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Devolved government in the UK

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, some government policies and public services are different from those in England. The UK central government has given certain powers to devolved governments, so that they can make decisions for their own areas.

Devolution of powers

Following referendums in Scotland and Wales in 1997, and in both parts of Ireland in 1998, the UK Parliament transferred a range of powers to national parliaments or assemblies.

The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established, and took control in 1999. The arrangements are different in the three parts of the country, reflecting their history and administrative structures.

Find out about the responsibilities and powers of the devolved administrations in each part of the UK using the links below. You'll find further links to the websites of the devolved governments, which include information about how their government works and how their public services are run.

The UK Parliament and devolved matters

The UK government remains responsible for national policy on all matters that have not been devolved, including foreign affairs, defence, social security, macro-economic management and trade.

It is also responsible for government policy in England on all the matters that have been devolved to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The UK Parliament is still able to pass legislation for any part of the UK, though in practice it only deals with devolved matters with the agreement of the devolved governments.

UK government ministers

Within the UK government, the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for the Scotland Office, the Wales Office and the Northern Ireland Office.

They ensure that devolution works smoothly, and help to resolve any disputes. They represent their parts of the country in UK government, and represent the UK government in those parts of the country.

Most contact between the UK government and the devolved administrations takes place between the individual government departments that deal with particular matters.

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