Executive (Scotland)

The Scottish Executive (or cabinet) is made up of the first minister, the two law officers (the lord advocate and the solicitor general) and other Scottish ministers.

The party or coalition of parties with the majority of seats in the parliament forms the executive. The first minister is elected by MSPs and is normally the leader of the majority party or the lead party in a coalition. Because the electoral system makes an overall majority for one party unlikely, the first minister is normally elected by a coalition of parties that have agreed to form the Executive. This coalition would normally include the largest party. In both 1999 and 2003, Labour formed the executive with the Liberal Democrats.

The first minister nominates MSPs to be Scottish ministers and junior ministers. Their names are then agreed or rejected by a vote in parliament. The first minister also recommends the appointment of two law officers to the Queen. The law officers may or may not be MSPs and normally they are not. For the duration of their appointment, they are considered to have the same status as MSPs but they do not vote in parliament.

The 1998 act devolved control over policy and the implementation of UK statute in areas that were not specified as 'reserved' by the act inasmuch as they extend to Scotland or are wholly within Scotland.

These are the reserved areas in which the parliament has NO powers:

Constitution (succession, the union, treason)
Registration and funding of political parties
Foreign affairs and human rights
Civil service
Defence and armed forces
Fiscal, economic and monetary policy
Regulation of financial services and markets, money laundering
Drugs laws
Data protection
Electoral law
Film and video classification
Immigration and nationality
Animal testing
Gambling and lotteries
Business associations (including insolvency provisions) but not charities
Competition regulation
Intellectual property law
Import and export controls
Sea fishing outside the Scottish zone except in relation to Scottish registered vessels
Consumer protection and product standards and safety
Weights and measures
Telecommunications and wireless telegraphy
Post office and postal services
Scientific research councils
Designation of assisted areas under industrial development legislation
Protection of trade interests
Electricity, oil and gas, nuclear and coal industries
Energy conservation
Driving and vehicle standards
Provision and regulation of rail services
Maritime transport except ports and harbours and Highlands and Islands transport
Aviation except certain Scotland-only functions
Transport of radioactive material
Social security, child support, occupational and personal pensions
War pensions
Regulation of professions
Employment and industrial relations
Health and safety at work
Job search and support
Embryology, surrogacy and genetics
Medicines, medical supplies and poisons
Broadcasting and the BBC
Public lending right
Property accepted in satisfaction of tax
Judges' pay
Equal opportunities
CBN weapons control
Ordnance Survey
Outer space

These are the areas in which the parliament has powers inasmuch as they extend to Scotland or are wholly within Scotland, although this list is not exhaustive:

Education, training, lifelong learning
Local government including electoral provisions
Social work
Economic development
Criminal and civil law
Criminal justice, prosecution and rehabilitation
Police and fire services
Environment and natural heritage
Built heritage
Agriculture and food
Statistics, public registers and records
Charities law

Some statutory powers are shared, being exercised by Scottish ministers for matters wholly within Scotland and by the UK government for cross-border, UK-wide matters. Additional existing powers can be accorded to Scottish ministers by order, while new powers must be created by UK act before being devolved by order.

Occasionally, it makes sense for the UK government to legislate on devolved issues – for example when limited provision in a UK bill would affect Scotland. In this case the Scottish parliament is asked by Scottish ministers to approve a Sewel motion (named after Lord Sewel). This is the parliament's means of indicating approval for the clauses in a UK bill regarding devolved functions.

Extradition is a good example of this. Extradition is a reserved area, which means that the parliament cannot legislate on it. But Scottish ministers exercise powers under UK extradition legislation in determining whether an individual is to be extradited. These have been given to them by order. When the UK government wanted to change the law on extradition in 2003, it introduced a bill at Westminster. The Scottish parliament debated those clauses that would affect Scottish ministers and approved a Sewel motion endorsing the bill. If the UK government wanted to devolve the right to legislate on extradition to Scotland, it would have to pass primary legislation to that effect.

The work of the executive and its agencies is funded by the grants formerly provided to the secretary of state for Scotland. These are paid into the Scottish consolidated fund. Any increase in the basic rate of income tax would lead to the Inland Revenue making additional payments into this fund. The Revenue would make a charge to the fund if tax were reduced.

The 'Barnett formula' is used to share out increases in UK public expenditure between the constituent parts of the UK (not Northern Ireland). This complex formula was first used in the late 1970s by then chief secretary to the Treasury Joel (now Lord) Barnett. Put simply, certain increases in UK-wide expenditure are divided up according to population, which means that historic additional per capita spending in Scotland tends to be preserved.