Scottish Parliament - History


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Before the Acts of Union 1707 that merged the Kingdom of Scotland with the Kingdom of England (to form the Kingdom of Great Britain), Scotland had an independent parliament with a legislature known as the Three Estates. Initial Scottish proposals in the negotiation over the Union suggested a devolved Parliament be retained in Scotland, but this was not accepted by the English negotiators.

For the next three hundred years, Scotland was directly governed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, at Westminster, and the lack of a Scottish Parliament remained an important element in Scottish national identity. Suggestions for a 'devolved' Parliament were made before 1914, but were shelved due to the outbreak of the First World War. A sharp rise in nationalism in Scotland during the late 1960s fuelled demands for some form of home rule or complete independence, and prompted the incumbent Labour Government of Harold Wilson to set up the Kilbrandon Commission to consider the UK Constitution in 1969. One of the principal objectives of the commission was to examine ways of enabling more self-government for Scotland, within the unitary state of the United Kingdom. Kilbrandon published his report in 1973 recommending the establishment of a directly elected Scottish Assembly to legislate for the majority of domestic Scottish affairs.

During this time, the discovery of oil in the North Sea and the following "It's Scotland's oil" campaign of the Scottish National Party (SNP) resulted in rising support for Scottish independence, as well as the SNP. The party argued that the revenues from the oil were not benefitting Scotland as much as they should. The combined effect of these events led to Prime Minister Wilson committing his government to some form of devolved legislature in 1974. However, it was not until 1978 that final legislative proposals for a Scottish Assembly were passed by the United Kingdom Parliament.

Under the terms of the Scotland Act 1978, an elected assembly would be set up in Edinburgh provided that the majority of the Scottish electorate voted for it in a referendum to be held on 1 March 1979 that represented at least 40% of the total electorate. The 1979 Scottish devolution referendum to establish a devolved Scottish Assembly failed. Although the vote was 51.6% in favour of a Scottish Assembly, this figure did not equal the 40% of the total electorate threshold deemed necessary to pass the measure, as 32.9% of the eligible voting population did not, or had been unable to, vote.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, demand for a Scottish Parliament grew, in part because the government of the United Kingdom was controlled by the Conservative Party, while Scotland itself elected relatively few Conservative MPs. In the aftermath of the 1979 referendum defeat, the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly was initiated as a pressure group, leading to the 1989 Scottish Constitutional Convention with various organisations such as Scottish churches, political parties and representatives of industry taking part. Publishing its blueprint for devolution in 1995, the Convention provided much of the basis for the structure of the Parliament.

Devolution became part of the platform of the Labour Party which, in May 1997, took power under Tony Blair. In September 1997, the 1997 Scottish devolution referendum was put to the Scottish electorate and secured a majority in favour of the establishment of a new devolved Scottish Parliament, with tax-varying powers, in Edinburgh. An election was held on 6 May 1999, and on 1 July of that year power was transferred from Westminster to the new Parliament.

Read more about this topic:  Scottish Parliament

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