THE Scottish Parliament has still not justified its existence 20 years after the country first voted it into being, according to the head of the campaign against devolution.

Describing himself as “totally vindicated” and “unrepentant”, Donald Findlay QC said he remained unimpressed by its legislation, building and most of its politicians.

However he also said it was “nonsensical” to think Holyrood could ever be abolished, as a generation of Scots had grown up with it as part of their daily life.

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In a Herald interview to mark the 20th anniversary of the devolution referendum, Mr Findlay said he was “proud” of fronting the Think Twice campaign in 1997.

A leading criminal lawyer and director of Rangers FC at the time, he became involved “because politicians didn’t want to stick their head above the parapet on the No-No side”.

He said: “I was convinced the SNP would seek to use it as a lever to force us towards independence. I feel totally vindicated. It’s taken rather longer than I thought it might, but totally vindicated.”

With Labour, the SNP and LibDems promoting a Yes-Yes vote, and the Tories sitting out the campaign, he said the No side had struggled financially from the off.

And although he never foresaw triumph, he was surprised that 74.3 per cent of people backed the parliament, and 63.4 per cent wanted it to have tax-varying powers,

“Our resources were minimalist,” he said. “I travelled up and down the country doing every broadcast we could and paid for that myself, as we all did. They had the resources to keep going. We were always fighting a rearguard action, always.

“We didn’t think we would win, but we certainly didn’t expect to do as badly as we did.

“As we got into it, we were aware there was a very strong tide towards devolution. The media were very scornful of the No-No campaign and some sections more or less implied, What right did we have to oppose this?

“I was proud of the efforts, if for no other reason than I believe very much in a democracy being a democracy, and however unpopular a viewpoint may be, you have the right to argue that and people should respect your right.”

Asked if he felt the parliament had justified itself, Mr Findlay said: “I don’t personally. I have never been impressed by the parliament.

“We didn’t argue that Scotland couldn’t govern itself. The point we made was whether or not it was in the best interests of the people as a whole to have a parliament.

“I was very much in favour of better and stronger local government, but really local, as opposed to just an Edinburgh-centralised Westminster.”

Referring to the First Minister delivering her annual legislative programme last week, he went on: “When I listened to Ms Sturgeon going on about doing something on education, on transport, on the environment, on justice and everything else, my reaction was, ‘Well, what the hell have you been doing the past 10 years?’

“And particularly what have you been doing the last few years apart from banging on about independence for independence’ sake.

“So I’m not that enamoured of it, no. But it’s a fact of life now. What’s the point of trying to abolish something that’s not going to go away? That’s foolish.

“That’s like saying, ‘We’ll change the weather’. You can’t. The weather will be what the weather will be. Abolition is a nonsensical argument. People like my grandchildren have not known this country other than when it has had its own parliament thing in Edinburgh.”

Mr Findlay, 66, said he couldn’t think of anything that had pleasantly surprised him about the parliament, and his antipathy to it even extended to the building itself.

Although often in the law courts at the top of the Royal Mile, it took him eight years to visit Enric Miralles’s creation at the foot of it, and only then to appear before a committee.

He recalled: “I jumped in a taxi and the guy dropped me off and I said, ‘Where is it?’ He said, ‘That’s it.’ I said, ‘You’re joking, is that it?’ I have seldom seen such an unimpressive, unprepossessing building, but there we are. I’m unrepentant.”

As for his original fear that the parliament would assist the SNP and independence, he said the issue had gone quiet recently, but not gone away.

He said: “It will always remain an issue. Thanks to Ms Sturgeon it has certainly been driven onto the backburner. I think she’s created what she promised, but of course didn’t mean - that it was a once in a generation chance.

“And because of her antics, I think it has become a once in a generation chance. But not in my lifetime, I’m please to say, and I intend to be around for a bit longer yet.”

ENDS