Have you lost the plot?; A three-part series that explains the issues behind the news

Will Scotland win home rule?
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The Independent Online
Constitutional reform, in particular Scottish devolution, is emerging as a key issue in the run-up to the general election. Why?

The plot: Scots' support for a devolved parliament has grown since the abortive home rule referendum in 1979. Successive Tory governments have refused to set up an Edinburgh assembly but Labour, under pressure from the Scottish National Party, has drawn up detailed proposals through the cross-party Scottish Constitutional Convention. Most Scots now expect Tony Blair to legislate, settling what John Smith called Labour's "unfinished business".

The characters: Tony Blair, a Scot, has pledged to set up a Scottish parliament "as soon as practicably possible". Scottish Lib Dems want it up and running one year after a change of government. Scottish nationalists can't wait either - they see a parliament as a stepping stone to independence. John Major agrees. Devolution threatens the unity of the UK and must be defeated, he says.

Prospects: With Labour's stock high in the polls, many Scots think a Scottish parliament will be established by 1998. But Mr Blair may find that Tory mischief-making and opposition from northern Labour MPs scupper his devolution plans. Either way, the D-word, which dominates political debate in Scotland, will become common currency south of the border this year.