Scotland / Alba
Priority areas of work within BIC:
Energy (jointly with the UK); and
Social Inclusion (jointly with Wales)
Capital City: Edinburgh
Scotland is one of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom and home to around 5.2 million people. Sovereign political power in Scotland lies with the United Kingdom Parliament in Westminster. However, following a referendum held in 1997, in which the majority of people resident in Scotland voted in favour of establishing a new parliament, a wide range of devolved matters are now dealt with by the Scottish Parliament which sits in Holyrood, Edinburgh.
The Scottish Parliament reconvened on the 1st of July 1999 after having been adjourned on the 25th of March 1707. It is a unicameral legislative assembly comprising 129 Members. Elections are ordinarily held every four years on the first Thursday in May, using the “additional member” system, which means that 73 are elected using the first past the post system whilst the remaining 56 are drawn from regional party lists. This system was employed to ensure that the overall result reflects as closely as possible the share of the votes cast for each party.
The Scottish Government is headed by the First Minister and is made up of those MSPs who have been appointed by the First Minister as Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers. It is supported in its work by the Scottish Executive, a body of civil servants, which since a rebranding in 2007 has also been known as the Scottish Government. Legally, “Scottish Executive” remains the official title of the civil service in Scotland, but one of the clauses in the new Scotland Bill (2011), if passed, will make this change official.
The Scottish Government holds responsibility for the majority of matters affecting the day to day lives of the people of Scotland, including:
- Arts, Culture and Sport,
- Business and Industry,
- Education and Training,
- Health and Wellbeing,
- Housing and Regeneration,
- Research, Statistics and Records,
- Rural Development, Environment and Fisheries, and
The Scottish Government's budget for 2011-12 is around £33.6 billion.
Scotland still holds representation within the UK Government in the form of 59 elected Members of Parliament. The UK Government remains responsible for matters that are seen as important to the UK as a whole. These are known as “reserved” issues and include:
- Foreign affairs,
- Social Security,
- Macro-Economic Management and Trade
 The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 made provision for a one-off extension of the Scottish Parliamentary term to 5 years, to avoid a Scottish Parliamentary Election falling on the same day as a UK-wide General Election.