Politics - Scotland

2007 - 2021

People and Parliament Revisited


In the run-up to Devolution in 1997 I was concerned that the level of political debate was not going deep enough. There was much talk about politics and economics, but not enough about the deeper values that come out of what George Elder Davie in The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect (1986) made passing reference to as “metaphysical Scotland.”

The “meta” is that which gets behind, or beyond, the outer physical face of reality. It was with this in  mind that the People and Parliament group was formed and it is with this in mind again that I re-publish it here.

In 1997 a small group of ordinary Scottish people, including ones from English, French and Pakistani family backgrounds, got together for a couple of years and under the convenorship of Canon Kenyon Wright of the Scottish Constitutional Convention pulled together the People and Parliament Report.

“Once in many generations there comes to a people the chance to take their destiny into their own hands, to say with confidence who they are and what they want, and to reshape their society in line with their vision. That time has come for Scotland.” – Canon Kenyon Wright, Convener of People & Parliament

In the end we managed to involve some 500 groups across Scotland, and even one from India. We developed a simple group process that explored the 3 issues of identity, vision and process for a future Scotland. Kenyon fed the findings directly in to Donald Dewar’s Consultative Steering Group for the new parliament (of which he was a member) but otherwise, the People & Parliament report of March 1999 had very little media impact. Only the political editor of The Herald picked it up. We distributed hundreds of paper copies of the report at the time, but otherwise, for the past 14 years, this remarkable cultural snapshot of Scotland has only been accessible from an array of HTML files on my personal website such as was the best technology of the time.

In view of the renewed debate about Scotland’s future I took time this past week to scan the Executive report of People & Parliament into a searchable PDF format, and put that and the Full Technical version of the report also in PDF on the web. Kenyon called me about this on Friday, delighted that it is now re-released in this form, and stressing the importance of pressing both sides in the debate about the 2014 independence referendum to look at the deeper issues of culture and values, and not just the narrow and more selfish questions such as whether or not we will be better off alone with Scotland’s oil. Both sides need to explore, discuss and lay out their visions for what kind of a peoples we are and would like to become.

As the People & Parliament Trust that we created to carry out this national discernment exercise in 1997-99 has long since disbanded, I have had to post the Executive and Full Technical report PDFs to my personal website, but this does not infer ownership. Please post the Executive report in particular wherever you wish, and encourage others to think afresh about the questions that it presented to the nation 15 years ago, and especially targeting groups whose voices are usually less loudly heard. Consider re-running the exercise. The original invitation sheet, question form and single-A4 response form are appended to the back of the Full Technical version of the report, and could be used again in local discussions (but don’t send them in – the address given is now defunct).

Kenyon is hoping to get the PDF of the Executive Report put on the website of the Constitutional Commission in which he is playing a part. (He is now retired in England for family reasons.) But here’s the relevant links to the versions on my website: click here for the Executive Report and here for the Full Technical Report.

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