So what exactly is devolution?

27/04/11

Scotland chooses a new government next week when voters decide who to send to parliament in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Parliament has control over everything from the health service and schools to roads and universities.

But why are there separate elections in the first place? And what is the situation in Northern Ireland and Wales.

What is devolution?

Devolution gave Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland significant control over a wide range of issues that affect people's day to day lives. Power was devolved, or given away, by politicians in London to the assemblies or mini parliament in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh

The idea was that local people and the local politicians they elect to their assemblies or parliament know best when it comes to spending money or making laws on things like the NHS, schools and universities.

Who's in charge?

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness
Image caption Northern Ireland's Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness formed a coalition

Voters will choose new members of the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Assembly in Northern Ireland. If a single party gets a majority of the seats available then it can form the government. At the moment no single party has a majority in either of them.

The Scottish Nationalists (SNP) are in a minority government in Edinburgh. They've had to rely on the support of other parties to get laws through. In Wales Labour and Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) have been in coalition.

Northern Ireland has also had a coalition, made up of the two biggest parties, the Democratic Unionists (DUP) and Sinn Fein.

What are the main differences?

Andrew
Image caption Andrew says Scots expect more things for free as there's a different culture

The Scottish parliament has decided to give Scottish students free university education, free prescriptions and there is also free care for the elderly.

Andrew told Newsbeat he thinks the free stuff should continue, even though budget cuts are coming. He said the culture in Scotland is different and Scots expect more things free at the point of delivery.

Northern Ireland's Assembly has significant control, most importantly over the courts and the police. Moving power over the Police Service of Northern Ireland to Belfast, and getting all sides to recognise the authority of the PSNI was a crucial part of the peace agreement.

The Welsh Assembly has recently been given the go-ahead to take on more power. Last year it asserted its control by moving to suspend the 'right to buy' council houses because there is a shortage of homes available across Wales.

Does it mean independence?

Kerry
Image caption Kerry thinks it's the idea of culture which makes Scots feel Scottish

No it doesn't. In fact devolution and giving power to local politicians in the nations may have blunted moves for independence.

Kerry told Newsbeat she thinks independence doesn't come from politics but from other things, like Irn-Bru.

She said it's culture which makes Scots feel Scottish, not the idea of breaking away and forming their own independent country.