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About the Scottish Parliament

Devolved and Reserved Powers

Find out about the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the UK Parliament.

What can the Scottish Parliament decide?

The Scottish Parliament has power to make laws on a range of issues known as devolved matters. 

Devolved matters include:

  • agriculture, forestry and fisheries
  • benefits (some aspects)
  • consumer advocacy and advice
  • economic development
  • education and training
  • elections to the Scottish Parliament and local government
  • energy (some aspects)
  • environment
  • equality legislation (some aspects)
  • fire services
  • freedom of information
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • justice and policing
  • local government
  • planning
  • sport and the arts
  • taxation (some aspects)
  • tourism
  • transport (some aspects)

A closer look at devolved matters

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries

This includes most aspects of animal welfare but it does not include animal testing and research.


Some aspects including:

  • Best Start Grant: payments that help cover the costs of pregnancy and looking after a child
  • Carer’s Allowance Supplement: an extra payment to people getting the Carer's Allowance
  • Child Disability Payment: support for disabled children and their families
  • Child Winter Heating Assistance: a payment to help disabled children, young people and their families pay for heating over the winter
  • Funeral Support Payment: help with funeral costs for people on low-income benefits
  • Universal Credit: this is a reserved benefit but some powers over how it is paid have been devolved. For example, people in Scotland can choose to be paid either monthly or fortnightly
  • some benefits still have to be devolved or have been devolved but are not yet delivered by the Scottish Government, for example Winter Fuel Payments and the Personal Independence Payment

Consumer advocacy and advice

Consumer Advice Scotland provides advice on consumer issues.

The Crown Estate

Managing the Crown Estate’s economic assets in Scotland.

Economic development

Including Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, as well as inward investment.

Education and training


  • pre-school, primary, secondary, further, higher and lifelong education
  • training policy and programmes


Some aspects including

  • promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency
  • onshore oil and gas licensing


Scottish Parliament and local government elections.



  • environmental protection policy
  • climate change
  • pollution
  • waste management
  • water supplies and sewerage
  • national parks
  • flood and coastal protection

Equality legislation

Some aspects such as the appointment of non-executives to the boards of Scottish public bodies

Fire services

Freedom of information

Gaming machine licensing

Scottish Ministers are able to set the maximum number of fixed odds betting terminals allowed on betting premises. This power applies only to applications for new betting shops.

Health and Social Services

Including the NHS, mental health, abortion, and social care


Including policy and building control

Justice and Policing

Including civil justice, civil law and procedure, courts, criminal justice, criminal law and procedure, the police, debt and bankruptcy, family law, legal aid, the legal profession, and property law 

Local Government


Sport and the arts


  • Creative Scotland
  • the national gallery, library and museum collections
  • national performing companies
  • SportScotland (the national agency for sport)


Some aspects including:

  • Land and Buildings Transaction Tax: this tax is fully devolved and replaced the UK stamp duty tax. It is charged when you buy a home or commercial building
  • Scottish Landfill Tax: this tax is fully devolved and replaced UK landfill tax. It is a tax on rubbish and landfill waste
  • Aggregates Levy: this is a tax on the commercial exploitation of aggregates (for example rock, gravel, sand). The Scotland Act 2016 gave the Scottish Parliament the power to raise this tax in Scotland but full devolution has been delayed
  • Air Departure Tax: this replaced air passenger duty. While it has been devolved, this tax has not yet been implemented
  • Income Tax: this is not a devolved tax but the Scottish Parliament has the power to set tax bands (with the exception of the personal allowance) and the rates for each band for the non-savings and non-dividend income of Scottish taxpayers. HMRC remains responsible for the collection and management of income tax in Scotland


Including VisitScotland and the promotion of major events



  • setting drink and drug-driving limits
  • speed limits
  • some aspects of railways, including Scottish passenger rail franchises
  • concessionary travel schemes
  • cycling
  • parking
  • local road pricing (including congestion charging)
  • promotion of road safety
  • road signs

What cannot be decided by the Scottish Parliament?

Some issues that have a UK or international impact remain the responsibility of the UK Parliament alone. These are known as reserved matters.

Reserved matters are set out in Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998 (opens in new tab)

Reserved matters include:

  • benefits (some aspects)
  • betting and gambling
  • broadcasting
  • constitution (some aspects) 
  • consumer protection policy
  • currency
  • data protection
  • defence and national security
  • equality legislation (most aspects)
  • energy (most aspects)
  • elections to the UK Parliament
  • employment law and industrial relations
  • financial services
  • foreign affairs
  • immigration, asylum and visas
  • nationality and citizenship
  • postal services
  • taxation (some aspects)
  • telecommunications
  • trade and industry
  • transport (some aspects)

A closer look at reserved matters


Some aspects including: 

  • Universal Credit: a payment to help people who are on a low income, out of work or who cannot work (although some powers relating to Universal Credit are devolved)
  • Child Benefit: for people who are bringing up a child who is under 16 or under 20 if they stay in education or training
  • State Pension 
  • Pension Credit

Betting and gambling

With the exception of setting the number of fixed odds betting terminals in new betting premises 


The Constitution

Some aspects of the constitution, including the Crown, the Union, the UK Parliament, the existence of the (criminal) High Court of Justiciary and the existence of the (civil) Court of Session.

Consumer Protection Policy

Including product standards and product safety (except in relation to food) 


Data protection

Defence and national security

Elections to the UK Parliament 

Employment law and industrial relations 

Equality legislation (most aspects)

Energy policy

Most aspects including

  • the generation and supply of electricity, oil and gas
  • the exploration and extraction of offshore oil reserves
  • coal ownership and exploitation and deep and opencast coal mining
  • nuclear energy and safety

Financial services

Including banking and investment business 

Foreign affairs 

Immigration, asylum and visas 

Nationality and citizenship 

Postal services 


Some aspects including VAT rates, fuel duty, income tax (with some exceptions) and corporation tax


Trade and industry 


Some aspects including

  • bus and coach licensing
  • the Highway Code
  • vehicle standards
  • driver training and testing
  • driver and vehicle licensing
  • maritime, aviation and railway safety
  • the accessibility of public transport