Tartan Tories

Have your say

Gerard McEwan (Letters, 2 
October) perpetuates the usual Labour myth that the Callaghan government in 1979 was brought down by the SNP, when it was the treachery of Labour backbenchers who conspired to make it impossible for the SNP MPs to support the government.

In 1979 the Labour government with no majority was being kept in power by the SNP MPs on the understanding that a referendum bill would be introduced to give Scotland a parliament.

Desperate to hold on to power, the Labour government introduced the bill but George Cunningham, a backbencher, forced an amendment so that the bill would fail unless 40 per cent of the electorate voted for it.

This was enthusiastically endorsed by a large anti-Scottish lobby of Labour MPs, despite there never having been such a requirement in any other vote in UK history, and a Scottish Labour politician, Brian Wilson, set up and chaired the “Labour Vote No” campaign against the wishes of his own prime minister, who was for devolution.

Although 52 per cent of the Scottish voters voted for the parliament the bill was deemed to have failed, leaving a large number of Scots angry and disillusioned.

The SNP MPs could no longer honourably support a party which had so failed to deliver its promises and were left with no option but to support the Tory vote of no confidence which brought down the Labour government.

The responsibility for that fall was entirely due to the treachery of the Labour backbenchers to their own prime minister.

If they had supported the Labour government’s original proposal then the vote of no confidence would not have happened, the Callaghan government would have continued, and Scotland would have had a parliament in 1979.

James A Duncan

Rattray Grove


Gerard McEwan has a very selective memory. The original Tartan Tories were not the SNP, who made and kept a deal to vote for everything in the Labour manifesto in return for a Labour pledge to set up a Scottish Assembly.

The Tartan Tories were the Scottish Labour MPs who sabotaged the Assembly promise, brought in the “40 per cent rule” and canvassed against official Labour policy.

When the electors had voted by a majority for the much watered down Assembly the SNP demanded that prime minister James Callaghan use a three-line whip to pass the Assembly, for which they had supported the Wilson/Callaghan government on every issue in the Labour manifesto, and which was a Labour manifesto commitment.

The people who brought down the Callaghan government a few months before its last possible date were the Labour MPs who announced 
that they would refuse to accept a three-line whip and would vote against a Labour manifesto policy.

The Labour MPs who refused to vote for Labour policy are the real Tartan Tories.

John Smart

Kinneddar Street