Philip Begley
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Scottish devolution
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Devolution was one of the defining issues in British politics during the late 1970s. It was a fundamental concern for the Conservative Party. The party had a uniquely strong tradition of support for the principle of the United Kingdom, but by the mid-1970s it had accepted the need for some kind of devolution as a means of avoiding other more radical changes. Official policy was therefore to support a directly elected assembly in Scotland. Though this commitment remained it was less concrete by 1979 than it had been at the beginning of the period. Support for such an institution became more circumstantial and qualified. Philosophical arguments in support of devolution appear to have been employed less often. The focus was more on the negative consequences of Labour’s specific proposals. However, devolution was not rejected outright. That eighteen years of Conservative government in which nothing was done about devolution followed, was not as inevitable in the preceding years as it might later appear.

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The making of Thatcherism

The Conservative Party in opposition, 1974–79


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