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Scottish Parliament

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The Scottish Parliament is the national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood" (cf. "Westminster"), is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members who are known as Members of the Scottish Parliament, or MSPs. Members are elected for four-year terms under the mixed member proportional representation system. As a result, 73 MSPs represent individual geographical constituencies elected by the plurality ("first past the post") system, with a further 56 returned from eight additional member regions, each electing seven MSPs.

The current Scottish Parliament was established by the Scotland Act 1998 and its first meeting as a devolved legislature was on 12 May 1999. The parliament has the power to pass laws and has limited tax-varying capability. Another of its roles is to hold the Scottish Government to account. The "devolved matters" over which it has responsibility include education, health, agriculture, and justice. A degree of domestic authority, and all foreign policy, remains with the UK Parliament in Westminster.

The public take part in Parliament in a way that is not the case at Westminster through Cross-Party Groups on policy topics which the interested public join and attend meetings of alongside Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).

The resurgence in Celtic language and identity, as well as 'regional' politics and development, has contributed to forces pulling against the unity of the state. This was clearly demonstrated when - although some argue it was influenced by general public dillusionment with Labour - the Scottish National Party (SNP) became the largest party in the Scottish Parliament by one seat.

Alex Salmond (leader of SNP) has since made history by becoming the first First Minister of Scotland from a party other than Labour. The SNP governed as a minority administration at Holyrood following the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. Nationalism (support for breaking up the UK) has experienced a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years, with a pivotal moment coming at the 2011 Scottish Parliament election where the SNP capitalised on the collapse of the Liberal Democrat support to improve on their 2007 performance to win the first ever outright majority at Holyrood (despite the voting system being specifically designed to prevent majorities), with Labour remaining the largest opposition party.

This election result prompted the leader of the three main opposition parties to resign. Iain Gray was succeeded as Scottish Labour leader by Johann Lamont, Scottish Conservative and Unionist leader, Annabel Goldie was replaced by Ruth Davidson, and Tavish Scott, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats was replaced by Willie Rennie.

A major SNP manifesto pledge was to hold a referendum on Scottish Independence, which was duly granted by the UK Government and held on 18 September 2014. When the nationalists came to power in 2011, opinion polls placed support for independence at around 31%, but in 2014, 45% voted to leave the union. In the wake of the referendum defeat, membership of the SNP surged to over 100,000, overtaking the Liberal Democrats as the third largest political party in the UK by membership, and in the general election of May 2015 the SNP swept the board and took 56 of the 59 Westminster constituencies in Scotland (far surpassing their previous best of 11 seats in the late 1970s) and winning more than 50% of the Scottish vote.

Alex Salmond resigned as First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP following the country's rejection of independence in September 2014, and was succeeded in both roles by the deputy First Minister and deputy leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon. Also in the wake of the referendum, Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, stood down and Jim Murphy was elected to replace her. Mr Murphy was the leader of Scottish Labour Party until the general election on 2015 in which he lost his seat in Westminster, after the defeat he resigned his position and her deputy MSP Kezia Dugdale became leader of the party and leader of SLP in Holyrood. At 2017 she unexpectedly resigned and was elected as SLP leader the English born Richard Leonard.


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