Scotland politics

Scottish independence: The story of the 1979 devolution debate

In 1979 Scotland was facing a referendum on home rule, after the then-Labour government agreed to consult the people on legislation put before parliament. BBC TV cameras recorded a debate at the Oxford Union, where key players from both sides discussed the issue.


Oxford Union debate, first broadcast 28 February 1979

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Media captionJohn Smith, trade secretary in the Labour government, opens the debate saying devolution will be "an extension of democracy"

Oxford Union debate, first broadcast 28 February 1979

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Media captionConservative MP Leon Brittan, the party's devolution spokesman, opposes the motion saying devolution marks "the first step on the road to separation, independence and the break-up of Britain"

Oxford Union debate, first broadcast 28 February 1979

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Media caption"Without a 'Yes' vote we will become the hangers-on of the United Kingdom", SNP deputy leader Margo MacDonald tells the Oxford Union

Oxford Union debate, first broadcast 28 February 1979

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Media captionTeddy Taylor, Conservative MP for Glasgow Cathcart, opposes the Oxford Union motion arguing devolution would lead to "the break-up of Britain"

Oxford Union debate, first broadcast 28 February 1979

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Media captionThen-Labour MP Jim Sillars says a "Yes" vote would enable Scotland to rid itself of the "streak of Anglophobia" that runs through society.

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