Although the modern parliament has only been in place since 1999, the first historical reference to a Parliament in Scotland actually dates back to 1235. Therefore, a complete history of the Scottish Parliament should include some information on its medieval origins.
The Scottish Parliament 1235-1450
The first mention of a Scottish Parliament refers to a meeting of noblemen and clergy at Kirkliston in 1235. The first official parliamentary document dates to 1293, and displays the seal of John Balliol, King of the Scots. In 1424 King James I ended the practice of parliamentary records being in written in Latin; the switch to Scots meant the laws were more easily understood by his subjects. In 1445, King James II pledged not to attempt to change the laws without parliamentary consent.
The Scottish Parliament 1450-1661
In 1458 an act was passed for the slaughter of wolves. It was incumbent upon landowners to destroy all wolves on their land, with the result that wolves were eradicated from Scotland over the next couple of hundred years. The Court of Session, the foundation of a modern legal system, was set up in 1532. A few years later, in 1560, ties with the Catholic religion were broken and the Protestant religion founded. Parliament House in Edinburgh was first used for official business in 1632. Around this time, Charles I found his attempts to control the Scottish and English Parliaments highly unpopular. This set the seeds that eventually led to his execution in 1649. In 1660, Oliver Cromwell presided over the union of Scotland and England, resulting in the abolition of the Scottish Parliament. Instead, Scottish representatives were welcomed in the English Parliament in London. This arrangement lasted for 10 years until King Charles II reinstated the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Parliament 1661-1707
In 1689, William and Mary were declared King and Queen of Scotland. The Treaty of Union was signed a few years later in 1707. This union of Scotland and England led to the Scottish Parliament being dissolved on the 28th April 1707. When the Scottish and English representatives sat together in Westminster on May 1st, they did so under the new banner of The United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Although the first reference to a Scottish Parliament was made in medieval times, the current incarnation of the Parliament only dates back to the turn of the millennium.
Scottish Parliament - Inception
The modern Scottish Parliament was founded on the 12th of May 1999, following elections held a few days earlier. The first elected government was a coalition between The Liberal Democrat and The Labour parties. The Queen presided over a formal opening on the 1st of July. This marked the start of the Scottish Parliament being able to legislate on all devolved matters. The first act of the new Parliament, The Mental Health Bill, was passed by the Scottish Parliament later the same year. It would take a further 12 months for the first Member's Bill to be passed, The Sea Fisheries Amendment Bill and more than two years for the the first Committee Bill, The Protection From Abuse Bill.
The Second Scottish Elections (2003)
On the 1st of May 2003, the second round of elections for the Scottish Parliament were held. The result was a near repeat of the first election with a coalition again formed between the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties, despite both losing ground to independents and minority parties. There was also a decrease in support for the Scottish National Party (SNP), which many commentators saw as a rejection of their proposals on Scottish Independence.
The Opening of The Scottish Parliament Building
For the first 5 years of its existence, the Scottish Parliament had been sitting in The General Assembly Hall of The Church of Scotland. However, for the duration of this time the building of a dedicated Scottish Parliament had been under way on the outskirts of Edinburgh town centre. The building itself took more than twice the scheduled time to construct and more than ten times the anticipated budget. The new Parliament building remained just as controversial following its completion. It was praised by critics and architects, while simultaneously placing highly in a poll of buildings the public would most like to see torn down.
The Third Scottish Elections (2007)
The third elections for the Scottish Parliament were held on the 3rd May 2007. There was a surge in support for the SNP, who were able to form a minority government led by Alex Salmond. During their tenure, the term 'The Scottish Executive' was retired in favour of the phrase 'The Scottish Government'.
The Fourth Scottish Elections (2011)
On the 5th of May 2011, the Scottish electorate returned the first Scottish majority government. The swing in favour of the SNP was even greater than in the last election, with votes taken from all the other major parties. The Scottish Labour Party fared particularly badly, with their worst result since 1931, while the Scottish Liberal Party saw their support cut in half. The leaders of both these opposition parties resigned shorty after the result was announced.
Scottish Independence Referendum (2014)
Soon after the SNP were returned with a majority, Alex Salmond began preparations for a poll of the Scottish people on the question of independence. If given the approval of the electorate, Scotland would secede from the United Kingdom and the Scottish Parliament would gain full control over all taxes raised north of the border. Many of the details of how the separation would take place were not absolutely defined, even as the referendum took place. For example, it was not entirely clear which currency an independent Scotland would use, how it would deal with the issue of the national debt or how its relationship with the European Union would work. In the event these problems became academic because, despite very close polling in the latter stages, the public returned a 'No' vote on the independence issue and Scotland remained a part of the United Kingdom.
The Fifth Scottish Elections (2016)
There will be a 5 year hiatus until the next election, which is scheduled to be held on the 5th of May 2016. This is to avoid clashing with the United Kingdom parliamentary elections.