The Scottish National Party’s ratings began to rise through the 1960s. The party polled 28 percent by 1967, and 30 percent the following year. By 1974 the SNP could boast of eleven Members of Parliament.
The surge in popularity of the Scottish National Party began to falter in the late 1970s when, in 1979 Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party was elected by a large majority. A referendum for a Scottish Assembly in the late 1970s resulted in a turnout that was not even large enough for the result to qualify. Through the 1980s both, the Conservative Party and the SNP, lost out in elections to the point at which the eleven Members of Parliament representing the SNP were reduced to a mere two in the election of 1987.
In 1988 the document titled, A Claim Of Right For Scotland, was published by the ‘Campaign for a Scottish Assembly Constitutional Steering Committee. The document, which outlined the “constitutional rights Scotland expects within the United Kingdom,” sparked interest once again in self-government. One thing that came about as a result of the publication of this document was the calling of a Constitutional Convention. The Committee met between January and June, 1988 to plan for such a Convention. Surprisingly, despite the fact that almost all of the various political parties then active in Scotland joined together to promote and participate in the Convention, the Scottish National Party did not. Members of the SNP attended a preliminary meeting held in January, 1989, at which time their reservations against holding a Convention were stated, and then they withdrew.
The Scottish National Party’s reservations against the holding of a Constitutional Convention might have been motivated by a desire for their own version of a constitution to be accepted by Scotland. Two versions of a constitution were drafted by the SNP. The first version, drafted between 1957 and 1964, paid homage to Roland Eugene Muirhead in both the Introduction and a dedication. The Introduction stated that “This constitution was formulated between 1957-1964 at the behest of Scottish business man and patriot Roland E. Muirhead (1868-1964). His office at Elmbank Crescent, Glasgow was the meeting place of the Committee of Articles whose task it was to examine the constitutions of the world.” The dedication page stated “This publication is dedicated to the memory of Roland Eugene Muirhead who for seventy five years relentlessly campaigned for an independent Scottish parliament.”(2.58)
A second version of ‘A Constitution For A Free Scotland’ was drafted and accepted by the party in 1977 during the SNP’s National Conference. Unfortunately for Roland E. Muirhead’s memory, this latter version did not pay homage to him or his pioneering work on the project.(2.59)
In 1992 a European Summit, which was convened in Edinburgh, was accompanied by a large rally of thousands of Scots demanding the establishment of an independent Scottish Parliament. Then, on 11 September, 1997 a referendum took place in which almost sixty percent of the electorate voted. Two items were put to a vote: the question of whether the voters wanted a Scottish Parliament, and the other whether that Parliament should have tax varying powers. The Constitutional Convention received seventy-four percent of votes for a Scottish Parliament and nearly two-thirds were in favor of the tax varying powers. The Scottish Parliament was finally on the verge of becoming a reality.
After a lapse of nearly three centuries, the Scottish Parliament reopened in 1999. In May of that year elections for the Members were held, based on proportional representation similar to that employed in New Zealand and Germany. There are 129 members of the Scottish Parliament with a Cabinet of eleven Ministers headed by the First Minister, Jack McConnell. Since Scotland remains within the United Kingdom, on 01 July, 1999 Her Majesty the Queen, the head of state, opened the Parliament.
The UK Parliament remains sovereign, therefore, if a power is not listed in the Scotland Act of 1998, it is devolved. There are four primary areas of which the Scottish Parliament does not have legislative powers: Economy, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Social Security. There are six powers which have devolved thus far: Industry (training and education); Health and social work; Local Government, housing and planning; Arts, culture and tourism; Justice, police and fire; and Environment, agriculture and fisheries.
As is it noted on the website for the Scottish National Party: “The long struggle for a Scottish Parliament is over; the campaign for independence goes on.”
2.58 Scotland’s Constitution, edited by Robbie Moffat, illustrated by Matthew McKenna 1993, pp 3,4.
2.59 A Constitution For A Free Scotland, at the url: http://www.snp.org/