Devolved legislative (law-making) body of Scotland. It comprises 129 members and was created by the November 1998 Scotland Act, which was passed following the Scottish electorate's overwhelming approval of government proposals in a referendum on devolution held on 11 September 1997. The first elections to the Parliament were held on 6 May 1999 and the Parliament opened on 1 July 1999.
Members are elected for four-year terms through a ‘semi-proportional’ electoral system. Seventy-three members are returned on a first-past-the-post basis from single-member constituencies, comprising Scotland's existing Westminster constituencies, with an extra seat created through dividing the Orkney and Shetland constituency into two. An additional 56 members are selected on a proportional basis from party lists based on Scotland's eight European Parliament constituencies.
The Parliament has devolved law-making powers in all areas except defence, foreign affairs, the constitution, social security, company regulation, economic management, and taxation. It also has the authority to vary the basic rate of income tax in Scotland by up to 3 pence in the pound to supplement a block grant (£14.9 billion for 2000-01) to supersede the former Scottish Office budget. A First Minister (equivalent to a Scottish prime minister), with a main office in St Andrew's House, is drawn from the majority grouping within the parliament, and relevant ministers sit with their UK government counterparts at negotiating meetings in Brussels whenever Scottish interests are affected.
The parliament's temporary base is the Church of Scotland General Assembly Hall and City of Edinburgh Council buildings, at the Mound and on George IV Bridge, in Edinburgh. A permanent home is being built on the Royal Mile, next to Holyrood House, designed by a team led by the Spanish architect Enric Miralles, with completion planned for the end of 2002. The construction project has been faced by problems of spiralling costs (estimated in 2000 at more than £190 million) and slippage in the timetable.
Labour's leader, Donald Dewar, was elected the country's first minister in May 1999. Of the Scottish Parliament's 129 MSPs elected in May 1999, 48 were women, leaving only Sweden and Denmark with more women members of parliament. The Scottish Labour Party, which won 56 of the seats, formed a coalition government, with the Scottish Liberal Democrats (17 seats), whose leader, Jim Wallace, became deputy first minister. The pro-independence Scottish Nationalist Party, with 35 seats, were the main opposition party, while the Conservatives won 18 seats. Following Dewar's sudden death, in October 2000, from heart failure, Labour's Henry McLeish was elected the new first minister. McLeish resigned in November 2001 over accusations of financial incompetence, and was succeeded by Labour's Jack McConnell.
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