A vote of con­fi­dence for the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment?

Twenty mo­men­tous years

Rutherglen Reformer - - Memory Lane - Dou­glas Dickie

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

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