Canon Kenyon Wright CBE

† 31 August 1932 – 11 January 2017

Credited with being the catalyst of Scottish devolution, Canon Wright was made CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1999 “for services to Scottish Devolution and Constitutional Reform”, and in 2000 was given an Honorary D.Litt. from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, on similar grounds.

He was Executive Chair of the cross-party Scottish Constitutional Convention from 1989 to 1999, a member of the CSG (Consultative Steering Group on the Scottish Parliament), and of the “Code of Conduct Working Group”, which planned for a new and more participative democracy in Scotland, the prelude to the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1997.  He also chaired the “People & Parliament” Project, which carried out an extensive nation-wide survey of expectations for Scotland’s future and for the new Parliament

He is the author of “The People story of the Convention’s long and hard, but ultimately successful, struggle to achieve home rule. 

Indeed, Canon Wright was influential in the task of negotiating agreement among the various factions – a task that many considered impossible. The convention’s task was to draft 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 Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland, Malcolm Rifkind, said “if the disparate parties reached a common conclusion he would jump off the roof of the Scottish Office”. 

Thanks in large part to the consensus-building efforts of Canon Wright, on St. Andrew’s Day 1990, the convention delivered its first report recommending a legislature elected by proportional representation financed by taxes raised in Scotland.

Canon Wright was able to convince by appealing to Scottish sovereignty. At the first meeting of the Convention he was notorious for remarking: “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.”

He established and chaired the Scottish Environmental Forum in 1991, to prepare for the Earth Summit in Rio, and after it, chaired a group which developed the first proposals, based on Agenda 21, for a Sustainable Development Strategy for Scotland.  He was Convener of “Vision 21”, the Scottish Churches’ Group on Sustainable Development (Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation).

From 1981, Canon Wright served as General Secretary of Scottish Churches Council (now ACTS) and was increasingly involved in Scottish constitutional, economic and environmental concerns.  

After graduation from Glasgow University and in theology from Cambridge, he served as a Methodist minister in India founding and directing the Ecumenical Social & Industrial Institute, and as Secretary of Calcutta Urban Service, then for 8 years as Director of Coventry Cathedral’s “Centre for International Reconciliation”, which developed projects of Reconciliation in Germany, Eastern Europe, Israel/Palestine, India, South Africa and Northern Ireland.  In 1972, he was “unified” as a minister in the Church of North India, and subsequently licensed as an Anglican minister, and made a Canon of Coventry, while remaining also a Methodist minister.

Even when he had officially retired, he remained:

Consultant on Ecology, Social Ethics, and Constitutional Change.

Consultant to ACTS (Action of Churches Together in Scotland) on Justice/Peace;

Fellow of the Scottish Council for Development & Industry;

Canon Emeritus of Coventry Cathedral, & Companion of the Order of the Cross of Nails.

He and his wife Betty have three daughters, Lindsey, Shona and Shelagh.

This biography was drawn from a personal c.v., Wikipedia and Canon Wright’s one-hour interview with Legacy. We wish to express warm thanks to Shona Wright for making this interview possible.