19th November 1998

Scotland Act gains royal assent

The Scotland Act 1998 gained Royal assent following the previous year’s devolution referendum in which 74% voted in favour of a Scottish Parliament, and 63% in favour of that Parliament having the power to set Scottish tax levels. It provided the necessary legal framework for the creation of the Parliament, the post of the First Minister, and a Scottish executive.

Although Scottish Executive is retained as the official name of the governing body, it is more colloquially known as the Scottish government.

Who governs what

The Scotland Act 1998 makes clear on which matters the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate as they are the domain of Westminster. Known as reserved matters, these include international development, defence, foreign affairs, the constitution, broadcasting, and energy regulation, among others.

The first elections held under the auspices of the Scotland Act 1998 took place on 6 May 1999, and the Scottish Parliament was convened on 1 July that year. On the same day, powers that had been held by the Secretary of State for Scotland were assumed by Scottish ministers.

Break up of the UK

However, despite the latitude it gave the Scottish electorate, the Aberdeen Evening Express of 26 November 1998 revealed fears that the Act might not go far enough. “A Labour dominated Commons committee has warned that Scottish devolution could lead to the break up of the UK… A draft report from the Scottish Affairs Select Committee challenges the claim by Prime Minister Tony Blair and senior ministers that a Scottish Parliament would strengthen the UK and warns serious conflict is inevitable between Holyrood and Westminster… devolution is not the end of the matter.”

Devolution vs independence

The 1998 Act was amended with the passing of the Scotland Acts of 2012 and 2016, which devolved progressively more power from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. The 2016 amendments were made following the 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence in which a majority of votes cast were in favour of Scotland remaining a constituent part of the United Kingdom. These gave the Scottish Parliament greater funding by being able to keep hold of air passenger tax, fines and VAT, and the ability to borrow.



Other events that occured in November

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