(22)  The Scottish Parliament

In July 1997 the Government published its proposals for Scottish devolution in a White Paper entitled Scotland’s Parliament (Cm 3658). The White Paper proposed the establishment of a Scottish Parliament with tax-varying powers, to sit in Edinburgh. The basis of devolution was that all matters not specifically reserved to Westminster would be devolved. Matters reserved are to include “common markets for UK goods and services at home and abroad”, which encompasses the law on companies and business associations, insurance, corporate insolvency and intellectual property, regulation of financial institutions and financial services, competition policy (subject to satisfactory rights of representation in the Scottish interest), consumer protection, energy regulation, international trade policy and Export Credit Guarantee Department matters. Employment law and social security will also not be devolved. Matters to be devolved include criminal law and procedure (but not including drugs and firearms), civil law, judicial appointments, courts and tribunals, legal aid, prosecution, prisons, parole and police. The referendum on these proposals was held on 11 September 1997. On a turnout of 60.4% of the electorate, 74.3% agreed that there should be a Scottish Parliament, and 63.5% agreed that it should have tax-varying powers. The location of the Parliament is a matter of public debate, with three sites in the Edinburgh area in contention: Calton Hill (which until recently was understood to be the likely location), Leith (conveniently beside the main buildings of The Scottish Office), and Haymarket. Another White Paper, Rights Brought Home: The Human Rights Bill (Cm 3782: October 1997), makes clear that Acts of the Scottish Parliament which are inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights will be challengeable in the courts as unlawful. Courts will by contrast only be able to find Acts of the Westminster Parliament incompatible with the Convention without affecting the validity or continuing operation of the legislation.

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