Old Labour government planned to give Scotland more international powers


By Rory Reynolds

A LABOUR government planned to give Scots control over their foreign policy to appease “maverick” nationalists, according to newly declassified documents.

James Callaghan’s administration, which was voted out of government in 1979, feared that denying Scotland a role in European affairs would fan the flames of nationalism.

Scottish Office civil servants drew up a classified dossier named The Brussels Connection to outline the plan, which warned that denying Scotland a voice would “risk fuelling demands for full independence”.

The documents, released by the National Archives of Scotland after 30 years, refer to a future devolved Scottish government, and contrast with the current UK government, which reserves the power to negotiate with European states.

“Considerable scope”

The document reads: “The devolved Scottish executive would wish to play, and be seen to play, as full a part as possible and, if necessary, and independent part on the European stage.

“It is necessary to consider ways in which the Scottish administration could have some control over the negotiations within the EEC in areas for which it is responsible.”

The dossier adds that there may be “considerable scope for the Scottish executive to act in a maverick fashion and undermine the position of the government” recommending several steps to appease the nationalists.

In November finance secretary John Swinney said Scotland had been “relegated to the fringes” of the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen.

The Scottish government’s request to have a cabinet minister at the two week conference, as part of the UK delegation, was blocked by the UK Government.

The dossier’s recommendations were never put into place after the referendum in 1979 failed to attract more than 40 per cent of the electorate, despite a narrow majority of ‘yes’ votes.


SNP MEP Alyn Smith said: “The UK government’s blinkered attitude does not stand any analysis, with even the ghost of Labour governments past disagreeing with them.

“These papers make clear that the Scottish government would have been entitled to a role in international relations, which would have seen a Scottish minister at the heart of the Copenhagen conference.”