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Sunday, November 7, 1999 Published at 12:52 GMT

UK Politics

Reformers vow to step up campaign

The act is an "anomalous injustice," say reformers

Opposition leaders in Scotland have promised to step up their campaign to change the law which bars Roman Catholics from the throne.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has stressed that there are no early plans to alter the Act of Settlement - despite suggestions in newspapers that the Government was ready to move on the issue.

Mr Blair has argued that the issue is hypothetical and that there are far more pressing demands upon scarce legislative time.

In Scotland, pressure for change has come from Lord James Douglas-Hamilton of the Tories and from Mike Russell of the SNP.

Mr Russell said the campaign for reform would now be stepped up "exponentially".

Lord James, Tory whip in the Scottish Parliament, had previously written to Mr Blair asking him to lift of the 1700 Act of Settlement, which he described as an "anachronistic and anomalous injustice".

The Act, passed by the English Parliament, bars royals from becoming king or queen if they "profess the popish religion or shall marry a Papist".

Mr Blair told Lord James the Government had "no plans" to repeal the law because attempts to amend it would be "complex in the extreme", requiring amendments of other legislation in Britain and in several Commonwealth countries.

Mr Blair said: "The central point of the Act of Settlement is that the established Church in England is the Church of England, of which the sovereign is supreme governor.

"Therefore the act does not prevent members of the royal family from becoming or marrying Roman Catholics, but does remove them from the line of succession."

Lord James plans to seek the views of Scottish churches with the aim of gathering support for a repeal of the law.

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