The Scottish Parliament and law making
The Scottish Parliament and law making

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Week 1: Law making powers of the Scottish Parliament


In this week you consider the law making powers of the Scottish Parliament. In subsequent weeks you consider the law making process in the Scottish Parliament.

When the process of devolution within the UK began in 1998, legislation from the UK Parliament created new devolved legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with new law making powers. The Scotland Act 1998 outlined the initial powers of the new Scottish Parliament, the Government of Wales Act 1998 outlined those of the National Assembly of Wales and the Northern Ireland Act 1998 outlined those for the Northern Ireland Assembly. Those original devolution settlements have been built upon in subsequent decades. The powers of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have been extended. The situation in Northern Ireland is more complex and differs. The Assembly there has been suspended on a number of occasions when agreement over power sharing arrangements has not been reached.

Devolution is therefore an ongoing process which reflects the changing nature of the UK. In Scotland it reflects the relationship between the Scottish and UK Governments and the people both parliaments represent. From its inception devolution has been seen as a ‘process and not an event’ and this week takes an historical approach to explore how the powers of the Scottish Parliament have evolved.

Understanding the law-making powers of the Scottish Parliament is important as it can only legislate (make  laws) within certain defined areas. Its powers flow from the devolution legislation passed by the UK Parliament. In the first three sections you consider this transfer of powers and the subsequent expansion of those powers. There are three relevant Acts and each will be considered in turn:

  • the Scotland Act 1998
  • the Scotland Act 2012
  • the Scotland Act 2016.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this week you will be able to:

  • understand the law-making powers of the Scottish Parliament
  • explain the difference between devolved and reserved matters
  • explain what a legislative consent motion is and why they are used.

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