Overview of Decision Making for Scotland

The United Kingdom (UK) is a democracy. A democracy is a country where the people choose their government.

In the UK there are too many people to ask and too many decisions to take therefore representatives are elected to make these decisions. Representatives include Members of Parliament (MPs), Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and local councillors.

As Scotland is part of the United Kingdom some of the decisions on what happens in Scotland are made at the UK Parliament at Westminster, London. However, since 1999, some decisions for Scotland have been taken at the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh.

Why two parliaments?

Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom since 1707, but has always retained its own identity. For example, Scotland shares a common language and currency with the rest of the UK but has its own legal and education systems.

In the same way, Scottish people may be a part of the British Olympic team, there are also separate Scottish football and rugby teams. As a result of this distinct identity, many people have long seen themselves as both Scottish and British.

In the last thirty to forty years, there have been increasing calls for more decisions about Scotland to be made in Scotland rather than at the UK Parliament in London. This is known as devolution.

Why was the Scottish Parliament set up?

In 1997 a Labour UK Government was elected to power with a commitment to devolution for Scotland. However, before a Scottish Parliament could be set up a referendum (single issue vote) was held.

In 1998, a clear majority of Scots (74%) voted in favour of a Scottish Parliament. Two years later, on 1 July 1999, the Scottish Parliament was opened at Holyrood in Edinburgh.