Election fight begins in Scotland

The election fight is now officially under
way in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, as would-be MPs fight it out until
5 May for 59 'Scottish' seats in the House of Commons.

Devolution means that
Holyrood, not Westminster, handles many of the key policy areas such as
education, health, criminal justice and transport. Scotland's political map
has changed
since the last UK poll in 2001 because under the devolution deal it was
agreed that the number of MPs would be cut from 72 to 59.

A number of sitting
MPs
will not seek re-election, including 13 Labour members and one Liberal
Democrat. The Labour MP for Linlithgow and Father of the House, Tam Dalyell,
will
be stepping down. He is the UK's longest serving House of Commons politician
and
his constituency has disappeared from the new constituency map. George
Foulkes,
the MP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley is not standing, and neither
is former Scotland Office minister Brian Wilson, Labour member for Cunninghame
North in Ayrshire. Labour's Helen Liddell and the Liberal Democrats'
Sir Archy
Kirkwood are also to leave the Commons.

Parliament was prorogued on Thursday
7 April ahead of the general election, with the close of business bringing
the current parliamentary session to an end. The formal dissolution
of parliament, ahead of the general election, takes place today, Monday 11
April.
At 5.00pm
all the members of parliament elected at the last general election
will cease to be MPs.

Ahead of the dissolution, MPs and peers spent the days
rushing
through a raft of legislation.One high profile casualty was the Identity
Cards
Bill,
which home secretary Charles Clarke had already been forced to withdraw.
The Gambling Bill makes it on to the statute book, but only after a
government concession to limit the number of new super-casinos to just one.
The
Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill was also approved, but without
clauses that would have outlawed incitement to religious hatred.

Elsewhere,
the
Inquiries Bill - which overhauls the way in which major public inquires
are conducted
- made its way to the statute book. The Railways Bill was also
passed, which
means that Scottish Executive ministers will now have powers to
determine Scottish
railways strategies, including managing the ScotRail franchise.
The Disability Discrimination Bill, the Education Bill and the Finance Bill
were
also
approved. The Crossrail Bill, which will pave the way for an east-west
rail link in
London, was carried over until the new parliament.

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