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Re-establishing the Scottish Parliament

Updated Monday, 29th April 2013

Article one of ten: How the Scottish Parliament was re-established. 

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Founded by a referendum on devolution in 1997, the 'new' Scottish Parliament first sat in May 1999, re-establishing a parliamentary institution in Scotland that had last met in 1707. Election of its 129 members (MSPs) to an unicameral (single house) chamber takes place every four-to-five years on a proportional representation (PR) basis, in no small part to avoid single party majorities. Seventy-three members are elected directly by constituencies while the others are elected using a regional list system.

The two methods are integrated so that a political party which does well in terms of numbers of votes, but comes second (or third) in constituency elections, gains 'top up' seats. It also makes it possible for small parties to obtain seats if they gain approximately 5% of list votes in a region. This system makes it difficult for any political party to win an outright majority - at least this was the thinking before the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) resounding electoral success in the fourth Scottish Parliament elections in May 2011.

Take your learning further

The Scottish Parliament's website provides information on the history of the Parliament, election results, elected representatives, and institutional relations with Westminster, the European Union (EU) and other international bodies.

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