Scotland politics

SNP takes new Claim of Right approach

The SNP has hailed Scotland's historic 1989 Claim of Right, which helped pave the way for devolution, despite previously refusing to sign it.

The claim backed the case for a Scottish Parliament and was backed by a range of politicians, civic groups and businesses.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called on all parties to "recommit" to its principles.

The Scottish government is planning an independence referendum in autumn 2014.

The Claim of Right, drawn up by the Scottish Constitutional Convention - a wide-ranging group of people from across society - was backed by the Labour and Lib Dem MPs of the day, apart from anti-devolutionist Tam Dalyell.

It sought to acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine their government.

Backers included former prime minister Gordon Brown and former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell - but the SNP pulled out of the convention at an early stage because the body did not consider the issue of independence.

Leading a debate in the Scottish Parliament the day after the Scottish government launched its consultation on the referendum, Ms Sturgeon dismissed taunts from Labour, over her call to support the Claim of Right.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The founding principle of that claim of right is one that all parties which have taken their place in this parliament should be able to subscribe to.

"And there has never been a more important moment to recommit ourselves to the guiding principle of the claim of right that the people, the Scottish people, are sovereign."

When challenged, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP "always supported the sentiments of the Claim of Right," adding: "The reasons why the SNP weren't in the constitutional convention are well documented, but that is history."

Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson said the Tories' opposition to the claim was "at least consistent" with party policy at the time.

She went on: "The other party which refused to support the Claim of Right or refuse to work within the constitutional convention was the SNP - the very same party who are calling on us to vote for a motion which is an extract from the 1989 Claim of Right."

Conservative MSP David McLetchie recalled the original Claim of Right, passed by the old Scots Parliament in 1689, which declared King James VII (James II of England) had forfeited the throne "because he had sought to change what it described as the fundamental constitution of the kingdom from a legal, limited monarchy to an arbitrary, despotic power".

Mr McLetchie added: "Notwithstanding its offensive prejudices, the act of 1689 appears to have been an inspiration, 300 years later, for a new Claim of Right, misguidedly signed by those who should have known better, and whose judgement was blinded by their dislike of a Conservative government."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said his party would continue a wide debate on Scotland's future, adding: "That respects the will of the Scottish people - if we were not to respect the will of the Scottish people that would be a mistake and that is something we are determined not to do."

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