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Constitutional Change – New Labour  and Devolution

The Conservatives had no MPs left in Scotland in 1997 and Labour was committed to devolution after participation in the Scottish Constitutional Convention with the Liberal Democrats and civic groups.

After a referendum gave 74% support, Scotland was given a Parliament with devolved powers to make legislation on most domestic areas of policy such as health, education and agriculture and the ability to raise income tax by 3p in the £ in the Scotland Act, 1998.

Wales was more or less dragged along by the enthusiasm for Scottish devolution but a referendum produced a tiny majority for a Welsh Assembly. The Government of Wales Act, 1998 created a rather weaker Welsh Assembly which still controlled most domestic policies but had to get agreement from Westminster for legislation.

Northern Ireland had been given a Parliament at Stormont in 1922 but with the intensification of the IRA campaign and Catholic/Protestant conflict it had been suspended.

Blair’s negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement with the two Catholic parties and the Ulster Unionist Party led to the Northern Ireland Act, 1998 which created a New Stormont Parliament which was designed to have ministers from both communities and also created some joint institutions with the Irish Republic.