Scotland: A European Nation

This publication outlines the historical, political and constitutional context that gives legitimacy to Scotland’s voice in the Brexit debate.

4 Scotland's constitution: more than 1,000 years as a proud nation

Timeline: Scotland's constitution: more than 1,000 years as a proud nation

1 Independent Kingdom of the Scots.

2 Robert the Bruce secures independence and Scotland's claim to nationhood is accepted by the Pope in Rome, after being affirmed in the Declaration of Arbroath.

3 The Union of the Crowns - the King of Scotland assumed the thrones of England and Ireland.

4 Treaty of Union - a union which, by mutual consent, joins the Kingdoms and Parliaments of Scotland and England but preserves the Scottish legal system, the Scottish education system and the distinctive Scottish Presbyterian Church.

5 The UK joins the European Economic Community ( EEC).

6 Referendum on devolution, 74% of voters supported the re-establishment of a Scottish Parliament with legislative and tax-varying powers.

7 Scottish Parliament re-established with devolved powers over many domestic matters such as justice, education, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, and health. Other matters, such as the economy, foreign affairs and defence, remain the reserved responsibility of Westminster.

8 Scotland Act extends powers of the Scottish Parliament to include greater tax responsibilities.

9 Independence Referendum: Yes: 45%; No: 55%. EU nationals resident in Scotland were given a vote. Post-referendum, the UK Government started a process of devolving more powers to Scotland leading to greater powers over income tax and social security.

10 2016 Further Scotland Act extends the Scottish Parliament's devolved powers over income tax and, for the first time, aspects of social security.

11 The Scottish National Party is elected for a third consecutive term as the Government of Scotland. Its manifesto includes a commitment to considering a further referendum on independence if "there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will."

12 EU Referendum - Scotland voted 62% to remain, with every local authority area returning a positive result. All parties in the Scottish Parliament supported a Remain vote.

The Scottish Parliament and Government can enact policies and legislation in major areas of domestic policy known as 'devolved' matters. Other areas, known as 'reserved' ma tters, remain the responsibility of Westminster and the UK Government. Many of Scotland's devolved powers are also affected by EU law, as outlined in the list below.

Key: ♦ Aspects of EU competence

Powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament

♦ Agriculture, forestry and fisheries

♦ Aspects of consumer advocacy and advice

Crown estate

♦ Culture and creative industries

♦ Economic development

♦ Education and training

♦ Energy: onshore oil and gas licensing; energy efficiency; the promotion of renewable energy generation; and fuel poverty schemes

♦ Environment and planning

Fire services

♦ Health and social services


♦ Justice (including policing, courts and tribunals)

Local government

♦ Tourism and sport

Taxation: income tax rates and thresholds; taxes on air travel; property transactions

♦ Welfare: certain social security benefits; power to create new benefits, top up and vary UK benefits

Powers reserved to Westminster


The Crown

Defence and security

Economic and monetary policy, including the currency and interest rates

♦ Employment

♦ Other aspects of energy

♦ Most aspects of equal opportunities

Foreign policy


Social security


♦ Trade and industry (including competition and consumer protection)

♦ Transport (aviation, shipping, road traffic law, vehicle and driver licensing)

Implications of Brexit on devolved powers

Scottish devolution is underpinned by EU law, which plays an important part in shaping the powers and policies of the Scottish Parliament and Government, and directly provides rights and freedoms for the people of Scotland.

Leaving the EU would impact immediately on how Scotland is governed within the UK as the devolved structures are based firmly on the assumption of continuing EU membership.

Many of the areas currently covered by EU law, such as agriculture and the environment, are the sole responsibility of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament, which will develop and implement policy for Scotland following the UK's exit from the EU.

However, in areas which remain the responsibility of the UK Government, such as employment and immigration, the Scottish Parliament may need to actively protect the rights currently enjoyed by Scottish citizens, which will no longer be guaranteed by EU law.

Constitutionally and politically, it is therefore imperative that Scotland's interests are heard and acted on.

The UK Prime Minister said in July that she wanted the Scottish Government to be fully engaged in the discussion and that she will not trigger Article 50 until there is a UK approach and objectives for negotiations. Constitutionally, such an approach is entirely proper, given the status of Scotland within the UK and the central role of the EU in the current constitutional arrangements.

The Scottish Government expects the UK Government to stand by that commitment and has cooperated with the UK Government on establishing a formal mechanism for engagement.

The Scottish Government regards the consent of the Scottish Parliament as essential when a UK negotiating position is finally put forward by the UK Government and reserves the right to dissent from that position if Scotland's interests are not properly and fully represented within it.

The Scottish Government will continue to engage with EU institutions and member states as well as EU nationals living in Scotland to ensure that Scotland's key interests and relationship with Europe are shared and understood.

Brexit poses a fundamental threat to these rights and interests, in areas that are within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, but also in areas where power in Scotland is still claimed by Westminster, such as employment law and migration rights. In these areas Scottish citizens enjoy protections under EU law that could be changed or withdrawn by the actions of the Westminster Government.

Whilst we accept that the formal EU negotiating role belongs constitutionally to the UK, it is also clear that Scotland's political history and current constitutional framework make it imperative that our distinctive voice and view are heard loud and clear in London and throughout Europe.

That is not only in our interest, it is also in the interest of the UK and the EU and of all those who want to see a progressive future for Europe.


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