The creation of the Scottish parliament: journey without end

James Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649 - 665
Number of pages17
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Scottish politics
  • devolution
  • Scottish Parliament


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