Devolved and Reserved Matters

What is devolution?

The main job of any parliament is to make laws. The main function of the Scottish Parliament is to make laws which affect the Scottish people.

The Scottish Parliament is part of a process known as devolution. Devolution is a system of government which allows decisions to be made at a more local level. In the UK there are several examples of devolved government including: the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Greater London Authority (Mayor of London and London Assembly).

Under this system of devolution Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom and the UK Parliament in Westminster is sovereign (has ultimate power).

The Scottish Parliament has power to introduce new laws on a wide range of important issues which affect our everyday lives. These are known as devolved matters.

The Scottish Parliament does not have the power to pass laws in other areas known as reserved matters. Only the United Kingdom Parliament can pass laws on reserved matters.

Devolved powers

The following areas are decided in Scotland.


  • Health
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Sport and Arts
  • Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing
  • Emergency Services
  • Planning
  • Social Work
  • Heritage
  • some Transport
  • Tourism  

Reserved powers

Decisions (mostly about matters with a UK or international impact) are reserved and dealt with at Westminster.

  • Defence
  • UK Foreign Policy
  • Social Security
  • Financial & Economic Matters
  • Employment
  • Constitutional matters
  • Immigration & Nationality
  • Monetary System
  • Common Markets
  • Some transport
  • Data Protection
  • Energy
  • Gambling
  • Medical Ethics
  • Equal Opportunities


The UK Parliament at Westminster retains power to legislate on any matter, but the convention of devolution is that the UK Parliament will not normally legislate on devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.