When Elizabeth died there was no one to take over and James VI of Scotland inherted after her and became the king of England and Scotland and union of these two crowns under James was established in 1603. With the Act of Union which was signed in 1707 Scotland was fully brought into the Union. Many people in Scotland did not like the union, but the problem was that England was their most important market and English Parliament threatened to forbid the exports of Scottish products to England. Scottish landowners were dependent in market in England and it would ruin their economy if England banned exports of products from Scotland to England. We can say that Scotland was forced into the union. But Scotland continued to have their own church, educational and legal system.
What does devolution mean? Devolution means transferring of some powers from Westminister Parliament to the other parts of the countries. It is important to know that it does not mean independence. Devolution was given to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The background for devolution
In the nineteenth century the nationalist feelings and political nationalism increased in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. People in these regions started to think more about their national identities and they felt that their cultures and identities were different from other parts of the country. The attempts to give them some political powers did not succeed, but in 1999 and year 2000 the labour government brought into existence a Parliament, Which was elected, in Scotland and which had legislative and tax-varying powers. The labour government also brought into existence an Assembly in Wales and Northern Ireland. The Assembly in Wales is elected, but it is not a legislative and tax- varying Assembly. The Assembly in Northern Ireland has some executive and legislative power. It is important to know that the Westminster Parliament still is the highest legislature in UK and if it wants it can withdraw all the powers from Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland. One of the main reasons of devolution was to prevent the split of the Union. By giving more powers to these territories within the UK it is hoped that their populations will wish to remain within the Union.
Referendums Act 1997 and the Scotland Act 1998
When Labour party won the election in 1997 the government put into practice a referendum in Scotland. The aim was to get support for its devolution policies. The referendum resulted for support of establishing a Scottish Parliament and its power to vary taxes. In the same year the Labour government presented the Scotland Bill into the House of Commons. This Bill became the Scotland Act in 1998 and gave some powers to the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Parliament.
The Parliament has 129 members and they are called MSPs. These Maps can carry laws on issues which are devolved to Scotland. The areas which Scotland is devolved are: health and social work, education and training, local Government and housing, Justice and Police, Agriculture, forestry and fisheries, The environment, Tourism, sport and heritage, Economic development and internal transport. And the reserved matters are: UK Single market, Energy regulation, UK and international transport, Immigration and nationality, Social security, Taxation and economic management, Foreign Affairs (including European Union negotiations), Defence and National Security and The Constitution.
The consequences of devolution
Devolution was the greatest change in the government of Scotland. But it has resulted an unbalanced power in different parts of Great Britain and the model or design of devolution is different in each country. The assemblies and parliament in these countries have a different size and composition, a different system of government and as I said different powers. Devolution has created some political and constitutional worries. For example the number and role of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons continue to be overrepresented at Westminster. But the strange thing is the role of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons. They can vote on English matters, for example education system, but English MPs cannot vote on Scottish matters. This has created some discussions in Britain. Some people argue that the process of devolution will not develop more and the pattern, which exists now, will continue within the complicated system of multi-level governance. And some others believe that the devolution process will create a partly-federal or 100% federal Britain.
Some commentaries say that the supreme power of Parliament at Westminster has already been ruined and a Partly-federal system has been formed. There is another possibility according to some people. And that is that Scotland in the future could become an independent country within the EU. It is too soon to say that devolution will result into a Break-up with UK. According to a poll 63% of Scottish people feel that they are Scottish or more Scottish than British.. Devolution for Scotland has a special meaning because Scotland from the start of the Union enjoyed some protection concerning the legal system and the Church of Scotland was protected from the enemies.
I believe that soon or late devolution would happen in Great Britain. What united four nations together, before the British imperia collapsed, was the same national feelings that imperia had created. The imperia had economic advantages and most people were proud of being British. The imperia had created an identity for the all people in the Union and most people enjoyed the Union. But when the imperia collapsed the national feelings and identities, which united these 4 nations, disappeared. After the Second World War people started to search for a new identity and they realized that their cultures, languages and national symbols were different. I believe that what happened after the 1945s were normal and nobody should be surprised. The national feelings and identities have always existed, before the collapse of the imperia and after the collapse. So it was just a matter of time.
I believe that every system of government have some advantages and some disadvantages. Devolution may have created a mess of bureaucracies, but it has brought politics and people closer together and it has given more freedom to people. Through devolution politics are decided by people in Scotland and it is a result of democracy. This is what democracy is about. I know that devolution has created a complex system, but it is just four or five years old. It is too soon to judge and we have to give it some time.