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1995 - Mr Major’s Comments on Scottish Devolution

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on Scottish devolution, made in an interview in London on Thursday 23rd February 1995.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why Scotland was being denied a legislative assembly which was being offered to Northern Ireland].

PRIME MINISTER:

I see why at a very superficial level people can say that, but the reality is that the circumstances are quite different in the case of Scotland, as opposed to Northern Ireland, in a range of very important areas. Perhaps it would be helpful just to spell out some of the areas. In Northern Ireland, the Assembly would not be a tax-raising assembly, the assembly being proposed for Scotland would be a tax-raising assembly, that is a very dramatic difference. In Northern Ireland there are different circumstances as well, there has been 300 years of strife in Northern Ireland, that sort of sectarian divide does not exist in Scotland.

QUESTION:

[The questioner commented that Scotland had a history of sectarianism].

PRIME MINISTER:

Not remotely of the sort you have seen in Northern Ireland, and I do not think anyone who has any familiarity either with Scotland or Northern Ireland would argue that case. But I could add some other points to it as well and will if you permit me to do so. In Northern Ireland none of the main political parties are likely on their own to form the government, that is not the case in Scotland, two of the parties in Scotland, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party could conceivably form the government, and of course the Liberal Party might well be part of a government, that is another material difference. In Northern Ireland there is no real local government. In Scotland there is a very well established traditional form of local government that has a wide range of local accountability and responsibilities - another difference. In Northern Ireland, because of its history there has been a history of an assembly, that is not the case in Scotland.

QUESTION:

[The questioner commented that Scotland had its own Parliament].

PRIME MINISTER:

Many, many years ago. In Northern Ireland a proportion of the Northern Irish population would be prepared to leave Northern Ireland and become part of a foreign country, that does not apply in Scotland. Those are a whole range of very material differences between the circumstances that apply in Scotland and those that apply in Northern Ireland. The question is, should Scotland have more control over its affairs, that is what underpins all this. And I acknowledge that sometime ago, and I think one will see over recent years, there has been a remarkable devolution of authority to the Scottish Office, both before, during and subsequently to the stock-taking exercise that I launched before the last general election.