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MPs launch inquiry into UK-Scotland government relations

18 July 2023

Twenty-five years on from the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Affairs Committee today launches an inquiry on how intergovernmental relations between the UK and Scottish governments have evolved since the establishment of the Scottish Executive. The Scotland Act forms the basis of the Scottish devolution settlement.

In this new inquiry, MPs on the cross-party Committee aim to understand how intergovernmental relations processes have evolved to respond to major political events such as Scotland’s independence referendum, the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Government and Brexit.

Despite recent changes to improve the transparency and accountability of relations between the UK Government and devolved administrations, criticisms of the IGR framework remain.

The new framework, introduced in January last year, saw governments agree to reform the overall IGR structure, including the dispute resolution process and ministers’ reporting requirements. However, the newly formed committees have held fewer meetings than anticipated and some key policy area groups such as Justice, Transport and Health have only recently been established.

MPs will examine how effectively the new framework has been operating since its introduction, and to what extent it has been implemented.

The Committee invites written evidence submissions from experts and interested parties on the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Chair comment

Commenting on the new inquiry, Pete Wishart MP, Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, said:

“This November we will celebrate 25 years of the Scotland Act, legislation that established the Scottish Parliament and a devolved government. Today, the Scottish Affairs Committee launches a new inquiry to mark this defining moment in Scotland’s political history.

“In the inquiry, we will trace how intergovernmental relations have developed since the Act was passed, asking key individuals involved in the changes on how effectively Holyrood and Westminster have worked together on policy challenges during this period.

“We will be taking a closer look at recent changes to intergovernmental processes, including how the UK’s four governments work together post-Brexit to manage policy development and divergence. As governments look to accommodate this constitutional change, we will question whether the tools for effective cooperation between Scotland and Westminster operate as best they can.”

Terms of reference

The Committee invites written submissions by 23.59 on Thursday 21 September 2023. These should focus on any of the questions below:

  • How did the 1998 Scotland Act and subsequent intergovernmental bodies envisage the operational relationship between the UK Government and Scottish Executive?
  • How effectively have processes for managing intergovernmental relations evolved to respond to various political developments since 1999, for example:
      • The 2014 independence referendum;
      • Changes in governing party in both Westminster and Edinburgh;
      • The devolution of further powers to the Scottish Government; and
      • The UK’s exit from the EU?
  • How effectively has the new intergovernmental relations framework operated since January 2022?
  • To what extent has the new intergovernmental relations framework been fully implemented?
  • To what extent has the new intergovernmental framework succeeded in developing an effective dispute resolution mechanism to resolve or mitigate conflict between the UK and Scottish governments?
  • How far does the new intergovernmental relations framework provide sufficient transparency and opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny, and how does this compare to previous arrangements?

Further information

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