As I ready myself for another year of lively debate in the Scottish Parliament, I want to use my first blog for The News to discuss a topic that we all know will feature prominently in political discourse this year: Scotland’s constitutional future.

This summer was certainly an eventful one for the independence debate, but there is one particular story on which I want to focus now.

A few weeks ago, Yes Scotland revealed that it had discovered Cabinet papers showing that Margaret Thatcher’s first Government tried to impose a hugely disproportionate cut on Scotland’s budget in 1980. If the full cut had gone ahead, Scotland’s budget would have been cut by £150 million more than any other UK nation.

For more details, see the original article that appeared in The Herald or the Yes Scotland website.

All of the official declassified documents are now available to download for free from the National Archives, so I would also encourage anyone who has the time to look them over. They make for stirring reading.

The fact that this draconian cut was being proposed so soon after the 1979 Referendum—in which the Scottish people were cheated out of getting their own parliament, despite a majority voting for one—was not lost on Mrs Thatcher’s first Scottish Secretary, George Younger, the MP for Ayr.

When he learned of the proposed cut, which was initially suggested by the Treasury Secretary, John Biffen MP, Mr Younger wrote to his prime minister, pleading with her: “Many of us, in resisting the Assembly, argued that Scotland would do less well financially if it had one. The Chief Secretary's proposal totally undermines this argument […]” Declassified Cabinet documents now show that in the end Mrs Thatcher and the rest of her Cabinet “reluctantly accepted” Mr Younger’s argument that it would be politically disastrous to overtly discriminate against Scotland, although the Government did impose a smaller—but still disproportionate—cut on our budget that year.

Moreover, the papers further indicate that Mr Younger advised the Cabinet that he would be willing to support deeper cuts to Scotland’s budget if it were possible to implement them “without compromising the political considerations.” It goes without saying that £150 million is a lot of money (all the more so in 1980!). Even £10 million—the size of the additional cut to Scotland’s budget that did eventually go through—could pay the salaries of a lot of nurses, teachers and police officers.

Earlier this year, Denis Healey—who was Labour’s Chancellor throughout the five year period leading up to Mrs Thatcher’s victory in the 1979 General Election—admitted that the Labour UK Government of the day, in which he was a Cabinet Minister, had downplayed the value of North Sea oil due to fears that Scotland might want to become an independent nation if it ever found out how wealthy it was.

Last week’s revelations show that with the 1979 Referendum out of the way, and the prospect of a Scottish Parliament effectively knocked into touch, Margaret Thatcher’s Tory Government felt that it had ample leeway to impose disproportionate cuts on Scotland’s budget—and this was at a time when there were still multiple Tory MPs in Scotland!

What would an analogous situation look like at the present moment, in the era when there are more giant pandas in Scotland than there are Tory MPs?

I don’t claim to know exactly what would happen in the event of a “No” vote next year. Who does?

However, I do think that when we look back on the above mentioned chapters of recently Scottish history, we can see very clearly that Westminster has not been working for Scotland and I can think of no rational reason to believe that things would be any different in the future if we were to maintain the status quo.

Cabinet papers are normally declassified after 30 years have passed. What more will we learn about the UK governments of Messrs Cameron, Osborne, Blair, Brown, and Darling, when their papers are released 30 years from now?

Some figures in the No campaign like to talk about the alleged “uncertainty” that would be created by the prospect of a “Yes” vote. However, I can think of nothing less certain than letting someone else take your most important decisions for you.

In the Yes campaign, we strongly support continuing to work together with our friends and neighbours after a “Yes” vote, but we also believe that decisions over Scotland’s finances and other crucial areas should ultimately be left to the people of Scotland—meaning those who actually live, work and pay taxes here—as is the case in any ordinary, independent country.

This belief highlights a central part of what the Yes campaign is all about: empowering the people of Scotland.

Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.

Summer recess The term “summer recess” can be a bit misleading, insofar as I am as busy as ever at this time of year. The fact that the Scottish Parliament does not meet during the summer months means that I have extra time to spend in my constituency, listening to the views and concerns of the people whom I have the privilege of representing.

As I look back on the conversations I’ve had this summer, I am reminded of the simple fact that nobody knows what is best for Scotland more than the Scottish people do themselves.

For this reason, when it comes to deciding who is best placed to take Scotland’s decisions for her in the future, I will continue to put my trust and confidence in the people of Scotland any day of the week.

In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to further discussing the possibilities for our country’s future with you—out on the doorsteps, throughout the North Coast and all the other communities that make up my constituency of Cunninghame North, and, indeed, right here in The Largs & Millport Weekly News.