An introduction to devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Produced in partnership with Andrew Mylne, Head of Non-Government Bills Unit, Scottish Parliament
An introduction to devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The following Public Law guidance note Produced in partnership with Andrew Mylne, Head of Non-Government Bills Unit, Scottish Parliament provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • An introduction to devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Brexit impact—devolution
  • Devolved institutions and their law-making powers
  • The Scottish Parliament
  • The National Assembly for Wales
  • Northern Ireland Assembly

Devolution is the process of pushing down decision-making to lower levels within the nation-state. Domestically, it refers to the process of giving the smaller nations within the UK their own parliamentary and governmental structures. This Practice Note provides an overview of the law-making bodies created by statute in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Brexit impact—devolution

The UK devolution structures involve complex interaction with EU law and EU competences, and are therefore impacted by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. For general updates on the process and preparations for Brexit, see Practice Note: Brexit timeline. For further reading on the impact of Brexit on devolution, see News Analysis: Examining the impact of Brexit and UK-wide common frameworks on devolution.

Devolved institutions and their law-making powers

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have unicameral legislatures consisting of elected members, some of whom also hold office as Ministers exercising executive responsibilities.

The legislatures all:

  1. scrutinise and pass legislation

  2. hold debates both in plenary and in various committees they establish

  3. have a Presiding Officer who chairs plenary proceedings and the body that is responsible for staff, buildings and services

  4. have their own body of staff, headed by a Clerk

The legislation that created the devolved institutions sets limits on matters on which they have legislative competence (ie legal power to legislate) and puts in place