The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as “Holyrood”, is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). Members are elected for four-year terms under the mixed member proportional representation system.
The original Parliament of Scotland (or “Estates of Scotland”) was the national legislature of the independent Kingdom of Scotland, and existed from the early 13th century until the Kingdom of Scotland merged with the Kingdom of England under the Acts of Union 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. As a consequence, the Parliament of Scotland merged with the Parliament of England to form the Parliament of Great Britain, which sat at Westminster in London.
Following a referendum in 1997 in which the Scottish people gave their consent, the current Parliament was established by the Scotland Act 1998, which sets out its powers as a devolved legislature. The Act delineates the legislative competence of the Parliament – the areas in which it can make laws – by explicitly specifying powers that are “reserved” to the Parliament of the United Kingdom: all matters that are not explicitly reserved are automatically the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.The UK Parliament retains the ability to amend the terms of reference of the Scottish Parliament, and can extend or reduce the areas in which it can make laws. The first meeting of the new Parliament took place on 12 May 1999.