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Devolution and Scottish moves toward Independence

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Devolution and Scotlands Independence

The UK Constitution

Based on three major documents:

1215: The Magna Carta

1628: Petition of Right

1689: The Bill of Rights

Each of these documents reinforced the constitutional monarchy (shared power between the monarch and the parliament).

1215: The Magna Carta1628: Petition of Right1689: The Bill of Rights

The UKs Constitutional Monarchy

Monarch(Monarchy)House of Lords (aristocracy)House of Commons (Democracy)


Symbolic, ceremonial role

Head of State of UK and Commonwealth

Head of the Church of England (Anglican Church)

House of Lords

Members can be Hereditary Peers or Life Peers (Duke, Earle, Marquess, Viscount, Baron)

Traditionally had the Power to amend or reject bills of law (this power has been severely restricted)

Main function is to debate and consider important issues

Peers and Peeresses are not paid

House of Commons

(From the French House of communes): elected members represent constitutencies from around the state

Most powerful house in parliament


All constituencies (districts) in all UK countries can elect a member of parliament to the Westminster government.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, however, also have devolved governments.

Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the parliament of the United Kingdom to the Scottish parliament; the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Irish Assembly.

The Colonisation of Ulster: from 1610

16th -17th c. plantations in North America

Scottish Lowland Calvinists

Dublin in 1916

Partition of Ireland 1921

Stormont House, near Belfast

1st Devolution: Northern Ireland 1921

Historical colonisations had led to two communities in Ireland (Protestant) pro-British Unionists in the North and (Catholic) pro-Irish Nationalists in the rest of the country.

After the Irish War of Independence in the 1920s, the Irish Free State or Eire (later to become the Republic of Ireland) was created in 1922.

As part of this deal, the northern part of the island was agreed to remain within the United Kingdom, creating a new province called Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland was granted a devolved government at Stormont, with limited control over its own affairs.

The resulting province was controlled by a Unionist majority, and shared with a Nationalist minority causing immediate tensions on both sides of the border.

Removing symbols of British rule, Dublin 1922

Unionists in Northern Ireland

Orange Marches - Belfast manipulation in Unionist-controlled Northern Ireland

The IRA, Belfast, 1960s

British Army patrol, Belfast 1980s (?)

The Good Friday Agreement, 1998 a cease to 30 years of war in Northern Ireland

The Northern Irish Assembly

Established in 1921, when the Republic of Ireland left the UK

Members include:

Unionists (who wish Northern Ireland to remain in the UK)

And Nationalists (who wish Northern Ireland to leave the UK and rejoin the Republic of Ireland)

The Good Friday Agreement (1998), which ended the war in Northern Ireland ensures that Unionists and Nationalists have equal representation in government. Before this, the government was largely controled by unionist parties.

Composition of Northern Irish Assembly

Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament

Established in 1998 by referendum

Strongly linked with Labour governments until 2015, when the SNP won a landslide majority

Controls legislature concerning education, health, agriculture, and justice

Issues that the Scottish Parliament is not permitted to legislate upon: abortion, broadcasting policy, civil service, common markets for UK goods and services, constitution, electricity, coal, oil, gas, nuclear energy, defence and national security, drug policy, employment, foreign policy and relations with Europe, most aspects of transport safety and regulation, National Lottery, protection of borders, social security and stability of UK's fiscal, economic and monetary system.[50]

Parliament at Holyrood, near Edinburgh

Main Political parties

SNP Scottish National Party: The SNP wish for Scotland to leave the UK, and become an independent sovereign state like the Republic of Ireland.

Labour Party (The next biggest party in Scotland)

Conservative Party (Traditionally very unpopular in Scotland)

Distribution of Political Power in Holyrood

Shared Monarchy of England and Scotland

Arguments in favour of Independence (from Edinburgh News 2014)

1. Decisions about Scotland are best made by the people who live here

2. Scotland can be a successful country in its own right

3. An independent Scotland would make decisions that reflected Scottish priorities

4. Independence would be a declaration of confidence in ourselves and our nation

5. Scotland could set its own welfare priorities

6. Scotland could get rid of Trident

7. Scotland would not get dragged into illegal wars

8. North Sea oil revenues would be put to good use

9. Scotland could adopt a different immigration policy

10. Scotland will continue to have good relationships with England, Wales and Northern Ireland but on a more equal basis

Arguments against Independence (from Edinburgh News 2014)

1. The UK is a successful union dating back 300 years

2. Being part of the UK offers more economic security

3. Jobs could be lost

4. Major projects could be frozen

5. Prices could rise

6. Scotland benefits from UK research funding

7. No-one knows what currency Scotland would use

8. Scotland would have less influence in the world

9. The BBC should not be put at risk

10. Security is better handled on a UK-wide basis

Electoral map 2014:

Light orange: Liberal Democrats (centre party)Yellow: SNPRed: LabourBlue Conservative

2016 Electoral Map, with SNP controlling almost all constituencies of Scotland

By Brythones, recoloured by Cryptographic.

EU referendum voter map

West Lothian Question

For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate ... at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on English politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?[8]

- Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP for the Scottish constituency of West Lothian, 1977