(17) The General Election of 1997: prospects for devolution
The Labour Party was returned to government by an overwhelming majority in the British General Election on 1 May 1997. Of the 72 Scottish seats, 56 went to Labour with 45.6% of the vote, 10 to the Liberal Democrats with 13%, and 6 to the SNP with 22%. All 11 sitting Conservative MPs lost their seats, although the party garnered 17.5% of the overall vote. Lynda Clark QC fulfilled her career ambition by being elected Labour MP for Edinburgh Pentlands (see No 3 below). The new Labour Government is committed to the introduction of a Scottish Parliament following a referendum in which the Scottish electorate will be asked whether there should be such a parliament, and whether that parliament should have “tax-varying” powers. The referendum is expected to take place during September 1997, and the Devolution Bill will be introduced in the following parliamentary session. During the election campaign, Mr Blair, leader of the Labour Party and now Prime Minister, equated the powers of the prospective Scottish Parliament with those of an English parish council, and observed that “sovereignty remains with me as an English MP, and that is the way it will stay”.