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Scotland has two governments, the UK and Scottish governments.  Each holds power and responsibility over different things and they work together for the people of Scotland.

What is devolution?

Devolution is the decentralisation of power and accountability to be closer to citizens.  The end result should be that local factors are better represented in decision making.

In 1999 the UK Government established a Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive with power and responsibility over the majority of public services in Scotland.  The Scottish Executive was later renamed the Scottish Government.

Areas of UK Government responsibility are ‘reserved’, and areas of Scottish Government responsibility are ‘devolved’.

The Scottish Parliament cannot make laws outside its devolved responsibilities.  There is also a convention that the UK Government will seek the consent of the Scottish Parliament if it is passing laws that could impact on devolved areas.

Devolved matters: Scottish Government Reserved matters: UK Government
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries Broadcasting
Education and training Constitution
Environment Defence and national security
Health, care and social services Immigration
Housing and land use planning Energy
Law and order Employment
Local government Equal opportunities
Sport, arts and tourism Foreign affairs and international relations
Parts of social security Macroeconomic and fiscal policy
Some forms of taxation Pensions, and parts of social security
Many aspects of transport Trade, including international trade

The two governments work together on many issues, supported by the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The history of devolution

In September 1997 there was a referendum in Scotland in which people voted for devolution.  The UK Parliament then passed the Scotland Act 1998 which established the Scottish Parliament, which opened in 1999.

Devolution has not stood still since 1999, with a number of changes and additions to the Scottish Parliament’s powers.  These include the Scotland Act 2016 and Scotland Act 2012, which each devolved significant further powers with cross-party agreement.

How is the Scottish Government funded?

The Scottish Government is responsible for managing its own expenditure and is accountable to the Scottish Parliament.  The Scottish Government’s funding comes from a combination of devolved taxes and revenues as well as the Block Grant.

The Block Grant is the funding transferred to the Scottish Government from the UK Government.  The Block Grant is paid for from taxes and revenues collected across the whole of the UK.  This ensures there is steady and secure funding for the Scottish Government.  The devolution settlement means that expenditure per person on public services in Scotland is higher than the UK average.

Read more about public spending in Scotland - external link

Devolution and Social Security

Responsibility for delivering some benefits in Scotland is being devolved to the Scottish Government.  The new Scottish social security agency will have responsibility for:

  • Ill Health and Disability Benefits:
    • Disability Living Allowance
    • Personal Independence Payment
    • Attendance Allowance
    • Severe Disablement Allowance
    • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Carers Allowance
  • Sure Start Maternity Grant (replaced by the Best Start Grant)
  • Funeral Expenses
  • Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments
  • Discretionary Housing Payments
  • Some powers in relation to Universal Credit (e.g. the ability to split payments between household members)

More information

Find out more about Scotland in the UK.