The United Kingdom Parliament registers the UK with the United Nations this way: “Two countries, a principality and a province”. It must surprise hostile unionists to learn Scotland is defined as it should be, a country in its own right. Though indisputably a country Scotland does not enjoy full democratic powers. So, what powers does Scotland have? Not many it didn’t have before being sold to England.
What is The Scotland Act?
In principle, any matter not explicitly listed in the Scotland Act 1998 is implicitly devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Reserved powers can be transferred from Westminster to Scotland under Section 30 of the Scotland Act, for example in the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012.
The Scottish Parliament was reinstated by the Scotland Act 1998, passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the body that governs two nations – Scotland and England: a province – Northern Ireland; and a principality – Wales.
This Act sets out the matters still dealt with by the Westminster Parliament called reserved matters. The legal ability of the Scottish Parliament to legislate (its “legislative competence”) on a matter is largely determined by whether it is reserved or not. Anything not listed as a specific reserved matter in the Act (meaning Westminster forgot to keep it) is automatically the preserve of Scotland.
Historically education and justice always were Scotland’s to govern, the latter in contention whenever the UK Supreme Court tries to override Scottish jurisprudence.
What powers does the Scottish Parliament hold?
The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood governs agriculture, education, the environment, health, local government, and justice. Lately it was given modest tax raising powers, but they are sufficiently hobbled to stop Scotland creating a system radically different from England and so encouraging families and businesses to relocate to Scotland.
Generally, all monies raised in Scotland go to the UK Treasury – including all oil revenues issuing from Scottish waters. plus all VAT, even tax from parking fines. In return for taking Scotland’s wealth the UK Treasury gives Scotland an annual allowance not quite enough to live on, (call it pocket money) a sly way of keeping Scotland cash short.
BBC’s Scottish raised license fee is a prime example of this gross bias whereby it returns a fraction of fees to make programmes in Scotland. For England, Scotland is a cash cow.
What powers does the UK Parliament hold?
Reserved matters are subdivided into two categories: General and specific reservations.
General reservations cover major issues handled centrally by the Parliament in Westminster, some out of courtesy by Scots. They are the constitution, including: the Crown; the Union with England, Northern Ireland and Wales; the UK Parliament; the existence of the (criminal) High Court of Justiciary; the existence of the (civil) Court of Session; registration and funding of political parties; international relations, including: international development; the regulation of international trade; the Home Civil Service; defence; and that old catch-all category – treason.
Specific reservations cover areas of social and economic policy which are reserved to Westminster, listed under 11 ‘heads’. Below is everything England governs that Scotland cannot yet all our lives are affected. Acts and alterations to them can be passed in the House of Commons by a few MPs in quorate in a late night session while we’re asleep.
Head A – Financial and Economic Matters
Fiscal, economic and monetary policy: currency; financial matters; financial markets; money laundering. (Considering there are so many tax havens owned and approved by the UK, “controlling” money laundering isn’t a joke but an extreme irony!)
Head B – Home Affairs
Drug abuse; data protection and access to such information; elections; firearms; film classification; immigration and nationality; scientific procedures on live animals; national security and counter terrorism; betting, gaming and lotteries; (hence the UK Treasury was able to lift £118 million from the Scottish Lottery to fund the debts of the London Olympics) emergency powers; extradition; lieutenancies. (That’s chaps who get to wear gold braid-laden uniforms at formal events with an heraldic badge on their sword.)
Head C – Trade and Industry
Business associations; insolvency; competition; (allowing Rupert Murdoch to own all news and publishing outlets) intellectual property; import and export control; (including blockading Scotland if it regains independence and does better than England in exports) customer protection; product standards, safety and liability; weights and measures; telecommunications; (that means, the internet, Twitter, and GCHQ hacking your phone calls and computer can give the finger to Scotland) postal services; (hence you pay £50 for the delivery of a £5 package if you live in the Highlands) and research councils.
Head D – Energy
Electricity, oil and gas, (no chance those get devolved to Scotland though it actually owns the resources) coal; nuclear energy; energy efficiency.
Head E – Transport
Marine transport; air transport. (Don’t blame Holyrood for profiteering airport charges. Five minutes parking – £3. Ten minutes parking £8. Fifteen minutes parking £16.)
Head F – Social Security
Social Security schemes; child support; pensions. (Westminster retains the right to refuse you welfare payments and social security.)
Head G – Regulation of the Professions
Architects; health professions; auditors. (Scottish accountancy companies are governed by England.)
Head H – Employment
Employment and industrial relations; health and safety. (Broke a leg at work? – sue Westminster! )
Head J – Health and Medicines
Abortion; xenotransplantation; (process of grafting or transplanting organs) embryology, surrogacy; and human genetics; medicines, medical supplies; poisons; welfare foods. (Scotland cannot stop conglomerate pharmaceutical companies from overcharging.)
Head K – Media and Culture
Broadcasting, (BBC bosses are laughing their heads off) public lending rights.
Head L – Miscellaneous
Judicial salaries; equal opportunities; control of weapons, and weapons of mass destruction, (Trident gets dumped wherever Westminster wants it dumped) ordinance survey; the time; (bet that takes you by surprise. This is why every year some Tory land owning MP demands abolishing summer time that favours Scotland’s long winter nights) and finally … outer space. (Let’s hope Westminster doesn’t exploit that one- oh, wait! Dumping the EU means we pay for and build our own satellites.)
The executive powers of Scottish Government ministers generally follow the same boundaries as the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, i.e. if the Parliament can legislate on a matter, then any ministerial powers under statute or royal prerogative are exercised by the Scottish Ministers. It’s also possible for the Scottish Ministers to be given powers in relation to reserved matters, a process known as executive devolution.
Confusion and clueless
The reserved matters continue to be a battle ground over conflicts and anomalies. For example, while the funding of Gaelic Television is controlled by the Scottish Government, broadcasting is a reserved matter, and while energy is a reserved matter – think nuclear power stations – planning permission for power stations is devolved. Fracking is reserved yet the Scottish government can delay it to stop fracking in Scotland.
For the full United Nations document click on the link in the Comments section below under Greg’s contribution – you’ll need half an hour to read it all. Immediately below is the United Nations description of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.