Vox Populi – Remembering 1979

The Scotland Bill

The Scotland Bill as presented to the House of Commons on 4th November 1977

Today at 5:30pm, in room 611 of the Boyd Orr Building, Dr. Christopher Harvie will deliver the eighth lecture in the Vox Populi series: ‘Remembering 1979’. This seminar is free and open to all.

On 1st March 1979 the Scottish people took part in a referendum to decide the future direction of the nation: whether or not to establish a devolved Scottish Assembly with legislative, executive and advisory power.

The course to this referendum was set as far back as December 1968 when the Home Secretary, Jim Callahan, set up the ‘Royal Commission on the Constitution’. The Commission was to look at possible changes in the constitutional make-up of the United Kingdom, particularly with respect to Scotland and Wales. After considering a variety of different possibilities the majority of the commission members reported in favour of a devolved, directly elected assembly for both Scotland and Wales. The final report of the Commission (Cmnd. 5460) was published in 1973 and became more commonly known as the Kilbrandon Report. Volume 2 of this report contains the recommendations of the dissenting minority of the commission.

In 1974 the newly elected Labour government published a green paper titled Devolution Within the United Kingdom: Some Alternatives for Discussion. This was followed later that year by the Government’s official response to the Kilbrandon Report, Democracy and Devolution: Proposals for Scotland and Wales (Cmnd. 5732 is available from the Official Publications Unit).

By 1975 and the publication of Our Changing Democracy: Devolution to Scotland and Wales  (Cmnd. 6348) a more detailed idea of how this proposed devolved assembly would function had emerged. Although it was stated a draft bill would be subsequently prepared, this was delayed until a Supplementary Statement (Cmnd. 6585) was produced and released the following year.

Following on from these publications a Scotland and Wales Bill (Session 1976-77, HC Bill 7) was laid before parliament on 29th November 1976 by Mr. Michael Foot MP. In the following months there was much debate on the contents of the bill, but little progress. With time in the parliamentary session running out the bill was withdrawn on 14th June 1977.

In the following month on 26th July 1977 Mr. Foot again addressed the Commons on the subject of devolution, outlining plans to introduce separate bills for Scotland and Wales regarding devolution. On the same day Financing the Devolved Services (Cmnd 6890) was published.

The Scotland Bill (Session 1977-78, HC Bill 1) was presented to to the Commons on 4th November 1977 by Mr. Foot.

The transcripts of any debates relating to these reports and bills can be read in Hansard, with perhaps the most significant of these taking place on Burns Night 1978. At 10:40pm on January 25th, after nearly four hours of debate, the motion to include the ‘forty percent rule’ in the Scotland Bill was passed at the second reading stage by 166 votes to 151.

The library has access to a wealth of print and electronic resources to compliment the Vox Populi seminar series. For guidance on accessing primary and official resources such as parliamentary debates, consultations and legislation please see the staff in the Maps, Official Publications and Statistics Unit on Level 7 of the library, who will be pleased to help.

Categories: Library, Official Publications

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