Millan’s legacy

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In his otherwise creditable obituary of former Scottish secretary Bruce Millan (Obituaries, 25 February), Brian Wilson failed to mention a key point.

Mr Millan’s Craigton constituency in south Glasgow (subsequently the Govan constituency) may have been well organised. But it was not so well organised that it failed to prevent a major humiliation for Labour in the November 1988 by-election that followed his appointment as a European Commissioner.

Indeed, that by-election, which took Jim Sillars back to the House of Commons for the SNP, deserves a mention for its place in Scottish history.

The outcome did provoke 
Labour into an increased sense of urgency over devolution.

A constitutional convention was quickly established which, for good or ill, has helped to create the Scottish Parliament and the current vigorous (if 
prolonged) debate on an independence referendum.

Had Mr Millan simply remained MP for Govan, or had Labour had been successful in retaining the seat, the face of Scottish politics would be very much different today.

Talk of a referendum reminds me of Labour’s own divisions over a referendum on Europe in the 1970s.

Bruce Millan may have vigorously questioned the late Roy Jenkins (then deputy leader) about his stance on party loyalty and entry into the European Economic Community, as Brian Wilson outlines.

But it was Labour’s determination to have a referendum on the issue, shifting its ground once more, that prompted Roy Jenkins’ resignation, not Bruce Millan’s questioning.

That is not to say that his role in the life of Scotland was not a significant one: he took the country to the brink of a semblance of devolution in 1979 in another referendum.

It remains a matter of conjecture whether a stronger personality might have brought it about earlier.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court