A vote of confidence for the Scottish Parliament?
Twenty momentous years
The Scottish Parliament has become a“Scotlandwide local authority” says the man who led the campaign for it in Rutherglen and Cambuslang 20 years ago.
But, speaking two decades after Scots voted for the first Scottish parliament in 300 years, Rev Stuart MacQuarrie says he has no regrets that he backed it.
Back then, Stuart was secretary of the Rutherglen Labour branch which campaigned hard for a yes-yes vote in the referendum.
They were successful with the vast majority of voters backing the proposal in a vote on September 11, 1997.
Looking at the last 20 years, Stuart now feels the parliament has failed to achieve what it set out to.
“There was a big difference between then and now,” Stuart remembers.
“There was a consensus back than that the Scottish Parliament would be a good thing, that it would be a way forward for us as community.
“Unfortunately, it has disappointed mainly because the scrutiny mechanism which
Twenty years ago this week, the people of Scotland voted for the creation of the first Scottish Parliament in almost 300 years.
The vote on September 11, 1997, paved the way for the creation of the parliament in Edinburgh that has shaped the political landscape in Scotland since 1999.
To mark the anniversary, we have spoken to some of those involved in the campaign in Rutherglen and Cambuslang and whether their hopes, or fears, had been realised.
was supposed to be through the committees has failed.
“It’s become a big, Scotlandwide local authority. It’s degenerated into a squabbling, party-political chamber.
“Following on from the referendum in 2014, you now have two widely opposing views. I recently expressed a view on the Queensferry Crossing as a cyclist and was immediately hounded on Twitter. That’s not political debate.
“The whole point of it was that Scotland would develop politically, culturally and socially.
“That has not come close to happening. Our spending priorities have been all wrong and we have not done nearly enough to combat poverty. Instead, money has been spent on grandiose road schemes that are little more than vanity projects.”
Despite his views, Stuart reckons the parliament could yet develop.
“I would hope the Scottish parliament would take a long, hard look at itself and look back on why people voted yes.
“There needs to be a more inclusive approach. The committees need to become the places of scrutiny and reflection of proposed legislation rather than being a place where numbers count and things are just voted through.”
However, not everyone has been disappointed with the way the parliament has turned out.
Businessman Malcolm Macaskill, who was then a member of the Conservative Party, led local opposition to the proposal.
But he reckons he was wrong to oppose the parliament.
“It still has many faults but Scottish life has changed for the better as a result of its return,” he says.
“My prediction that it may lead to the break-up of the UK came close in the 2014 independence referendum.
“I also claimed in 1997 that there could be an increase to each family’s tax bill of £300 under a tartan tax. This was not to be, although the latest GERS figures prove that with the current deficit each Scottish family would be worse off by £,7600 in an independent Scotland.
“I truly believe we’ve had a lucky escape.”
Rutherglen MSP Clare Haughey also reckons it has improved the lives of people in Rutherglen and Cambuslang.
“In the past 20 years the parliament has become absolutely central to political debate in Scotland,” she says. “Without it, issues of particular importance to Scotland would never have been debated, let alone implemented.
“The 1997 vote paved the way for Scotland to address its own issues at a greater pace, including the smoking ban, introducing free tuition for higher education, delivering the best performing NHS in the UK, and to act as a bulwark against the worst excesses of Westminster Governments.
“Never has it been so vital that we have that bulwark than at present, as we find ourselves in the middle of the current Brexit debacle and the threat of a blatant power grab by the UK government.
“As the late Donald Dewar noted, the re-convening of the Scottish parliament was a process, not an event.’ This foresaw the parliament progressing to take on additional responsibilities in an evolving constitutional situation.”
Another politician to defend the body this week was Councillor Robert Brown, who served as an MSP from 1999 until 2011. However, he believes the parliament has “stalled” since the SNP’s election in 2007.
“The Scottish Parliament itself has been a considerable success and the achievements of Liberal Democrats in government with Labour in Scotland from 1999-2007 were remarkable – a major overhaul of Scottish education, free personal care for the elderly, a fair voting system for local government, the abolition of Labour’s university tuition fees, free eye checks as part of an improved service for sight issues, universal nursery education and many more.
“I hope Scotland can again set the pace for the whole United Kingdom from focusing on creating a world class education system to tackling the challenges in mental health provision.
“I want the next 20 years to be about achievement and success for Scotland as part of a revitalised United Kingdom.”
CelebrationsSupporters of a Scottish Parliament celebrate the result in September 1997
Disappointment Rev Stuart MacQuarrie says it has failed to live up to expectations
Change of opinion Malcolm Macaskill once opposed the parliament