Secretary of State for Scotland

Last updated on 23 June 2017

Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Rùnaire Stàite na h-Alba, Scots: Secretar o State for Scotland) is the principal minister of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland representing Scotland. He heads the Scotland Office (formerly the Scottish Office), a government department based in London and Edinburgh. The post was created soon after the Union of the Crowns, but was abolished in 1746, following the Jacobite rebellion. Scottish affairs thereafter were managed by the Lord Advocate until 1827, when responsibility passed to the Home Office.

In 1885 the post of Secretary for Scotland was re-created, with the incumbent usually (though not always) in the Cabinet. In 1926 this post was upgraded to a full Secretary of State appointment.

The 1999 Scottish devolution has meant the Scottish Office's powers were divided, with most transferred to the Scottish Government or to other UK Government departments, leaving only a limited role for the Scotland Office. Consequently, the role of Secretary of State for Scotland has been diminished. A recent Scottish Secretary, Des Browne, held the post whilst simultaneously being Secretary of State for Defence. The current Secretary of State for Scotland is David Mundell.

Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (Government in Scotland).svg
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (Government in Scotland).svg
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David Mundell UK Gov.jpg
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Flag of Scotland.svg

Secretaries of State for Scotland 1707–1746

John Erskine, 22nd Earl of Mar had served as Secretary of State of an independent Scotland since 1705. Following the Acts of Union 1707, he remained in office.

The post of Secretary of State for Scotland existed briefly after the Union of the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England in 1707 till the Jacobite rising of 1745. After the rising, responsibility for Scotland lay primarily with the office of the Home Secretary, usually exercised by the Lord Advocate.

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John Erskine - Earl of Mar - Project Gutenberg etext 20946.jpg
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John Erskine - Earl of Mar - Project Gutenberg etext 20946.jpg
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Office thereafter vacant.

Secretaries and Secretaries of State for Scotland

The Secretary for Scotland was chief minister in charge of the Scottish Office in the United Kingdom government. 1885 saw the creation of the Scottish Office and the post of Secretary for Scotland.[1] From 1892 the Secretary for Scotland sat in cabinet. The Secretary for Scotland post was upgraded to full Secretary of State rank as Secretary of State for Scotland in 1926.[2] All Secretaries for Scotland also held the post of Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, ex officio.[3]

The post of Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland was held ex officio by Secretaries of State for Scotland from 1926 to 1999.[4] Secretaries of State for Scotland since Donald Dewar have not been Keepers of the Great Seal, that post now being held by the First Ministers of Scotland.[5] In addition, the holder of the office of Secretary of State for Scotland from 13 June 2003 through to 3 October 2008 concurrently held another Cabinet post, leading to claims that the Scottish role was seen as a 'part-time' ministry.

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Responsibilities

With the advent of legislative devolution for Scotland in 1999, the role of Secretary of State for Scotland has been diminished, most of the functions vested in the office since administrative devolution in the 19th century were transferred to the newly established Scottish Ministers upon the opening of the Scottish Parliament or otherwise to other UK government ministers.

As a result of this, the office mainly acts as a go-between between the UK and Scottish Governments and Parliaments,[6] however, due to being a minister in the British government the convention of Cabinet collective responsibility applies and as such the post is usually viewed as being a partisan one to promote the UK government's decision making in Scotland, as adherence to the convention precludes doing anything else.

With the rise of the SNP in the Scottish and British parliaments and the resultant interest in Scottish Independence, the Secretary of states role has also subsequently increased in prominence. The Scotland office itself has received a cumulative increase in budget of 20% from 2013 to 2017 with a 14.4% increase in 2015/16 alone.[7] These increases are doubly notable as they took place in a time of national austerity where most other government departments were being cut but also due to the fact that the bulk of the increases came after the Scottish Independence referendum of 2014.

The UK governments website lists the Secretary of State for Scotlands responsibilities as being:

"The main role of the Scottish Secretary is to promote and protect the devolution settlement.

Other responsibilities include promoting partnership between the UK government and the Scottish government, and relations between the 2 Parliaments."[6]

This seeming lack of responsibility has in recent years seen calls for the scrapping of the role and the wider department of the Scottish office itself by opposition MP's.[8][7]

See also

References

  1. ^ Secretary for Scotland Act 1885, section 2.
  2. ^ Secretaries of State Act 1926
  3. ^ Secretary for Scotland Act 1885, section 8
  4. ^ Secretary for Scotland Act 1885, section 2; Secretaries of State Act 1926, section 1
  5. ^ Scotland Act 1998, section 45(7)
  6. ^ a b "Secretary of State for Scotland - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  7. ^ a b "SNP questions budget of 'zombie department' Scotland Office". STV News. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
  8. ^ "BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Scrap Scotland Office, SNP urging". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-01-16.

External links

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