Kenyon Wright

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Kenyon Edward Wright CBE (31 August 1932 – 11 January 2017) was a priest of the Scottish Episcopal Church and a political campaigner. Wright chaired the Scottish Constitutional Convention (1989–1999), which laid the groundwork for the creation of the devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Early life[edit]

Wright was born in Paisley in Scotland on 31 August 1932, the son of a textile technician.[1] He attended Paisley Grammar School, followed by Glasgow and Cambridge Universities.[2]


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). In 1994 he took up the post of Priest-in-Charge of All Saints Church in Glencarse.[3]

Campaigning for a Scottish Parliament[edit]

Wright was a long-time campaigner for Scottish devolution. He had been a member of the Labour party but let this lapse to be able to work as part of the cross-party Scottish Constitutional Convention.[4]

He became the executive chairman of the convention and opened the first meeting on 30 March 1989.[5] 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".[6] 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."[7]

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.

After the convention[edit]

At the first election to the Parliament in 1999 he stood as an independent candidate in the West of Scotland region but was not successful.[8]

He joined the Scottish Liberal Democrats in 2000, having stayed out of party politics as chairman of the convention.[9] In 2001 he stood as a candidate in the Banff and Buchan by-election for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, unsuccessfully contesting the Scottish Parliamentary seat vacated by the resignation of Alex Salmond.[10] In the 2003 Scottish Parliamentary Elections, he contested the Stirling constituency.[11]

Wright also backed calls for a Devolved English parliament.[12][13][14]

In the 2014 Scottish independence referendum he supported a Yes vote.[15]

Published works[edit]

  • Wright, Kenyon; Conroy, Harry (1997). The people say yes : the making of Scotland's parliament. Argyll, Scotland: Argyll Pub.
  • Wright, Kenyon (2002). Hamish Scott Henderson, 11 November 1919-8 March 2002. Edinburgh: St. Mary's Cathedral. OCLC 316543093.
  • Wright, Kenyon (2012). Coventry – cathedral of peace : healing the wounds of history in international reconciliation. Edinburgh: Bloomington, Ind. : AuthorHouse. ISBN 9781468585797.

Later life and death[edit]

In 2008 Wright retired from working as a priest and returned to live in the Midlands.[2] He died at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon on 11 January 2017 at the age of 84.[16][17]

Memorial services were held in Coventry Cathedral[18] on 3 March 2017 and at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh,[19] on 10 March 2017.[20]

Awards and honours[edit]

Wright was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1999 Birthday Honours for services to constitutional reform and devolution in Scotland.[21][22]

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


  1. ^ Davies, Ashley (27 January 2017). "Obituary: Canon Kenyon Wright, campaigner for Scottish devolution". The Scotsman. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Smith, Maurice (16 January 2017). "Obituary – Canon Kenyon Wright, Episcopalian priest and leading advocate of devolution". The Herald. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Scottish Episcopal Church". The Independent. 8 March 1994. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  4. ^ "Canon Kenyon For Scottish Parliament". BBC News. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  5. ^ Clark, Wiliam (31 March 1989). "Canon sets the scene for home rule battle with passionate plea". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  6. ^ T.M. Devine The Scottish Nation 1700–2000 Penguin 1999 p612
  7. ^ The Claim of Right of 1988 (accessed 16 June 2007)
  8. ^ "Vote 99: Scotland Constituencies & Regions. West of Scotland". BBC News. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Canon takes political side". BBC News. 30 June 2000.
  10. ^ "Holyrood by-elections resolved". BBC News. 8 June 2001.
  11. ^ "Kenyon Wright pledges to take half pay". The Scotsman. 24 April 2003. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  12. ^ Kemp, Arnold (9 July 2000). "Holyrood 'father' may now set English on road to home rule". The Observer. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Scottish devolution chief calls for English parliament". 24 October 2006. Retrieved 16 June 2006.
  14. ^ Fresh call for English Parliament Tuesday, 24 October 2006 (accessed 16 June 2006)
  15. ^ "Canon Kenyon Wright: A No vote dooms us all". The Scotsman. 19 August 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Leading devolution campaigner Canon Kenyon Wright dies at 84". STV News. 13 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Leading devolution campaigner Canon Kenyon Wright dies". BBC News. 13 January 2017.
  18. ^ Tribute from Alex Salmond given at Coventry Cathedral
  19. ^ Message on Twitter from Nicola Sturgeon
  20. ^ Obituary in the Church Times
  21. ^ "The Scots who made the grade". BBC News. 12 June 1999.
  22. ^ "Queen's Birthday Honours: The Full List". The Independent. 11 June 1999. Retrieved 3 March 2017.