Kenyon Wright

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Canon Kenyon Wright (born 1932) is a retired Episcopalian clergyman who chaired the Scottish Constitutional Convention, that laid the groundwork for the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1997.

Life and career[edit]

Wright was born in Paisley in 1932, the son of a textile technician, and attended Paisley Grammar School, followed by Glasgow and Cambridge Universities.

From 1955, he served as a Methodist missionary in India, and in 1963, was appointed Director of the Ecumenical, Social and Industrial Institute in Durgapur, India.

In 1970, he returned to the United Kingdom as Director of Urban Ministry, at Coventry Cathedral and then in 1974 was promoted to Canon Residentiary at the Cathedral and Director of its International Ministry.

In 1981, he came back to Scotland and became General Secretary of the Scottish Council of Churches. In 1990, he became Director of Kairos (Centre for a Sustainable Society).

Campaigning for a Scottish Parliament[edit]

Wright was a long-time campaigner for Scottish devolution. On 30 March 1989, he became executive chairman of the cross-party Scottish Constitutional Convention (1989-1999). The convention was aimed at drawing up a blueprint for Scottish devolution and included representatives of local government, the Scottish Churches, Trade Unions, Small Business Federation and the Scottish Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties. The Scottish Conservative Party and Scottish National Party declined to be involved. The task of finding a consensus among the participating groups remained formidable, the Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland, Malcolm Rifkind was reported as saying "if the disparate parties reached a common conclusion he would jump off the roof of the Scottish Office".[1] Nevertheless, on St Andrew's Day 1990, the convention delivered its first report recommending a legislature elected by proportional representation financed by assigned revenues from taxes raised in Scotland.

Of course, any agreement which was rejected by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher could not become law. Wright responded to this political reality by appealing to the idea of Scottish popular sovereignty. At the first meeting of the Convention he famously remarked: "What if that other voice we all know so well responds by saying, 'We say no, and we are the state',? Well we say yes - and we are the people."[2]

In 1997, when the Labour party came to power in the United Kingdom, the convention formed the basis of the Scotland Act that the Secretary of State for Scotland Donald Dewar successfully steered through the Westminster Parliament. However, the Labour Party also insisted on a referendum before the Scottish Parliament came into being. During this 1997 referendum, Wright was a prominent campaigner for the "yes/yes" vote.

Wright was made a CBE in 2000.[3]

In 2001 he stood in the Banff and Buchan by-election for the Liberal Democrats, unsuccessfully contesting the Scottish Parliamentary seat vacated by the resignation of Alex Salmond. He joined the Liberal Democrats only the year before, having stayed out of party politics as chairman of the convention. [4] In the 2003 Scottish Parliamentary elections, he contested the Stirling constituency.

More recently, Wright has backed calls for a devolved English Parliament. [5] [6]

He is a Fellow of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry.

References[edit]

  1. ^ T.M. Devine The Scottish Nation 1700-2000 Penguin 1999 p612
  2. ^ The Claim of Right of 1988 alba.org.uk (accessed June 16th 2007)
  3. ^ BBC report Saturday, 12 June, 1999 (accessed June 17th 2007)
  4. ^ Canon takes political side bbc.co.uk Friday, 30 June, 2000 (accessed June 17th 2007)
  5. ^ Scottish devolution chief calls for English parliament politics.co.uk (accessed June 16th 2006)
  6. ^ Fresh call for English Parliament bbc.co.uk Tuesday, 24 October 2006 (accessed June 16th 2006)

Sources[edit]