Secret plan to deprive independent Scotland of North Sea oil fields
Documents detailing secret government plans in the 1970s to prevent Scotland laying claim to North Sea oil have been seen by The Times. They show the extraordinary lengths to which civil servants were prepared to go to head off devolution, which was seen then as inevitably leading to independence.
The proposals included suggesting to Labour ministers, for whom devolution was a manifesto commitment, that progress towards a referendum should be delayed, in the hope that enthusiasm north of the Border would wane.
Treasury officials also advised that the boundaries of Scotland's coastal waters should be redrawn and a new sector created to “neutralise” Scotland's claim to North Sea oil – a step that was taken.
One Treasury official even proposed that a local campaign for independence in Orkney and Shetland should be encouraged so that Scotland would be denied access to more than half the North Sea oil. The idea was that the islands would prefer to throw in their lot with London rather than Edinburgh.
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Among those advising Labour ministers was Sir David Walker, who is investigating the banking crisis for the present Government. As assistant secretary at the Treasury, he wrote in May 1975 that “progress toward devolution should be delayed for as long as possible consistently with honouring the government commitment to move down the devolution road and containing the SNP lobby in Parliament”.
Sir David's advice was heeded. It was another four years before the Scots were allowed to vote on whether or not they wanted an assembly in Edinburgh.
The documents – letters, memorandums and briefing papers from the Public Record Offices at Kew and in Edinburgh – show that some civil servants were alarmed by the threat that devolution posed to North Sea oil revenues, which were servicing Britain's external debt.
One paper, by Graham Kear, under-secretary at the Department of Energy, suggested that the Northern Isles might be hived off from Scotland. He wrote: “If Scotland and the Orkney and Shetland Islands are both regarded as states, separate from the rest of the United Kingdom, median lines can be drawn to divide the United Kingdom Continental Shelf between Orkney & Shetland/Scotland and between Scotland/England.”
One way of doing this, according to civil servants advising Anthony Crosland, the Environment Secretary, would be to realign the subsea border between Scotland and England, so that it ran northeast instead of east.
Mr Kear's doubts were shared by his political boss, Tony Benn, the Energy Secretary, who wrote to Ted Short, the deputy leader: “There is general agreement that energy policy – its formulation and execution – should be a function reserved to the UK Government.”
Mr Benn told The Times yesterday that he had favoured Scottish devolution. “I have always taken the view that power was too centralised,” he said. “I think you have to determine what it's appropriate to devolve. On the question of ownership of natural resources, that has to be seen as an integral part of the country.”
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Include into the mix that Scotlands media is all passed through and vetted in BBc Hootsland:And what do you have? Albania circa 1960!!!!!
The BBC has turned me on to Salmond
This Life star Daniela Nardini on why she backs Scots independence now
Actress Daniela Nardini
Actress Daniela Nardini
Daniela Nardini is an unlikely political animal. The actress who smoked, shagged and snorted her way through This Life in the 1990s is currently preoccupied with her toddler daughter Claudia’s cough and the need to find a good beauty therapist. Yet working on a BBC Scotland drama has made her see Alex Salmond in a whole new light.
“Everything has to go through the head office in London,” she says, regardless of who in the BBC’s canteen above the Clyde might be listening. “Why call it BBC Scotland? I don’t know how it’s changed over the past 10 years but I’m sure they used to have more clout; we could do our own stuff without it all having to be agreed upon.
“I was up for another part recently — it was more or less an offer — then apparently this person in London thought I wasn’t quite right for that role. So they are getting involved with casting. When we did This Life, it was all cast in a few days; you didn’t have to go through all the executives. It’s difficult as an actor — I’m sure it’s really difficult for producers. It does make me want an independent Scotland.”
Despite the southern meddling, Nardini is delighted with New Town, which the BBC is calling a “one-off drama”. Written and directed by Annie Griffin, the Scottish-based American who made the Channel 4 series The Book Group, it is set in Edinburgh’s most splendid Georgian streets and pokes an affectionate stick into their residents’ venal aspirations and granite-kitchened nests. Nardini plays estate agent Meredith McIlvanney, a viper in an LK Bennet tweed suit, as if she was born wearing pearl earrings.
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“She was fun to play,” says Nardini who, after a career built on raunch and nudity, is seen on screen, for the first time, wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown. She even, in one outdoor scene, sports a Queen Mother-style headscarf. “There is lots more scope for her,” she laughs. “I got to wear silky pyjamas. It’s so far away from me, to change into silk.”
Griffin and Nardini have worked together before, on the film Festival. The actress denies it but Griffin may have had Nardini in mind when she created Meredith: when she sits on her sofa, in her fancy jammies, tasting wine with the help of an educational CD, it could be the iconic Anna Forbes’s grown up, calmed down, scrubbed up big sister.
Nardini doesn’t see it like that. “There is often a strong, determined woman in Annie’s work, and she certainly got me on board early.” As soon as she saw the script, Nardini was ready to start. “I really like reading her work. She writes about things that seem so normal, then there is always a quirk.”
In fact New Town has many quirks. The bold Meredith has an assistant who Griffin described to Nardini as “a bit All About Eve: she’s watching me and copying me, then one day she’ll be behind my desk”. At the centre of the story are two male architects who wear matching cartoonish specs and have a sweet but cowed little son who refers to them collectively as “Papas”. One is played by Mark Gatiss, of League of Gentlemen fame. Omid Djalili, in a long grey wig, is surprisingly convincing as a thuggish property developer. Richard Holloway, the former Bishop of Edinburgh, appears as a blind version of himself.
This is all vintage Griffin, a fearless caster who put Elaine C Smith in an experimental theatre company in her first series, Coming Soon. “She’s a bit of a gem in Scotland,” says Nardini. “She’s got a very different voice. It’s right between drama and comedy; it’s quite surreal. I think Annie just sits in her room and thinks,” (she slips into Griffin’s US twang) “‘Oh, the minister, that would be quite interesting if I made him blind.’
“I’d work with Annie any day. I really get her, she really appeals to my warped sense of humour. I think this might even be more bonkers than The Book Group.”
As a one-off, New Town certainly leaves the audience ready for more. Everyone involved would like to see it develop into a series, while being careful not to call it a pilot. The BBC Scotland line is that it all depends how the first broadcast, on BBC4 on Saturday, goes. They would, of course, love to see it on BBC1 as well.
Filming a drama about the property market in April 2008, just before many Heriot Row bankers lost their jobs, was not, perhaps, the luckiest piece of timing. There is a hint in the show that all might not be completely rosy in the gardens of India Street but Nardini’s character insists, ever more frenetically, that there is no such thing as a slump. New Town is, she maintains through pursed lips, “futureproof”. It is highly-coloured and fantastical enough to escape being a period piece but, should it become a series, Nardini agrees that even Meredith might need to accept that there is a recession on.
Nardini has her fingers crossed: having moved back to Scotland, she has a vested interest in seeing more clever, original drama being made in Pacific Quay. “There isn’t an awful lot of stuff going on here,” she says mournfully. “There was a wealth of theatre going on when I was here 15 years ago but that seems to have slowed down. As for telly, I don’t know much about what’s going on.
“A lot of the work you get offered is quite ordinary, quite formulaic television. I’m at a difficult transitional stage. I’m not the hottie any more — that’s for when you are 25 up until your early 30s.”
Nardini will be 41 this year. “If you’re not quite mumsy, you’ve got to be repositioned a bit. That’s what’s happening to me and that’s fine because I’m repositioning myself, after having Claudia.”
So what would her newly repositioned dream job be? She grins. “More of this.”
5 years ago