Scotland's right to choose: putting Scotland's future in Scotland's hands

The Scottish Government's case for giving the people of Scotland the right to choose their constitutional future.

Annex A: Scotland as a nation - its constitutional story so far

Scotland is a nation, with the institutions of a nation. Following the political union of the two Kingdoms and Parliaments, distinct legal and national institutions were retained in Scotland: the separate Scottish legal system and courts system, separate local government in Scotland, a distinctive tradition in university and school governance, and the independence of the Scottish church. The Lord Advocate and Solicitor General for Scotland were retained as ministerial offices in respect of Scotland. Nationhood persisted.[65]

Administrative devolution-the separate ministerial and official discharging of domestic responsibilities in Scotland-developed in 1885, with the appointment of the Secretary for Scotland. From 1892, this minister sat in Cabinet, and from 1926 was renamed the Secretary of State for Scotland, with full Cabinet rank. Administrative devolution recognised the different needs of Scotland and the different institutional architecture of the state in Scotland.

At various points in the 20th century all major political parties supported an assembly or parliament in Scotland. In 1997, following a pledge in the Labour manifesto, a referendum was held in Scotland on the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. The Scottish people voted by a large margin for the Scottish Parliament and for tax-varying powers, and it was opened in July 1999.

Through the 20th and 21st centuries, both before and after devolution, Scotland developed its national institutions: a Scottish NHS was established after the Second World War, and further devolution since 2012 has led to the establishment of national Scottish bodies for the collection of tax and for the administration of social security. The Scottish judiciary, courts and prosecution services already operate in a number of international forums, with the Crown Office, the Scottish courts and Police Scotland independently participating in structures for European judicial and prosecutorial cooperation. The Scottish Government's international offices and programmes of international development represent and promote Scotland internationally.


1100s: the consolidation of royal power in Scotland under David I leads to the emergence of Scottish nationhood.

1306: Robert Bruce is crowned King of Scots during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

1320: the Declaration of Arbroath leads to wider recognition of Scotland as a nation-state, both within these islands and internationally.

1400s: the Universities of St Andrew's, Glasgow and Aberdeen are founded.

1472: Norway cedes Orkney and Shetland to the Scottish Crown.

1532: the College of Justice, comprising Scotland's highest courts, is established.

1603: James VI of Scotland inherits the throne of the Kingdom of England in the Union of the Crowns. Scotland and England remain separate nation-states.

Until 1707: apart from a short period of incorporation into a Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, Scotland remains an independent country.

1707: the treaty of Union between the independent kingdoms of Scotland and England creates a union state under a single Crown and Parliament. Scotland's legal system, educational system and religious institutions are preserved by the terms of the Union.

1853: the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights is formed.

1885: the first Secretary for Scotland is appointed, to represent Scottish interests in the UK Government.

1886: the Scottish Home Rule Association is formed.

1913: a Home Rule Bill for Scotland passes its Second Reading in the UK Parliament, but the First World War prevents its passage.

1934: the Scottish National Party (SNP) is formed.

1948: under the post-war Labour government, a separate National Health Service in Scotland is established.

1968: the Declaration of Perth commits the Conservatives to Scottish devolution.

1973: the Kilbrandon Report recommends devolved assemblies for Scotland and Wales.

1973: the United Kingdom joins the European Communities, later to become the European Union.

1975: in a referendum on whether to remain in the European Communities, the United Kingdom as a whole votes to remain, with 58% of Scottish voters choosing to remain.

1979: in a referendum on establishing a devolved assembly in Scotland, 52% of those that voted supported its establishment, though this fell short of the 40% of the total electorate required by the referendum legislation.

1989: the Claim of Right is signed by Scottish political and civic leaders. It asserts the right of the people of Scotland to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.

1995: the Scottish Constitutional Convention publishes Scotland's Parliament, Scotland's Right, a blueprint for a Scottish assembly.

1997: over 74% of those voting in a referendum on devolution in Scotland support the establishment of a Scottish Parliament.

1998: the Scotland Act is passed, establishing the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive (now Government).

1999: the first post-devolution Scottish Parliament convenes and a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition Scottish Executive is formed.

2007: the first administration that supports an independent Scotland is formed, an SNP minority government. It begins a National Conversation about the benefits of both further devolution and independence.

2009: the Calman Commission, a review of the Scottish Parliament's powers set up by the Scottish Parliament following the 2007 election, recommends further devolution, including of tax-raising powers.

2012: the Scottish Government and UK Government sign the Edinburgh Agreement.

2013: the Scottish Government publishes Scotland's Future, the most comprehensive prospectus for an independent country ever prepared.

2014: a referendum on Scottish independence is held, with a turnout of 85%. 55% of voters choose to stay in the United Kingdom. Following the referendum, the Smith Commission is established to recommend further devolution to the Scottish Parliament.

2016: a referendum on EU membership is held. 62% of Scottish voters choose to remain in the EU, but the referendum is a victory for leaving the EU.

2016: further powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, including powers over the electoral system in Scotland and some powers over social security.

2017: for the first time, Scotland sets separate income tax rates and bands from the rest of the UK.

2018: for the first time, by passing the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the UK Parliament legislates in respect of devolved matters without the Scottish Parliament's consent, in breach of the Sewel Convention.

2019: the Scottish Government seeks to agree with the UK Government a process and legal basis for holding a referendum on Scottish independence.



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