Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1975 Feb 21 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Scottish TV (visiting Scotland)

Document type:speeches
Document kind:TV Interview
Venue:Glasgow
Source:Scottish TV Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist:Colin MacKay, Scottish TV
Editorial comments:Exact time and place unknown. The tape is incomplete. An excerpt from the missing end of the interview is appended, from the Conservative Party Political Broadcast of 5 March 1975. View it here.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:1817
Themes:Autobiography (childhood), Union of UK nations, Union of UK nations, Conservatism, Conservative Party (history), Leadership
Interview begins in mid-sentence

Colin MacKay , Scottish TV

… one of the oldest parties in the Western World. Mrs Thatcher, looking to Scotland, you come to the leadership at a time when the Conservatives' fortunes here are very low. Twenty years ago they had thirty six seats and half the popular votes, now they have sixteen seats and less than a quarter of the popular vote. What can your new leadership do to bring the Conservatives back to their strength, or anything like it, in Scotland?

MT

Well, it's very interesting today already crowds have come wherever I've been. It's been absolutely marvellous, and the interest is there. I've seen that with my own eyes today, and that's a very good start. I agree with you. Our fortunes in Scotland at the moment are rather bad. But I hope we shall go on steadily improving now and get lots more members next time.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

You mentioned the interest. Do you think this is simply because you are the new leader, and—with respect—because you were the first woman leader?

MT

Well, it was warm, encouraging interest. It was much more than plain straightforward curiousity. I think it is the warmest welcome I've ever had. And I've never, anywhere, seen any politician have a welcome like it. It was very thrilling.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

Now, it's not just Scotland where you may have a little trouble. Because in the country at large you also appear to have a chequered legacy. Never since the war—except 1966—have you had so few seats in the UK Parliament. What is going to win the next election for you?

MT

I think having a clear message and stating that message which ordinary folk can understand. But you've mentioned 1966. That's not a bad omen, because we won the next election quite decisively. And I'll be happy if we win the next one quite decisively.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

What particular policies, would you say, or what attitudes of the Conservative Party will now have [sic] will be the ones which win back the electorate and thus the seats?

MT

I think the attitudes are those which strike a chord in ordinary people. They don't like what is happening under socialism. What happens there is that you concentrate more and more power into the hands of the state. More and more decisions taken by the state. And you know it's very interesting that some of the letters I have had from Scotland, from the north, say “look, we feel sometimes just as remote from Edinburgh as we do from London”. What they want is real devolution, not just from one capital to another, but to wider and wider centres in the country and people taking their own decisions. There is only one party that really stands for that—power in the hands of the people, and property in the hands of the people, private[fo 1] property, and that's us. And I think that people will dislike a kind of socialist bureaucracy and will return to our way of life, which I believe is the one for the future.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

How do you think your policy for Scotland will differ from that of the previous leader of the party, if at all?

MT

Well, I hope we'll make the message very much clearer. I think people got a little bit confused as to exactly how we did differ from our opponents, and I hope that message will be clear in the future.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

But you said at one point, or you were reported as saying, that you were keen at looking at the policies that Mr Macmillan implemented when he was Prime Minister of Great Britain. Now what exactly did you mean by that?

MT

I came into Parliament when Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister. He was a marvellous politician and it was fascinating to work with him and watch him. He was working towards the things which I believe in. He felt that that more and more people would like to own their own homes and they should be given a chance. All right, if they wish to rent their house, so be it. But there are many many who wanted to own them and couldn't. So he gave them a chance. He felt that more and more people wanted to have a bigger say in their children's education—so give them a chance. He knew that people felt they should keep the result of harder work in their earnings, in their pockets, and not have too much taken away in tax. Because if the state takes too much it means that they are spending a larger share of your money than you are left with. And so we had the programme of reducing taxation. Nevertheless the standard of living was rising and we had improved public services as well. But he had the people with him. He was working with the instincts of the people. We were all family believing, that we should have a, er, well-ordered society and people observing the law. I think perhaps we've come a little bit away from that these days and we shall have to get back to it. So really everyone was going our way at that time, and it was the way that they wanted to go. And it's the way they'll want to go again.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

Rightly or wrongly, Mrs Thatcher, many commentators see you as essentially as a suburban, home counties person. How do you think you can identify—you talked about identifying with people—how do you think you can identify with the voters of Scotland?

MT

Well, you know there are suburbs in places other than the home counties. But I am not really a suburban person at all. I am a Lincolnshire lass, born and brought up in a small town and very glad that I was because I know what's it's like to be a part of a community where you all know one another and you have a community life, as well as your own life. I think the way in which I was brought up was the way in which many of my Scottish friends were brought up. One was brought up to work hard, to put a lot of stress on education, and to get on as a result of your own efforts. But always to do something as well for the community as a whole. Brought up to respect local customs and traditions, but not only, merely to look backwards—if you respected the customs and traditions, you soon also had a duty to create new customs and traditions for oncoming generations.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

I wonder if I could press you on that point, because you've been the MP for a London constituency for over sixteen years now. Your one Cabinet job—in education—involved contact with Scotland much less than some other ministries like industry, trade and employment just for example. And you once said in debate—and I freely admit this was[fo 2] ten years ago, when you were back on the backbenches—“I do not wish to get embroiled in this debate on Scottish matters” (because a number of Scots members were having a harangue on the Land Commission Bill) “they are not normally the subject of debates at which I am frequently an attender”. Now this could be said of hundreds of other English MPs. But how well do you know Scotland and its problems?

MT

[Amusement in voice.] Well now you've brought about ten questions in there. Let's go back to the beginning. On education, yes, my writ on schools did not run north of the border. But it did on universities, because I was responsible for those and I greatly enjoyed it. And also I had research under my wing, which fitted in very well with my own experience as a research chemist, and of course there's a lot of research going on in Scottish universities. But on the other point, that is about ten years ago. All Scottish members bring English members up very well indeed, not to make pronouncements on Scotland before we have thoroughly consulted with Scottish members and Scottish people. And I think that's right. I can't make great big pronouncements on Scotland without having been here and heard and listened to what they want. And that's why I'm getting round as much as I possibly can.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

You hope to come fairly frequently to Scotland?

MT

With the sort of welcome I've had today it'll be difficult to keep me away.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

On specific policy for Scotland, Mrs Thatcher. At the Scottish Conservative Party Conference last year Mr Heath pledged the party to an assembly, backed by a free-ranging block grant—in other words we would get the money and Scotland is told “you spend it as you will. If you want to spend it all on housing, you can do so”, er, and a development fund, financed from North Sea oil revenues. Can you say today that you would re-pledge the party to what Mr Heath promised a year ago?

MT

Yes, I think we can. I know that they feel particularly strongly about having a block grant and I think it is a very good way of doing it.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

How far do you think that English members simply just want to get rid of Scotland quietly—they're making so much trouble …

MT

[Vehemently] Oh never. Never never never. We're all part of the United Kingdom, and for any one part to go would diminish us all. You know we came to have a wonderful reputation as Britain. It is the British way of life. We are an outward looking people. We had tremendous influence on the world. We must still be an outward looking people. It is not the size of a nation that counts, it's its spirit and that British spirit is still there. And I want to get back to the best in it, and to have the best in it for the future.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

Well, while I accept that you, for example, and lots of Tories, say “we are British nationalists”—not Scottish nationalists, or Welsh or English nationalists—isn't there a danger that a strong, legislative powerful assembly which is what many people in Scotland argue is the only thing that will be acceptable, that that could threaten the unity of the United Kingdom?[fo 3]

MT

It will be a tragedy if we fragment. We're all dependent on one another, and I think we all need to act together more than ever before. We've seen that recently you know in the financial institutions of the world since the price of oil went up so much. You can't just be independent of everyone else when you depend upon them so much. We shall be better if we act together as a United Kingdom, and if together we try to influence others. And if we go the other way we shall just tend I think to have lesser and lesser interest, lesser and lesser influence, and that won't do us justice and it will rob the world of an influence for the good.

Colin MacKay, Scottish TV

But you see, some of your political opponents in Scotland—as in other parts of the United Kingdom—say “well, we couldn't be worse off than we are now, so why should we stay in?”. For example, unemployment is running sometimes at twice the level in the United Kingdom … Tape ends.

[Material added from the Conservative PPB of 5 March 1975 (which can be viewed on this site). Colin MacKay asked how she felt about becoming leader?]

MT:

Well, I've been so busy that I haven't had really much time to think about. After all, I know I'm still only me, and so do my family. But I'm very much aware of the responsibilities, and a little bit apprehensive – who wouldn't be? – when I think of the names that I follow. You mentioned Disraeli. To follow Churchill, Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home and Ted Heath – well, it is a tremendous responsibility, and naturally I want to do my best.

And again, to be the first woman at it is quite a responsibility. But after all, you know, the men haven't made such a success of it all the time. So, to yesterday’s men, tomorrow’s woman says ‘hello’. [smiles]