The release this week of Westminster Government papers relating to Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to cut the Scottish budget was held up by the Scottish Office for nearly two years as it tried to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act.
A Labour Government and Scottish Office trying to prevent release of papers of a former Conservative Government; one that was pretty well hated across Scotland.
In 1984 Margaret Thatcher wanted to slash the Scottish Office budget. The Treasury was fully supportive of this. It was reported the Treasury’s attitude to Scotland was that they “seem determined to cut Scotland down to size even if it takes them years”.
George Younger, the then Scottish secretary, opposed this drastic cut. He warned that any cut would play into the hands of the SNP. The Thatcher Government had presided over many industry closures in Scotland and Younger knew that this would be politically disastrous for the Conservatives. He threatened the Treasury with his resignation if the scathing cuts went ahead.
So why the attempted cover up?
The Scottish Office felt the documents would “undermine the economic interests of the United Kingdom or part of the UK, or the financial interests of any administration in the UK”.
Given that the papers released were 24 years old, it is reasonable to assume that the reason for the Scottish Office cover up was political not economical.
The notion of the Treasury wanting to mug Scotland of money is not new. They have delivered the tightest settlement to the minority SNP Scottish Government to try and gerrymander its failure. They have refused all the Scottish Parliament’s attempts to wring out monies rightfully due to it and most recently the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has refused to consider giving any oil revenues back to Scotland, from the glut of oil monies pouring into the Treasury from Scottish waters, even after the highest oil prices on record.
Economically then, its not as if any of this is new.
Scotland puts into the pot but is only handed back what the Treasury see fit.
Politically though, it shows the attitude of the Treasury towards Scotland. And the fact that this Labour Government and the Scottish Office fought to keep these papers secret shows that the Treasury’s attitude has not changed one bit from 1984. Neither has this Labour Government’s attitude to Scotland improved from that of the Conservative Government’s ghastly abhorrence under Margaret Thatcher.
They still want to cut Scotland down to size.
It also shows that this Scotland Office does not stand up for Scotland. Something even that George Younger managed to do whilst Scotland’s economy was in freefall in the 80’s.
This Labour Government is a disgrace.
Its about time Scotland controlled its own pot and stopped the money flowing south.
Its about time the Scotland Office ministers stopped deriding the Scottish people as ‘McChattering Classes’ and started representing us instead.