"The settled will"? Devolution in Scotland, 1998-2020
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In a speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference in 1994, the then leader of the UK Labour Party, John Smith, referred to a Scottish Parliament as “the settled will of the Scottish people”, the creation of which would form the “cornerstone” of his party’s plan for “democratic renewal” in the United Kingdom.
That Scottish Parliament became a reality in 1999, yet the devolution settlement in Scotland has often been contested, particularly when the Scottish National Party (SNP) entered devolved government for the first time in 2007. Unlike in Wales, where the devolution settlement quickly began to evolve, the first major changes to the powers of the Scottish Parliament took place in 2012.
Taken together with the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which restored devolved institutions in Belfast, and the Government of Wales Act 1998, these three devolution statutes transformed the UK’s territorial constitution.
This briefing paper examines, first, the constitutional status quo in Scotland, then developments in its devolution settlement since the Scotland Act 1998 received Royal Assent on 19 November 1998.
It then looks at, in turn, the amending Scotland Act 2012 and the subsequent Scotland Act 2016, which followed the 2014 independence referendum and again made significant changes to the Scottish Parliament’s fiscal and welfare powers. It concludes by examining the impact of Brexit upon devolution in Scotland.