Thursday, 18 September 2014

"The settled will of the Scottish people"

2014 is not only the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn, it is also 25 years since the Scottish Constitutional Convention. By legitimising a devolved parliament elected party-proportionately, the Convention gave the SNP the boost which has brought it to today's close vote. In remembering the Convention, we should also remember one of its key proponents, Donald Dewar. As the ODNB (dictionary of national biography) says:

The devolution bills of the 1970s had enumerated powers that were to go to the devolved assemblies; the list was bitterly contested between the Scottish and Welsh offices and the 'English' departments, which won most of the battles. Most lawyers believe that, if they had not been abandoned, the Scotland and Wales Acts of 1978 would have been unworkable because of constant disputes about the powers of the devolved and Westminster administrations. To prevent a repetition, Dewar was one of those who initiated the Scottish Constitutional Convention in 1989. The convention brought together the Labour and Liberal parties, some churches, and other civil society organizations; its chairman was an Episcopalian clergyman, Canon Kenyon Wright. The SNP and Conservatives, for opposite reasons, did not take part. The convention was, of course, self-appointed, but it enabled Smith and Dewar to insist that devolution was, in Smith's phrase, 'the settled will of the Scottish people'. 

The Convention also indirectly paved the way for the devolved Welsh Assembly, especially the method by which it is elected.

No comments: