Monday, 8 September 2014

Scottish Independence is restoration NOT secession (Part 4B)


The UK General Election in 1945 saw the loss of the Motherwell constituency by the Scottish National Party (SNP). It was not until the UK General Election of 1997 that the SNP was to retain a Westminster parliamentary constituency which it had gained at a by-election (Perth 1995). Between the Motherwell and Hamilton by-elections overall electoral support was never more than 5%. The last 25 years of the 20th century was for Scotland a period of significant constitutional activity which was preceded by the SNP victory at the Hamilton by-election.

1948 - 2002:

National Covenant Campaign

This campaign straddled the latter years of the first half of the 20th century and the beginning of the second half of that century. Although it attracted almost two million signatures the National Covenant also exposed the divisions that existed regarding a Scottish Parliament.

'The Covenant itself was hugely successful in generating signatures, with approximately two million estimated to have signed the document (Brand 1978: 147)...Whilst it demonstrated a substantial level of support for Home Rule from 1949 into the early 1950s, it did not result in a Scottish Parliament. The Covenant was largely ignored by the Labour government, though it was concerned at the growth of the Home Rule movement during this period (Mitchell 1996: 148)...However the main parties went no further, with neither willing to entertain the Covenant's aim of establishing a Scottish Parliament.'

SOURCE: 'SNP - The History of the Scottish National Party' by Peter Lynch, p.78, ISBN 1 86057 0046 and 0038.

Hamilton By-Election

On 2 November 1967 the Scottish National Party (SNP) achieved a significant electoral victory by winning the Hamilton by-election. The SNP candidate, Winnie Ewing, received 40% of the votes cast. In her acceptance speech, after being declared the winner and the new Member of Parliament (MP) for the Hamilton constituency she said -

                                             "Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on."

Winnie Ewing was the MP for the Hamilton constituency until the the UK General Election in 1970.

'In the same year that the SNP won its famous victory at Hamilton. Plaid Cymru also achieved successes in a by-election and in local contests against Labour. As the veteran nationalist, Oliver Brown, wryly observed, "a shiver ran along the Labour backbenches looking for a spine to run up".'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', by T. M. Devine, p.574, ISBN 0-713-99351-0.

UK General Elections of 1970 and 1974

In 1970 the SNP gained its first constituency seat in a UK General Election - the Western Isles. While this was progress in itself the seat won by Winnie Ewing at the Hamilton by-election in 1967 was lost.

'Nevertheless, in 1970 Scotland found itself once again under Conservative rule, although the party itself was in a minority north of the border. The new Prime Minister Ted Heath, had been one of the first modern British politicians to acknowledge the importance of devolution for Scotland in his Declaration of Perth. However, the SNP performed poorly in the general election of 1970 by winning only the Western Isles...Heath then took the opportunity to shelve the plans for a Scottish Assembly formulated by Lord Home's constitutional committee which he had appointed.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', p.584.

In 1974 there were two UK General Elections - one in February and another in October. At the February election the SNP won seven constituencies with 22% of the overall vote.

'Within a week, the incoming Labour government embraced devolution as a real commitment despite having fought the election on a platform opposed to it.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', p.575.

The sudden conversion of the Labour Party to devolution for Scotland took many by surprise, not least members of the Labour Party in Scotland many of whom were resolutely opposed to it.

The outcome of the October election was that the SNP won 11 of the 72 constituencies with 30% of the overall vote. The greater concern for the Labour Party was that the SNP had come in second in 42 constituencies.

'As Michael Foot [then leader of the Labour Group in the Westminster Parliament (Parliamentary Labour Party) confided to Winnie Ewing: "It is not the eleven of you that terrify me so much, Winnie, it is the 42 seconds." Within three months Labour published a White Paper, Devolution in the UK - Some Alternatives for Discussion, which set out five options for change...Constitutional change for Scotland was firmly back on the political agenda within seven years of the SNP's historic victory at Hamilton and was due in large part to the two great surges of support for the party in 1967-8 and again in 1973-4.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', pp.576-7.

Scottish Assembly Referendum 1979

A devolution Bill, the Scotland and Wales Bill, was introduced to the UK Parliament by the Labour government. The Bill passed its second reading but was later defeated by a combination of Conservative, Liberal and some Labour MPs. Two new Bills were later introduced to replace it - one for Wales and one for Scotland. While the Scotland Bill was being debated by the UK Parliament an amendment to rig the result of the referendum was introduced -

'Labour MP George Cunningham succeeded in amending the bill to ensure that a referendum required the support of 40 per cent of the electorate (not those voting), for devolution to become law.'

SOURCE: 'SNP - The History of the Scottish National Party', p.149.

The Scotland Act was passed on 31 July 1978 and the referendum was held on 1 March 1979. In the actual campaign an odd circumstance occurred. Because of opposition by many of its branches the Labour Party at constituency level often depended on SNP activists to help distribute its pro-devolution leaflets. This division in the Labour Party in Scotland was also the cause of substantial confusion to the electorate, particularly among Labour voters, as well as being a factor in the low turnout. The referendum for a Scottish Assembly was held on 1 March 1979. The result was 'Yes' 51.6%, 'No' 48.4% on a Turnout of 63.8% of those entited to vote.
'...but the 40 per cent rule was to have a decisive impact on the outcome of the referendum. Whilst 51.6 [per cent] of the votes cast supported the establishment of a Scottish Assembly, they represented only 32.9 per cent of the votes case [electorate] well short of the requirement for 40 per cent of the electorate to vote 'Yes' before devolution could be instituted.'

SOURCE: 'SNP -The History of the Scottish National Party', p.152.

Post 1979 Referendum

The initial reaction of the SNP to the referendum defeat was to call on the Labour government to honour its manifesto commitment to the establishment of a Scottish Assembly. 

'The SNP launched a 'Scotland Said Yes' campaign to urge the government to press on with devolution.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', p. 588.

In the end a motion of no confidence in the Labour government succeeded and there was a UK General Election in May 1979. The SNP lost 9 of its 11 MPs and support for it fell to just over 17%. A Conservative government was elected and a lengthy period later to be referred to as 'the Thatcher years' began.

'Even if the social consequences proved damaging, there was to be no reversal of economic policy or a repetition of Ted Heath's ignominious surrender in the face of trade-union power in the early 1970s. As Mrs Thatcher famously declared at the Conservative Conference in 1981: "You turn if you want; the lady's not for turning."
Against this background the chairman of the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) predicted in October 1980 that Scotland would be more vulnerable than many parts of England in the new economic and political climate. He was proved right. Between 1979 and 1981 Scottish manufacturing lost 11 per cent of output and around one-fifth of all jobs.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', p.592.

'During the Thatcher years personal dependence on the state, far from declining, became a way of life in many working-class neighbourhoods.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', p.599.

In 1979 the Conservative Party had 22 MPs elected from Scotland. The number of MPs it had elected from Scotland decreased at every subsequent election until the 1997 UK General Election.

'The problem was...the Conservatives were impregnable in the Midlands, London and the south-east, where British general elections were usually decided. This fact alone was enough to bring the constitutional issue back on to the agenda, especially as the unpopularity of the Thatcher government in Scotland was to increase even further after 1983.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', p.602.

The 'Poll Tax'

This iniquitous tax, formally called the 'Community Charge', was introduced to replace Domestic Rates on April Fool's Day 1988. The 'Poll Tax' was implemented in Scotland one year before it was implemented in England. A mass campaign of non-payment was started to protest against the tax and to draw attention to the fact that there were many people who genuinely could not afford to pay it.

'In practice, it was widely regarded as an unjust tax which took no account of the ability to pay...When the poll tax was eventually killed; its demise was ensured not by a massive campaign of non-payment in Scotland (in its first year an astonishing 700,000 summary warrants for non-payment of the tax were issued) but because of riotous protest in England and the likely impact on Conservative electoral fortunes.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', p.603.

Campaign for a Scottish Assembly (CSA)

'We came to see that if Mrs. Thatcher could so insure the powers of her office, the crown prerogatives, the extent of patronage and the parliamentary system to cut down all real power elsewhere in the name of spurious individualism, then any future Prime Minister could do the same. We realised that our real enemy was not a particular government whatever its colour but a constitutional system. We came to understand that our central need, if we were to be governed justly and democratically was not just to change the government but to change the rules.'

SOURCE: 'The People Say Yes', Wright, p.141.

'The idea of a constitutional convention had been promoted by the group of left-wing Nationalists and Labour Home Rulers associated with Radical Scotland magazine and the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly for a number of years. The SNP had also discussed a constitutional convention in 1980, 1982 and at the annual conference in 1984, but these suggestions had fallen on stony ground, especially within the Labour Party.'

SOURCE: 'SNP - The History of the Scottish National Party', p.184.

In July 1988 the CSA published a document titled 'A Claim of Right for Scotland', the following is an extract from it -

'All questions as to whether consent should be a part of government are brushed aside. The comments of Adam Smith are put to uses which would have astonished him, Scottish history is selectively distorted and the Scots are told that their votes are lying; that they secretly love what they constantly vote against.
Scotland is not alone in suffering from the absence of consent in government. The problem afflicts the United Kingdom as a whole. We have a government which openly boasts its contempt for consensus and a constitution which allows it to demonstrate that contempt in practice.
It is a sign of both the fraudulence and fragility of the English constitution that representative bodies and their activities, the life-blood of government by consent, can be systematically closed down by a minority Westminster Government without there being any constitutional means of even giving them pause for thought.
The United Kingdom has been an anomaly from its inception and is a glaring anomaly now.'

The Claim of Right was signed on 30 March 1989, it reads as follows -

'We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations that their interests shall be paramount.

We further declare and pledge that our actions that our actions and deliberations shall be directed to the following ends:

To agree a scheme for an Assembly or Parliament for Scotland;

To mobilize Scottish opinion and ensure the approval of the Scottish people for that scheme; and

To assert the right of the Scottish people to secure implementation of that scheme.' 

The SNP had previously decided to withdraw from the Scottish Constitutional Convention because it had decided that independence was not to be an option. One of the Scottish Labour MPs who signed the Claim of Right was Alistair Darling, later to become leader of the Better Together (No) campaign opposed to Scottish Independence in the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014.

'For Forsyth and other Tory spokespersons, the revenue-varying powers were nothing other than the 'tartan tax' imposed on the Scottish people simply for being Scottish. The attack struck home and the Labour response sent tremors through the ranks of those who had long campaigned for Home Rule. To the outrage of its partners in the constitutional convention and the fury of many of its own supporters in Scotland, the Shadow Cabinet decided in June 1996 that a general election victory was not in itself sufficient for such a momentous constitutional reform.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', p.616.

UK General Election 1997

The Labour Party won a landslide victory at this election winning 56 of the 72 Westminster seats in Scotland, the SNP won in 6 seats - doubling its representation - the Liberal Democrats took 10 seats whilst the Conservative Party took 0 seats. This effectively made Scotland a 'Tory free zone' in a parliamentary sense. Shortly after coming to power the incoming Labour government arranged for a pre-legislative referendum concerning a devolved Scottish Parliament to be held on 11 September 1997.

'However, initially the SNP avoided any firm post-election commitment to devolution. The logic for this was twofold. First, as suspicions over Labour's intentions over devolution remained strong, there was a desire to see exactly how the timetable for devolution and the details of thew devolution scheme would develop. Was Labour committed to the type of devolution outlined by the Scottish Constitutional Convention or would Whitehall produce a more restrictive scheme for devolution? Such considerations meant that the SNP waited for the publication of the government White Paper on a Scottish Parliament in July 1997, before committing itself to support the proposals at the referendum. Second, there was the question of the referendum itself. The SNP could not give carte blanche to support another referendum without knowledge of the type of question asked, the timing of the referendum or the existence of a 40 per cent rule or any other serious hurdle...Following the publication of the government's devolution White Paper 'Scotland's Parliament' , on 24th July, the SNP moved to support the Yes campaign. The party's National Executive placed a motion before National Council to officially shift the SNP into the Yes camp. The motion stated that

"National Council re-iterates standing policy that gives primacy to the Independence campaign, but which does not seek to obstruct devolution. In that context, National Council resolves that the Scottish National Party will campaign for a 'Yes,Yes' vote in the referendum on September 11th and instructs the NEC to organise and run a distinctive SNP Campaign designed to mobilize the support of the more than 620,000 people who voted SNP on 1st May and the many others who believe in independence. Council further instructs the NEC to co-operate with 'Scotland Forward' in order to strengthen the positive turnout for the referendum."

This resolution was overwhelmingly supported at National Council and the SNP's positive position towards the referendum was accepted without internal conflict.'

SOURCE: 'SNP - The History of the Scottish National Party', pp.221-222.

'When the results were declared, 74.3 per cent of those who voted supported a Scottish parliament and 63.5 per cent agreed that it should have tax-varying powers.'

SOURCE: 'THE SCOTTISH NATION 1700-2000', p.617.

When the Scotland Bill was enacted as the Scotland Act 1998 it was found to contain a sub-section which had not been in the original Bill.

'28 - (7) This section does not affect the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to make laws for Scotland.'

In other words the United Kingdom Parliament could still make laws for Scotland EVEN on devolved matters.

'Labour has been equally inconsistent signing the Claim of Right asserting that the sovereignty rested with the Scottish people (Campaign for a Scottish Assembly 1988), but then insisting in its devolution legislation that the sovereignty of Westminster remained unabridged...its claims to original authority are twofold: its basis in the referendum of 1997 as an act of self-determination; and the residual traditions of Scottish constitutional law and practice which never accorded untrammelled sovereignty to Westminster.'

SOURCE: 'SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: A Practical Guide' by Jo Eric Murkens with Peter Jones and Michael Keating, p.296, ISBN 0-7486-1699-3.

After the Scotland Act 1998 had been passed but before the first elections to the devolved Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999 was approved. It removed a substantial area of the North Sea from Scottish waters and transferred it to English waters. This meant that Scottish fishing boats which had previously landed their catch from that area at a Scottish port had to land it at an English port thereby removing part of the economic contribution of the fishing industry from Scotland.

Members of the Scottish Parliament consist of 129 MSP's - 73 constituency MSP's elected on a First Past The Post basis and 56 MSP's from a Closed Party List. At the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in May 1999 the results were as follows -

                                        SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS 1999
                                                                     RESULTS (1)

                               PARTY              SEATS               SEATS                  SEATS
                                                             ALL                   FPTP                     LIST

                               CON                        18                          0                           18

                               LAB                         56                        53                             3

                               LD                            17                        12                             5

                               SNP                          35                          7                           28

                               OTHERS                   3                          1                             2

                               TOTALS                129                        73                           56

                                       SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS 1999
                                                                    RESULTS (2)

                                PARTY           SEATS%             VOTE%                      DIFF.
                                                            (1)                         (2)                         (2 - 1)

                                 CON                   14.0                       15.5                          -1.5

                                 LAB                    43.4                       36.2                         +7.2

                                 LD                       13.2                       13.3                          -0.1

                                 SNP                     27.1                       28.0                          -0.9

                                 OTHERS              2.3                         7.0                          -4.7

                                 TOTALS           100.0                     100.0

                       NOTE: The VOTE% is an average of the FPTP Vote% plus List Vote%.

At the opening of the devolved Scottish Parliament on 12 May 1999 Winnie Ewing said -

       "The Scottish Parliament adjourned on 25th March 1707 is hereby reconvened."

The election system for the Scottish Parliament is a hybrid of FPTP and Additional Member (Closed Party List) supposedly designed to ensure that elected representation is broadly proportional. It was also the intention of those who designed the system, specifically the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, supposedly that no one party gain an overall majority (more about that in Part 5) - particularly the SNP.

1 comment:

GRCOH said...

Best Wishes, Michael.