Legislative Consent Memorandums are usually lodged in the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Government. They relate to Bills under consideration in the United Kingdom Parliament which contain what are known as “relevant provisions”. These provisions could:
- change the law on a “devolved matter” (an area of policy which the UK Parliament devolved to the Scottish Parliament in the Scotland Act 1998); or
- alter the “legislative competence” of the Scottish Parliament (its powers to make laws) or the “executive competence” of Scottish Ministers (their powers to govern).
Under an agreement known as the “Sewel Convention”, the UK Parliament will not normally pass Bills that contain relevant provisions without first obtaining the consent of the Scottish Parliament. The consent itself is given through a motion (a Legislative Consent Motion) which is taken in the Chamber – but the detailed scrutiny is undertaken by a Scottish Parliament committee on the basis of a memorandum. The motion must normally be decided on before the Bill reaches its final amending stage at the UK Parliament in the House in which it was first introduced. On occasion, a memorandum is lodged which invites the Parliament to note that the Scottish Government does not intend to lodge a legislative consent motion on a particular bill.
The Sewel Convention was named after Lord Sewel, Minister of State in the Scottish Office during the passage of the Scotland Bill in 1998. In the Lords Committee Stage of the Scotland Bill he stated that the Government expected "a convention to be established that Westminster would not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament" (21 July 1998, Lords Hansard, vol 592, col 791).
The procedure for scrutiny of Legislative Consent Memorandums and Motions is set out in Chapter 9B of the Parliament’s standing orders.