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Stone urges SNP to respect the Claim of Right and 'get on with the day job'

By Matt Leslie

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Jamie Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.
Jamie Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

Far north MP Jamie Stone has warned senior SNP figures to be "careful for what they wish for" in their bid to stage a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Speaking in the House of Commons in a debate on the Claim of Right for Scotland, Mr Stone attacked the SNP for being too focused on breaking away from the UK at the expense of Scotland's public services.

The Claim of Right was established in 1989 and an event was held on the Mound in Edinburgh for people to sign it – one being Mr Stone himself.

In the document was the call to establish a Scottish Assembly – which eventually came to fruition following the 1997 devolution referendum – and was signed by devolution supporters who included 58 Scottish MPs, mostly Labour and Liberal Democrat.

The SNP at the time did not sign it as it stated the claim did not consider the issue of independence. However, the party changed its stance on it in 2012 with then Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying her party "backed the principles" of it.

However, with the Scottish Parliament being operational since 1999, Mr Stone has urged the SNP government at Holyrood to use it to improve Scotland's public services instead of looking for independence.

He said: "I think I am right in saying that I am the only Member of this place [House of Commons] whose name is actually on the Claim of Right.

The Scottish Government must use its powers to improve the lives of those living and working in Scotland.

"That is something I am very proud of indeed. The Claim of Right to which I put my name was about the Scots having control over their own destiny and over their own services.

"Surely, therefore, the standard of service delivery we see is what the Scottish Government will be judged against. Right now we see that on the health front the Scottish Government is failing, and we know that on transport it is failing.

"If 'indyref two' ever comes to it, they will be judged accordingly, and I say to the Scottish National Party: be careful what you wish for."

Speaking after the debate in the House, Mr Stone added: "The SNP refused to sign the Claim of Right for Scotland in 1989.

"Yet now when they continue to fail the Scottish people when it comes to education, health and transport, the SNP would rather wrangle over constitutional issues than get on with their day job.

"Under the SNP government in Scotland we are seeing growing challenges within education and our health and social care services and the answer to these is not more constitutional division and upheaval.

"As a signatory to the Claim of Right I am, of course, very much in favour of devolution. But the Scottish Government must use its powers to improve the lives of those living and working in Scotland and focus public funding on improving public services."

The Claim of Right 1989

Created by the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly group in 1988, its title was a reference to the Claim of Right Act 1689, an Act of the Parliament of Scotland which limited the power of the Scottish monarch (at the time, William II and Mary II).

The House of Commons officially endorsed the principles of the Claim of Right. However this was a non-binding endorsement and did not create any legal recognition of it.

The document itself was a declaration of the sovereignty of the Scottish people and was signed by several MPs who would later hold high positions both in their party and the UK government.

Signatories included future Prime Minister Gordon Brown, future Chancellor Alastair Darling and future Liberal Democrat party leaders Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell.

The Claim of Right was signed in Edinburgh in March 1989 and reads as follows:

We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs,

And do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount.

We further declare and pledge that our actions and deliberations shall be directed to the following ends:

To agree a scheme for an Assembly or Parliament for Scotland;

To mobilise Scottish opinion and ensure the approval of the Scottish people for that scheme; and

To assert the right of the Scottish people to secure implementation of that scheme.

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