30th March 1989

The signing of the Claim of Right

The Claim of Right, signed at Edinburgh’s General Assembly Hall, demonstrated the widespread support of the country’s MPs, European MPs, churches and trades unions for an independent Scottish Parliament.

The Church of Scotland's General Assembly Hall, Edinburgh
The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

Among those who added their name were high profile MPs, including future Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who had been a prominent campaigner in the run-up to the 1979 referendum on the establishment of an independent parliament along the same lines. Its signing marked a mid-point between the 1979 referendum and the 1989 devolution of powers from the United Kingdom to the parliament established in Edinburgh.

In total, the Claim was signed by all but one of Scotland’s European MEPs, 58 of its 72 Westminster MPs and nine in ten of its councils.

A statement of intent

The Claim of Right was not a legally binding document, but a statement of intent upon the part of its signatories to “acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs” and to “pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount”. It also required the signatories to agree a scheme for a Scottish assembly, mobilise Scottish opinion in support of that scheme and to assert the right of the Scottish people to bring the scheme to fruition.

The Claim of Right was passed to the Scottish Parliament’s education centre upon its founding in 1989 where it was received on behalf of the Parliament by Canon Kenyon Wright. Reporting on the exchange, the BBC News website explained that the convention that formulated and signed the Claim “saw its main role as negotiating with the then Conservative government on devolution for Scotland but it was not until Labour’s General Election victory in 1997 that the ambition could be realised and Scotland later voted for a new parliament in a referendum.”

A motion based on the Claim

However, that didn’t relegate the Claim to a mere historical artefact.

In 2018, the Claim of Right formed the basis of a motion put forward in the Westminster Parliament by Ian Blackford who asked “why do the Tory Government think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and get away with it? Many in Scotland are outraged that the Conservative Government have argued that times are not normal and that that allows them to change the devolution settlement in the teeth of the opposition of the Scottish Parliament. Put simply, the Conservatives have no mandate for their power grab on the Scottish Parliament… in Scotland, it is the Scottish people who are sovereign.”



Other events that occured in March

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