The Scottish Secretaries
Book Talk – BBC Parliament – October 2006
‘David Torrance [writes] with perception into politics and comprehension of character’ – Michael Fry, Scottish Review of Books
‘painstakingly researched’ – Eddie Barnes, The Scotsman
‘Torrance’s portraits are not only unusually accurate and fair, but brimful of insight’ – Tam Dalyell, The Oldie
‘Few better books about modern Scottish history will be published this decade.’ – Harry Reid, The Herald
What do two former governors of Australia, Lord Macaulay’s nephew and the owner of Scotland’s finest salmon river have in common? They have all served their small nation as Scottish Secretary; some reluctantly and others with patriotic fervour. The Scottish Secretaries charts the trials and tribulations of the 39 men and one woman who have held the post since the position was resurrected by Salisbury in 1885. From humble beginnings as an ill-regarded offshoot of the Home Office, the department grew to become a mini-Whitehall by the 1920s. It was also an important wartime department in WWII and a testing ground for planning and social reforms during the white heat of the 1960s.
But with the Scottish Parliament now established as the political centre of Scottish life, the re-christened Scotland Office is once again redundant. Drawing on first-hand accounts and contemporary correspondence, David Torrance paints vivid biographical portraits of those figures – many now completely forgotten – who controlled Scotland’s political agenda from both the Regency charm of Dover House and the Art Deco surroundings of St Andrew’s House.