planning Employment legislation Police and fire services Equal opportunities The environment Fiscal and monetary system Sports and the arts Gambling and the National lottery Scottish road network and harbours Data protection The Scotland Act 2012 gave the Scottish Parliament even more financial powers over taxation and borrowing as well as powers over airguns, drink-driving legislation and speed limits. 4
  5. 5. Activities 1. What are “Devolved” powers? 2. What are “Reserved” powers? 3. Produce two spider diagrams, one showing “Devolved” powers and one showing “Reserved” powers. 4. Describe, in detail the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament. (Nat. 4- 4 Marks) (Nat.5 – 8 Marks) 5. Describe, in detail the powers reserved by the Westminster Parliament. (Nat. 4- 4 Marks) (Nat.5 – 8 Marks) 6. What do you think are the three most important devolved powers? Justify your answer. 5
  6. 6. Conflict between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster The nature of devolution, with devolved and reserved powers split between two parliaments, does from time to time gives rise to confrontation between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster. Examples of conflict between Parliaments The release of the Lockerbie bomber In 2009, the Scottish Government decided to release the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, from prison on compassionate grounds because of his terminal cancer. Megrahi was allowed to return to his home in Libya to die. David Cameron declared publicly that he strongly disagreed with the decision, stating ‘Megrahi was a convicted mass murderer. It was the decision of the Scottish Government to release him, not the UK Government.’ In May 2012 Megrahi finally died from his cancer. Nuclear energy The issue of nuclear power is reserved power but the planning for a possible nuclear power station in Scotland is a devolved power. A decision will have to be made to replace many of Britain’s ageing nuclear power stations and it remains to be seen if planning permission will be given to build one in Scotland. Scotland’s coastguard centres In 2011, the UK Government announced that it was to close Scotland’s five coastguard centres and replace them with one control room. The decision was heavily criticised by the Scottish Government but they were powerless to do anything about it as the coastguard is a reserved area. Scottish independence referendum The issue of when Scotland should hold a referendum and the wording of the question has led to conflict. The UK Government wishes to have the referendum as soon as possible, but the SNP decided it would not be held till 2014. The SNP argue that the only reason a referendum is being held is because the SNP has a majority in the Scottish Parliament and passed legislation to hold a referendum, so it should decide the date. In August 2012 Scottish Labour MPs in Westminster challenged the Scottish Government’s right to call and organise a referendum. The Labour MP Ian Davidson stated in a Scottish Affairs Committee report that any final arrangements needed Westminster approval, then scrutiny and approval by the Scottish Affairs Committee and Scottish MPs. The SNP Scottish Government rejected this proposal. 6
  7. 7. Activities 1. What are “Devolved” powers? 2. What are “Reserved” powers? 3. Produce two spider diagrams, one showing “Devolved” powers and one showing “Reserved” powers. 4. Describe, in detail the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament. (Nat. 4- 4 Marks) (Nat.5 – 8 Marks) 5. Describe, in detail the powers reserved by the Westminister Parliament. (Nat. 4- 4 Marks) (Nat.5 – 8 Marks) 6. Copy and complete the table below by putting the following issues under the correct heading. Devolved Powers Reserved Powers a. Building new schools b. The building of a new golf course c. Free prescriptions d. Increasing Child Benefit e. Building new Navy battleships f. Building new prisons g. Negotiating trade agreements with foreign countries h. Criteria for accepting asylum seekers. 7. What further powers did the Scotland Act (2012) give to the Scottish Parliament? 7
  8. 8. 8. Look at the examples of conflict between parliaments. a. Do you agree with the Scottish Government or the UK Government over the release of Megrahi? Explain your answer. b. Why is there disagreement over a referendum on independence? Functions of the Scottish Parliament The Scottish Parliament is a democratically elected Parliament made up of 129 members (MSPs). Parliamentary elections take place every four years; however the next election will come after a five-year term as the UK General election is scheduled to fall in 2015 when the Scottish election was due. The last election took place in 2011, with the Scottish National Party winning 69 seats in Parliament. This resulted in the first majority government since the Parliament’s creation. The Scottish Parliament is often referred to as Holyrood as this is the area of Edinburgh where it is based. Different roles within the Scottish Parliament The debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament is organised in a semi-circle. The idea of this layout is to encourage consensus among politicians, as opposed to the system used in the House of Commons where parties sit facing each other, which is said to promote confrontation. Who have the most powerful roles in the Scottish Parliament? The First Minister The First Minister is simply the leader of the party that holds power in the Scottish Parliament and is therefore leader of the Scottish Government. Currently Alex Salmond of the SNP is Scotland’s First Minister. The First Minister has the power to appoint MSPs to become Cabinet Secretaries and ministers who form the executive (Government) He also has the power to ‘reshuffle’ his Cabinet and replace any secretaries whom he feels are underperforming. The First Minister sets the agenda and chairs cabinet meetings and is primarily responsible for the formulation and introduction of a Scottish Government policy. Alex Salmond is in a particularly powerful position concerning the introduction of new laws as his party enjoys a majority in Parliament, meaning that any bills that pass through will usually receive the necessary number of votes to become law. The First Minister is also the face of the Scottish Government and represents Scotland in devolved matters as well as representing Scotland abroad when building foreign relations The First Minister’s powers are held in check by being held accountable to the Scottish Parliament. The First Minister faces questions every Thursday in First Minister’s Question Time, when opposition leaders scrutinise his Government’s work. 8
  9. 9. First Ministers of the Scottish Parliament First Minister Term of office Reason for end of office Donald Dewar May 1999 – October 2000 Died Henry McLeish October 2000 – November 2001 Resigned Jack McConnell November 2001 – May 2007 Lost election Alex Salmond May 2007 – present Cabinet The Cabinet is made up of MSPs selected by the First Minister to run specific Government departments. Nicola Sturgeon for example, is Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities. There is a Government department for each of the main devolved powers. Running a Government Department is a promoted post and consequently makes the MSP a senior minister; however they are referred to as Cabinet Secretaries. Government The First Minister selects MSPs to be part of his or her Government. These MSPs are usually those who have been most loyal to their Party leader. Within the Government is the Cabinet, who are MSPs in charge of specific government departments. In addition there are a number of junior ministers who help the Government ministers run their departments. Leaders of the opposition The leaders of the opposition in Scotland do not have any direct power in the Parliament but they are seen as the chief critics of the Government. They enjoy a high profile in the media and can have a huge influence over the popularity of a Government. They aim to ‘score points’ over the First Minister in attempt to show the public that they and their party would be better in power after the next election. 9
  10. 10. Activities 1. Copy and complete the following table:- Fact File - Who does what in the Scottish Parliament First Minister Cabinet (secretaries) Junior Ministers Government Presiding The speaker of the Scottish Parliament who controls debates, officer Question Time and voting. Opposition Parties Opposition leaders Shadow MSPs from opposition parties who ‘shadow’ the work of Cabinet Cabinets secretaries and hold them to account. Backbench MSPs who are not Government Ministers or shadow Government MSPs Ministers. Most MSPs are backbenchers. 2. What was significant about the result of the 2011 Scottish Parliament election? 3. Why is the Scottish Parliament often referred to as Holyrood? 4. Describe the layout of the debating chamber in the Scottish Parliament. 5. What are the powers of the First Minister? 6. Why is Alex Salmond in a good position to introduce new laws? 7. How is the First Minister’s power kept in check? 10
  11. 11. Laws in the Scottish Parliament How does the Scottish Parliament create new laws? The Scottish Parliament can make laws on devolved matters. Proposals for any new laws are introduced in Parliament as bills. There are four different types of bills to ensure that various types of people can attempt to introduce new laws in Scotland. This is important as the Scottish Government aims to be open, fair and accessible. The four types of bill are: - Executive bill - Member’s bill - Committee bill - Private bill Executive bills Executive is another word for Government, therefore Executive bills are bills introduced by the Government. This is done either by a Cabinet Secretary or by a Government Minister. The great majority of bills are Executive bills. For example-The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill was introduced by Nicola Sturgeon and passed in June 2012. This bill ends cheap alcoholic drink prices in Scotland. Members’ bills An MSP who is not a member of the Government may introduce two bills in each Parliamentary session. Around a quarter of new bills are members’ bills. For example -The control of Dogs (Scotland) Bill was introduced by Christine Grahame and passed in May 2010. This bill allows local authorities to impose measures on people who fail to control a dangerous dog. Committee bills Committee bills are initiated by Parliamentary committees. Only three committee bills have ever become new laws. Private bills Private bills can be introduced by a person, group or company and are sometimes known as ‘personal bills’. These bills are rarer and are subject to a different scrutiny process. For example, in 2007, Strathclyde Passenger Transport had a bill passed by the Scottish Parliament that authorised the construction of a railway through a public space. 11
  12. 12. How does a bill become a law? To ensure that laws are created in an open and fair manner a bill has to pass through a three-stage process before it becomes a law. This allows the finer details of a bill to be scrutinised, amendments to be made if necessary, and for Parliament to vote on the bill. If a bill is passed by Parliament it then receives Royal Assent. The legislative process Stage 1 The appropriate parliamentary committee(s) take evidence on the bill and produce a report on its general findings. A meeting of the Parliament then considers the report and debates whether the bill should proceed during Decision time. If the Parliament agrees, the bill If the Parliament does not agree, the bill moves on to Stage 2. will fail. Stage 2 The bill is considered in detail, and scrutinised line by line by a committee or, occasionally, by a committee of the whole Parliament. Changes to the bill, known as amendments, can be made at this stage. If the Parliament agrees, the bill If the Parliament does not agree, the bill moves onto Stage 3. will fail. Stage 3 The bill is considered by the whole Parliament. Amendments to the bill can also be made at this stage. Only amendments made at this stage are debated. The Parliament agrees, the bill is passed, signed by the Monarch and becomes an Act of Parliament. 12
  13. 13. Case Study – A bill becomes a law Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill Type of bill Executive Proposed by Kenny MacAskill MSP, Justice Minister Details The Bill creates two new offences – one dealing with offensive behaviour relating to football games, and a second on threatening communications. Deals with sectarian and other offensive Offence 1 chanting and behaviour likely to cause public disorder at football matches. Deals with serious threats, including Offence 2 murder , made on the Internet on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Passed all three stages and received Royal Passage of bill Assent in January 2012. Activities 1. Create a mind-map with ‘Types of Bill’ in the centre circle. Describe the four types of bill around the outside. 2. Passing a law in the Scottish Parliament involves different stages. Copy and complete the following table to summarise what happens at each stage. Stage What happens? Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Royal Assent 13
  14. 14. Achievements of the Scottish Parliament and the impact of devolution Since its first meeting in 1999, the Scottish Parliament has had four sessions, spanning over a decade. The Parliament has undoubtedly been successful in bringing decision making closer to the people of Scotland, considering that political decisions before 1999 were made in Westminster with the input of English MPs. However, the question many people ask is: Has the Scottish Parliament been successful enough? The Scottish Parliament faced a difficult start with the death of the First Minister, Donald Dewar in 2000. The Parliament managed to stabilise and for two sessions (from 1999 to 2007) was led by a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition. During this time the Parliament had successes, with several high profile achievements, such as the ban on smoking in public places, which has certainly helped improve Scotland’s appalling health record. The LabourLiberal Democrat coalition also introduced free personal care for the elderly, abolished the Graduate Endowment Tax and banned Fox Hunting with dogs in 2002. A new era began in the Scottish Parliament in 2007, when the SNP narrowly beat Labour by one seat and formed a minority Government. Since coming to power the SNP have abolished bridge tolls in Scotland, outlawed offensive, sectarian and threatening behaviour at football matches, reintroduced free prescriptions, and introduced minimum pricing for alcohol. However, the Scottish Parliament has also had its critics. There was controversy at the construction of the Holyrood building when the budget spiralled out of control and cost the tax payer over £400 million. Many people also argue that the Parliament could have achieved more for the people of Scotland and that the Parliament needs more powers to be fully effective. The Scottish Government must now manage its budget, not in a period of financial growth as was the situation between 1999 and 2007, but in a period of financial austerity and severe cuts to the budget. In October 2010 Chancellor George Osborne announced that between 2010 and 2015 £81 billion of cuts would be made to reduce the deficit. The welfare budget would be cut by £18 million. Scotland has taken its share of these cuts and this means a reduced block grant for the Scottish Government. Cuts have been made to all services – including education, police and local Government – and the cuts to the welfare budget will increase child poverty. 14
  15. 15. Scotland’s future and the Independence referendum Before the 2011 election, the SNP promised in their manifesto that, if they won, they would ‘put the independence question to the Scottish people.’ When the SNP won with a sizeable majority, it gave them a political mandate to press forward with the referendum, as the Scottish electorate had backed their promises. Why an Independence referendum? Within Scotland there has always been some support among the general public for Scotland’s return to Independence. With the rise of the SNP over the last decade this support has increased. However, many Scots are also against Independence and believe Scotland’s place should remain within the UK. Many of these people think the solution lies in greater powers for the Scottish Parliament – this is known as devo-max. Devo-max essentially gives the Scottish Parliament maximum powers over all laws, taxes and duties in Scotland, with the exception of defence, foreign affairs and currency. Edinburgh Agreement October 2012 After months of tense negotiations surrounding the Independence referendum, the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, and the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, signed a detailed 30-clause agreement in Edinburgh, agreeing to hold a referendum before the end of 2014. One of the key elements of the agreement is that the referendum will ask only one question as opposed to the two desired by the SNP. The question will ask: Should Scotland be an Independent country? The second question the SNP wanted to pose was to ask the electorate whether they wanted more powers for the Scottish Parliament – known as ‘devomax.’ Another key element of the agreement was a negotiated change to the voting age which means that 16 and 17 year olds will be allowed to vote in the referendum – a first for people of this age group in the UK. The signing of this agreement was a historic day for Scotland and a step closer to the possibility of Independence. The next few years could now see historic changes that will affect the Scottish nation and its people forever. If Scots vote ‘yes’ in the 2014 referendum, Scotland will break away from the United Kingdom and become a nation state. 15
  16. 16. The question Scots will be asked in the 2014 referendum Referendum on Scottish Independence Should Scotland be an Independent country? Vote (X) in one box only. Yes No What are the Scottish Political parties doing now in preparation for the referendum? Campaigning towards the referendum began in 2012. The SNP are obviously campaigning for Independence, while Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are all coming together to oppose independence and promote the UK status quo. The Yes Scotland campaign In May 2012, Alex Salmond launched the SNP’s Yes Scotland campaign in a bid to persuade four million Scottish voters that voting for Independence would be the right choice. The campaign will run until the referendum in 2014 and has the backing of celebrities including actors Sir Sean Connery and Brian Cox. The SNP have a special pro-independence declaration – and are urging a million Scots to put their names to it on a website at: www.yesscotland.net The SNP will also be campaigning and canvassing to convince the people of Scotland to vote ‘yes’. The Better Together Campaign In June 2012 Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats put their political differences aside to launch the Better Together campaign. The pro-union, anti-independence campaign will aim to convince the Scottish people to vote ‘no’ to Independence in 2014. The campaign will be spearheaded by forms UK Chancellor Alistair Darling, with the slogan, ‘We get the best of both worlds as part of the United Kingdom’. The Better Together campaign will also the backing of UK politicians including the Prime Minister. Find out more at: www.bettertogether.net 16
  17. 17. Activities 1. List 3 achievements of the Scottish Parliament. 2. What challenges has the Scottish Parliament had to face? 3. Explain why the SNP have a ‘political mandate’ to hold an independence referendum? 4. Why is a referendum on Independence required? 5. What is the “Edinburgh Agreement”? 6. Describe the key elements of this agreement. 7. Describe in detail, the Yes Scotland campaign. 8. Describe in detail, the Better Together campaign. 17
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