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A summary of devolved government in Scotland

Here we set out the interesting history of creating a devolved government in Scotland.

Scotland was historically independent. In 1707 the separate Scottish Parliament was merged with the English Parliament in Westminster to create a British Parliament. However, Scotland maintained a separate legal system, a different Established Church and differences in education and local government. 

Growing dissatisfaction up to 1997

Dissatisfaction with control from London developed from the 1960s. In the October 1974 general election, the Scottish National Party had 11 Members of Parliament.

As a result, in 1979 the Labour Government held a referendum on a proposal for devolved government for Scotland.  The Scots voted narrowly for devolution. However, Labour MPs who were hostile to devolution had inserted a requirement. It said that 40% of registered voters had to vote Yes for the legislation to come into force. The vote failed to pass this hurdle.

During the periods of Conservative Government from 1979 to 1997, the Scottish electorate became increasingly alienated. It struggled with the policies being carried out by a Government dominated by England. Consequently the Conservative Party gradually lost seats and by 1997 had no MPs at all in Scotland. 

By this time, a broad based Convention, supported by Scottish interest groups and the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, had developed ideas for a new devolution settlement. 

When the Labour Party, under Prime Minister Tony Blair, came to power in 1997 they immediately held a new referendum. Scottish voters overwhelmingly agreed to set up a Scottish Parliament. Significantly, it gave Scotland powers to vary income tax by a small amount.