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The creation of the Scottish parliament : journey without end

Mitchell, James (1999) The creation of the Scottish parliament : journey without end. Parliamentary Affairs, 52. 649 - 665.

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Abstract

The elections to the Scottish Parliament held on 6 May 1999 marked the culmination of a long campaign. Twenty years before, Scots narrowly voted in favour of an earlier measure of legislative devolution in a referendum but in insufficient numbers to overcome the weighted majority required. In the ensuing period, devolution slipped off the British and Scottish political agendas but gradually forced its way back again. During this period, debates on the nature of devolution were held within parties advocating constitutional change. Many of these focused on weaknesses in the earlier measure and attempts were made to create an improved system which would eventually be put to Parliament in Westminster. This article sets out to compare the devolution scheme on offer in 1979 with that of the Scottish Parliament which has recently been established. It attempts to explain the differences and identify the key actors involved in shaping the new measure. In particular, it challenges journalistic accounts which suggest that the cross-party Constitutional Convention played a significant part in its formulation. Briefly, in conclusion, the extent to which it represents the ‘settled will of the Scottish people’, in the words of John Smith, late leader of the Labour party, is considered.