Edward Heath, the declaration of Perth and the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, 1966-70

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Abstract

Edward Heath's 'Declaration of Perth' in May 1968 and the work of the Constitutional Committee that followed it committed the Conservative Party to establish a devolved Scottish Assembly in Edinburgh. This apparent new departure has been characterized in two principal ways. First, as a tactical and opportunistic attempt to play the 'Scottish card' in the context of declining electoral fortunes north of the border and the threat posed by the Scottish National Party. Second, as the logical terminus of both a long-standing Conservative engagement with ideas around decentralization and the devolution of power and of a policy of 'administrative devolution' in Scotland. This article offers a close analysis of the genesis and reception of the Declaration of Perth with two related aims. First, it provides a more nuanced account of the interaction between 'short-term' tactical and 'long-term' ideological explanations for Conservative policy on Scotland at this crucial moment. Second, it places the Declaration and its reception within additional contexts ignored in existing accounts. Both a more general cynicism surrounding formal politics and organizational changes and leadership attempts aimed at restoring Conservative fortunes in Scotland help to provide a more convincing explanation for the failure of the Conservative approach to devolution in the late 1960s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-273
Number of pages25
JournalTwentieth Century British History
Volume26
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

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