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DEVOLUTION TO SCOTLAND AND WALES



 
 

TO SHOW HOW DEVOLUTION IS BEING IMPLEMENTED IN PRACTICE SINCE THE ACTS


SCOTLAND ACT 1998

Part I: The Scottish Parliament

The elections were held on 6 May 1999 with the following outcomes in terms of seats won.



 
 

LABOUR
56
SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY
35
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
17
CONSERVATIVES
18
INDEPENDENT
3

The turnout was 58%.

The Scottish Parliament has duly assembled and began work on 12 May 1999.  Many of its workingpractices had been considered in a Reportof the Consultative Steering Group on the Scottish Parliament in theScottish Office in late 1998.  See the ScottishParliament web-site for information about

The following committees have been established: Part II: The Scottish Executive
In the 1999 election, Labour was the largest party but it did not win an overall majority. Donald Dewar, the Scottish Secretary of State, became the FirstMinister and resigned from the UK Cabinet. An agreement was made between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats (in which the Liberal leader Jim Wallace became Deputy First Minister), though not a formal coalition.Donald Dewar died suddenly in October 2000. The next First Minister was HenryMcLeish. He resigned in November 2001 after complaints about payments relating to his personal office. The current First Minister is Jack McConnell.

The relationships between the Scottish Administration and the institutionsof government in London have been worked out through A Memorandum of Understanding and "Concordats"(See Cm.4444, 1999). The Memorandum of Understanding sets up a Joint Ministerial Committee, consisting of UK Ministers (who are also supposed to represent England) and Ministers from the devolved bodies. The meetings are confidential.The Concordats deal with the coordination of European Union policy, financial assistance to industry, international relations and the provision of informationto the centre. There are also bilateral concordats between the respectivegovernmental departments in London and Edinburgh. These are significantdocuments but have not been debated in the UK Parliament, nor is thereany statutory basis for them.
 

Other matters

The continuing role of the Secretary of Statewas considered by the Scottish Affairs Committee of the Westminster Parliament.It supported the continuance of Secretary of State in the UK Cabinet (Theoperation of multilayer democracy, 1998-99 HC 460, para.71). It also concludedthat the "West Lothian" question is more likely to be solved by practicalworking relations than by legislation (para.53).

One aspect of the devolution scheme has given rise to litigation, andthat is compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. The EuropeanConvention partially came into force in Scotland on 20 May 1999 by virtueof sections 29 and 57 of the Scotland Act 1998. Section 29 affects thelegislative competence of the Scottish Parliament:

"(1) An Act of the Scottish Parliament is not law so far as any provisionof the Act is outside the legislative competence of the Parliament.

(2) A provision is outside that competence so far as ... (d) it is incompatiblewith any of the Convention rights or with Community law..."

Section 57(2) applies to executive competence:

"A member of the Scottish Executive has no power to make any subordinatelegislation, or to do any other act, so far as the legislation or act isincompatible with any of the Convention rights or with Community law."

The effect is that executive officers in Scotland who are transacting business within their devolved competence must comply with the Convention.Given the extensive responsibilities of the Lord Advocate, this section allows most aspects of criminal process and law to be challenged (including police practices, prosecutions, justice policy, the constitution of courts,and laws of crime, evidence and procedure). Challenges to civil laws and processes have less well-publicised, but several examples have emerged.
 


GOVERNMENT OF WALES ACT 1998

The Assembly

Theelections were held on 6 May 1999 with the following outcomes in termsof seats won 40 constituency Assembly members and 20 addtional membersbased on 5 European constituencies).



 
 

LABOUR
28
PLAID CYMRU
17
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
6
CONSERVATIVES
9

The turnout was just 40%.  For further details on the National Assembly for Wales, see its web-site.  Amongst the matters to note are:


 
 

Executive Committee

The initial Assembly First Secretary was Alun Michael, who was previously Welsh Secretary of State. Labour has no overall majority in the Assembly but is the largest party and has decided to proceed without any coalition orpact. Alan Michael became unpopular - he was seen as very much thecipher of London and therefore unable to secure adequate funding from theTreasury for Wales (a particular problem arose over matching funding inconnection with European Union grants). He therefore resigned from officeon 9 February 2000 ahead of a vote of no confidence (which went ahead andwas carried by 31 votes to 27) and was replaced by Rhodri Morgan, another member of the Labour Party, who took office with the informal consent of the Liberal Party.

After March 2000, the minutes of Cabinet meetings have been published.

As with Scotland, relations with the UK government have been dealt withby A Memorandum of Understanding and "Concordats"
 

Other matters

The continuing role of the Secretary of State remains a matter for evolution. The White Paper always envisaged that there would still be such an office (paras.1.16-1.21). Non-statutory "concordats"are supposed to be worked out in due course. In the meantime the Welsh Affairs Committee of the Westminster Parliament has emphasised the need for a Secretary of State in the UK Cabinet (The impact of the Government's devolution proposals on economic development and local government in Wales,1998-99 HC 325, para.93).  According to the Assembly's web-site:
"As a Cabinet member, the Secretary of State:
 

Under the Government of Wales Act 1998, the Secretary of State for Wales has the power to:

Last updated 1 October 2002

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