Vox Populi – The Referendum of 1997

Scotlands Parliament, ScotlandsRightToday at 5:30pm, in room 611 of the Boyd Orr Building, Brian Taylor (BBC Scotland) will deliver the ninth lecture in the Vox Populi series: ‘The Referendum of 1997: The Settled Will of the Scottish People?’ This seminar is free and open to all.

After the referendum of 1979 the desire for some form of devolved legislature for Scotland remained. In 1989 all but one serving Labour and Liberal Democrat MP signed the Claim of Right, referencing the original Claim of Right Act of 1689, which declared their intention to work towards obtaining an ‘Assembly or Parliament for Scotland’. While the Claim of Right carried no legal weight, it was a significant statement of intent.

Following up on his April 1992 pledge, the Conservative Prime Minister John Major initiated a process of “taking stock” of the Union. This examination covered the Scottish economy, legal system, our place in Europe and in the Westminster Government. The findings of this study were published in March 1993 under the title “Scotland in the Union: a Partnership for Good” (Cm 2225).

Three years later, in November 1995, the final report of the Scottish Constitutional Convention (SCC) was published. The SCC was a non-partisan organisation established in 1980 which drew its members from all political parties, local authorities, civic groups and religious bodies. The report, Scotland’s Parliament: Scotland’s right, defined the preferred role, function and powers a devolved Scottish Parliament could have.

In May 1997 the Labour Party included a commitment to hold a referendum on whether to set up a devolved Scottish Executive in its General Election Manifesto. This referendum would be decided by a simple majority, unlike the referendum of 1979. The form of the proposed devolved Executive would be largely based on the recommendations of the SCC.

After a landslide win a Command Paper was produced to gauge public opinion on what the devolved powers of a Scottish Executive should be, and on the questions to be asked at the upcoming referendum. Scotland’s Parliament (Cm 3658), published in July 1997, paved the way for the referendum of 11th September 1997 in which the Scottish people overwhelmingly decided in favour of a devolved Scottish Executive with tax changing powers.

The purpose of this ‘Vox Populi series of blog posts has been to complement the talks given by speakers while highlighting relevant primary and secondary source material held in the library. You can read the previous entries in this series by clicking the following links:-

What Andrew Melville really thought of James VI

National Opinion and the Union Question in the Union of Crowns

Elections, Voting and Representation in Early Modern Scotland

John Wilkes & Scottish Liberty

Republican Reality: Scotland and the USA 1790-1820

The Voice of the ‘Wee Society’: the Referenda Experience in Scottish Local Government since 1868

Remembering 1979



Categories: Library, Official Publications

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