Records of the Scottish Constitutional Committee

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The records consist of copies of written testimony and copies of transcript of oral testimony from persons interviewed and reporting to the Committee by invitation. The individuals, bodies and interest groups represent industry and commerce, Churches, education and academia, the legal profession, journalism, the economic world, trade unionism, the political life of the country, trade groups, and local government. There are news clippings and newspapers covering the period of the life of the Committee and copies of  New Scotland. A review of political and current affairs in Scotland, from February to October 1969.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Scottish Constitutional Committee was established in August 1968 by Edward Heath (b. 1916) and had the task of examining a proposal for the creation of a Scottish Assembly. The suggestion for this had been put forward by a policy group of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, but at the time the subject was being well debated across the country generally. Because of the nature of the proposal, an apolitical body was required, and the Scottish Constitutional Committee was created to act as this body. The policy group of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party was represented at the Committee's meetings. Although the Committee was financed by the Conservative Party, it was an independent organisation composed of independent members and sought to obtain and examine the views of the broadest possible spectrum of Scottish opinion. The Committee was presented with particular aims and functions. It had to keep the UK united, but try to improve the machinery of government. It had to allow the Scottish people to play a part in making decisions on Scottish legislation, and it had to increase the opportunity to propose and discuss UK policy as it affected Scotland. The Committee was free to explore any other proposals for the future government of Scotland but any solution had to be consistent with and to contribute to the unity of the UK. The Committee was chaired by Sir Alec Douglas-Home (1903-1995) and during its life consisted of thirteen separate members including Lady Tweedsmuir (1915-1978) and the Rev. Dr. Ronald Selby Wright (1908-1995) and two advisers one of whom was the Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Menzies (1894-1978). The first meeting of the full Committee was held at the North British Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh (now the Balmoral Hotel), on 13 September 1968, and met on seventeen occasions for twenty-one days in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Inverness and Peebles. The last meeting was held on 16 March 1970. The Committee weighed up the arguments for separatism and federalism that had been discussed widely across the country and rejected the thesis that Scottish prosperity lay in severing ties with the existing UK constitution. Instead, it proposed a Scottish Assembly or Convention of approximately 125 elected and paid members which would debate Scottish Bills in the early legislative stages of parliamentary progress. The body recommended by the Scottish Constitutional Committee was to be located in Edinburgh. The Committee Report was published in March 1970.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance. The boxes holding the material in this collection indicate that the contents are 'personal and strictly confidential' and 'restricted until 1990'.

Note

The administrative history was compiled using material contained in the collection, and: (1)  Scotland's government. The report of the Scottish Constitutional Committee. Edinburgh: The Scottish Constitutional Committee, 1970.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Bibliography

Within the holdings of Edinburgh University Library, at shelfmark P .354(41) Sco. can be found a copy of  Scotland's government. The report of the Scottish Constitutional Committee. Edinburgh: The Scottish Constitutional Committee, 1970.