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Callaghan government discussed moving sea borders and using propaganda to prevent UK break-up

20 Apr 2021 2 minute read
Prime Minister James Callaghan in the 1970s. Picture by European Communities (CC BY 4.0).

James Callaghan’s Labour government discussed moving sea borders and using propaganda to prevent the break-up of the UK, it has emerged.

Notes to Callaghan, who was MP for Cardiff South East, discussed moving North Sea oil into English waters in order to undermine Scottish desire for independence.

The documents from the late 1970s released today and reported on in the Times newspaper also show that the government created a ‘publicity and propaganda’ unit to undermine the SNP.

The revelations will potentially put more wind in the SNP’s sails before the Scottish Parliament election on May 6.

“Officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have drawn attention to the potential damage to the UK arising out of the SNP’s claim that ‘It’s Scotland’s oil’,” said Anthony Crosland, then foreign secretary, in a confidential briefing note for the prime minister.

He expressed concern that “Scotland could take with it into independence the oil which is the basis for much of Britain’s future prosperity.”

He suggested ministers ensure that articles attacking the SNP be circulated, “to “avoid giving any impression that we regard Scottish independence as a likely possibility”.

“The discreet way to do it would be through confidential briefing of selected public opinion informers and by seeking to inspire articles,” he added.

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3 years ago

Donald Dewar and Tony Blair did move the sea border just before devolution. Quietly below the radar

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