Scottish devolution: the essential facts

September 5, 1997

The Government's white paper, Scotland's Parliament, proposes the biggest reshaping of the United Kingdom's constitution since the partition of Ireland in 1922.

Next Thursday the electors of Scotland will vote on two questions: should the country have its own parliament and should that parliament have tax-varying powers. If the Scottish people vote for the latter, the parliament will be able to raise or lower the basic rate of tax by 3p - Pounds 450 million in total. If there is a yes-yes vote in the referendum, legislation will be brought to the House of Commons in November and should receive the royal assent by summer 1998. Scottish elections will take place early in 1999, with a view to parliament starting work in January 2000.

According to the white paper: l Sovereignty will rest ultimately with the Westminster parliament, the Queen will remain head of state for the whole of the UK and the Government in London will remain responsible for foreign policy, defence and national security, as well as for sensitive issues such as abortion, social security and employment legislation.

l An Edinburgh parliament will have 129 members, 73 directly elected every four years and another 56 elected on a proportional basis from party lists drawn up for each of the current European parliament constituencies.

lMembers, elected for a fixed four-year-term, will be known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).

lAlthough relations with Europe will remain the responsibility of Westminster, there will be a Scottish representative office in Brussels.

lThe Scottish secretary will remain in the cabinet, but will have no powers to override the Scottish parliament.

lThe Scottish parliament will not be able to vote for independence.

lThe parliament will cost about Pounds 5 for every person in Scotland.

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