Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by the Royal Party look on as the 15th Duke of Hamilton presents the Crown of Scotland to the Chamber during the Opening of The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 1 July 1999.
Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by the Royal Party look on as the 15th Duke of Hamilton presents the Crown of Scotland to the Chamber during the Opening of The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 1 July 1999.

Scotland in the 1990s: The biggest news stories of the decade

The last decade of the 20th century proved to be one of the most pivotal in Scottish history as the nation voted overwhelmingly to take greater control of its own affairs.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 7:00 am

A new era began on September 11 1997, when Scotland’s electorate cast their ballots, with 74 per cent voting for the creation of a devolved Scottish parliament, and for that parliament to have tax varying powers.

When the Scottish Parliament reconvened, a little over 18 months later, at its temporary home at Edinburgh’s former Assembly Hall on The Mound, it marked the first time in 292 years that parliament had met north of the border.

On that historic day, leading nationalist Winnie Ewing declared: "I want to start with the words that I have always wanted either to say or to hear someone else say - the Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25, 1707, is hereby reconvened."

It was a proud moment for the nation and a positive end to a decade that hadn’t always been filled with happy moments.

The 1990s began with protest, as Scots rallied passionately against the introduction of a new domestic rates system that would commonly become known as the “poll tax”.

Marchers banded together in huge numbers to vent their disgust at Margaret Thatcher’s government’s controversial plans, which would ultimately be scrapped and replaced. By the end of 1990, it was estimated that one million Scots had taken to the streets.

But while there had been unrest, there was much to be optimistic about. Confidence in the Scottish economy was on the increase, with consumers spending more on average than previous generations and on a societal level the mood was fast changing.

Much beleaguered by recent industrial decline, Glasgow was looking to the future and in 1990 celebrated its status as European City of Culture with great enthusiasm.

In UK politics, Argyll and Bute born John Smith was busy reinventing the Labour Party and giving renewed cause for optimism that the party could finally put an end to Conservative rule. At his sudden and tragic death in 1994 from a heart attack, the buzz Smith had generated was passed on to the young Tony Blair, who would go on to steer Labour to a landslide victory in the 1997 General Election.

Scotland was making records in others too. In 1994, Clydebank pop group Wet Wet Wet spent an astonishing 15 weeks at the top of the UK pop charts with their cover of The Troggs’ 1960s hit Love Is All Around. Led by frontman Marti Pellow, the group came within a whisker of equalling the record for the most consecutive weeks spent at the top of the pops.

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