The long jour­ney to Scot­land hav­ing its own par­lia­ment again

The Scotsman - - SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT - The Back­ground

he Scot­tish Par­lia­ment, which ad­journed on March 25 1707, is hereby re­con­vened.” With that sen­tence, veteran Scot­tish Na­tion­al­ist Win­nie Ewing opened the first sit­ting of Holy­rood on 12 May – declar­ing they were the words she had al­ways wanted to hear.

MSPS from the new Par­lia­ment met for the first time within days of be­ing elected on 6 May.

But the jour­ney to Scot­land hav­ing its own Par­lia­ment had been a much longer one.

Scots had in fact voted in favour of a de­volved assem­bly be­ing es­tab­lished two decades be­fore, in 1979.

While 51.6 per cent of those who turned out in that ref­er­en­dum backed the move, the leg­is­la­tion that set up that bal­lot re­quired two- fifths of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion to sup­port it be­fore it could go ahead.

With only 32.9 per cent of all reg­is­tered vot­ers sup­port­ing de­vo­lu­tion then, the pro­posed assem­bly was never ap­proved.

De­spite the re­sult, sup­port­ers of de­vo­lu­tion con­tin­ued their work, with a Cam­paign for a Scot­tish Assem­bly formed the fol­low­ing year.

It went on to draw up the Claim of Right for Scot­land, as­sert­ing the “sov­er­eign right of the Scot­tish peo­ple to de­ter­mine the form of gov­ern­ment best suited to their needs”.

In March 1989, at the height of Mar­garet Thatcher’s gov­ern­ment, it was signed by more than two- thirds of Scot­land’s then MPS – in­clud­ing Labour’s Gor­don Brown and Alis­tair Dar­ling.

SNP MPS at the time re­fused to sign it be­cause it had failed to con­sider the op­tion of independen­ce for Scot­land.

The Scot­tish Con­sti­tu­tional Con­ven­tion, set up fol­low­ing the sign­ing of the Claim of Right, took over the work of cam­paign­ing for a de­volved Par­lia­ment.

It was this or­gan­i­sa­tion that un­der the lead­er­ship of Canon Kenyon Wright pub­lished a blue­print for de­vo­lu­tion of St An­drew’s Day, 30 Novem­ber 1995.

The Labour man­i­festo for 1997, when Tony Blair swept into Down­ing Street, con­tained a com­mit­ment to cre­ate a “Par­lia­ment with law- mak­ing pow­ers” for Scot­land that would be “firmly based on the agree­ment reached in the Scot­tish Con­sti­tu­tional Con­ven­tion”.

Labour’s pledge said the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment – along with an assem­bly for Wales in Cardiff – would be es­tab­lished if th­ese were sup­ported in ref­er­en­dums.

A cross- party body call­ing for a Yes vote was formed with Labour, the Lib­eral Democrats and the SNP all urg­ing Scots to back the es­tab­lish­ment of a new Par­lia­ment with tax- rais­ing pow­ers.

Tories op­posed the move, with for­mer 1 July. From that date, the Par­lia­ment as­sumed a its power to leg­is­late for Scot­land S on de­volved mat­ters. Scot­tish sec­re­tary Lord Forsyth among those in­volved in the Think Twice cam­paign.

Vot­ing in the ref­er­en­dum took place on 11 Septem­ber 1997, with 74.3 per cent back­ing the cre­ation of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment, while 63.5 per cent agreed it should have lim­ited tax rais­ing pow­ers.

The fol­low­ing day a tri­umphant Mr Blair flew into Ed­in­burgh by he­li­copter.

Land­ing in the Scot­tish cap­i­tal he was greeted by Don­ald De­war – the then- Scot­tish sec­re­tary who would go on to be­come First Min­is­ter when the Par­lia­ment opened.

Speak­ing about the re­sult Mr De­war said: “Sat­is­fac­tory, I think.”

Mr Blair replied: “Very sat­is­fac­tory and well done.”

cam­paigner on Princes Street in 1979

0 Don­ald De­war be­comes First Min­is­ter

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