Europe

Scotland profile - Leaders

Head of State of UK: Queen Elizabeth II

Prime Minister: Theresa May

First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon

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Image caption First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

A lawyer who has sat in the Scottish Parliament since its creation in 1999, Nicola Sturgeon swiftly rose through the ranks of the Scottish National Party (SNP) to take its deputy leadership in 2004.

She became deputy first minister and health secretary when the SNP formed a minority government in 2007, and was responsible for making prescription charges and hospital car parking free of charge.

She oversaw the 2014 independence campaign, and took over as first minister from Alex Salmond when he stepped down in the wake of the referendum defeat.

Under Mr Salmond the SNP had already struck a heavy blow to the Labour Party's previously dominant position by winning a full majority in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections.

Ms Sturgeon went on to seize the post-referendum initiative from the divided pro-Union parties. She boosted SNP membership and won a stunning victory in the British general election of May 2015, taking 56 of Scotland's 59 seats - reducing Labour from 40 to one MP.

The SNP total fell to 35 at the June 2017 snap election, and the Conservatives rallied to become the second largest party with 13 seats.

Ms Sturgeon faces the challenge of maintaining the SNP's primacy in Scotland, while negotiating a new devolution of powers with the firmly-Unionist Conservative government in London.

She also has to manage the extra complication of Britain's presumed exit from the European Union, which most voters in Scotland oppose.

On the table in terms of further devolution are the possibility of Scotland setting its own income tax rates and bands, as well as taking control over a share of the Value Added Tax on goods, and some welfare benefits.

The Scottish devolution settlement hinges on the separation of areas of control and legislative powers into reserved and devolved categories.

Among the areas reserved to London were the Crown and Constitution, foreign affairs, including Europe, the civil service, defence, most tax and budgetary matters, social security, immigration, nuclear energy and broadcasting.

Those areas devolved to the Scottish Parliament included education, health, criminal, justice, home affairs, local government, economic development, the environment, agriculture, sport and the arts.

The Scottish Parliament is elected by a form of proportional representation, in contrast to the UK parliament, where MPs are elected by a simple majority in one-member constituencies.