Writer, Journalist and Broadcaster

‘We In Scotland’ – Thatcherism in a Cold Climate

We In Scotland

‘David Torrance maintains an admirable balance in this well-researched account of her three governments and their fortunes…The book as a whole is a valuable contribution to our understanding of a critical period in the history of the Union’ – Professor Michael Keating, Scottish Affairs

‘…excellent new account…balanced and very thorough…careful and judicious in tone…scrupulously researched, lucidly presented and extremely readable…’Harry Reid, Scottish Review of Books

Enthralling…impressive and comprehensive…Torrance is a perceptive historian [who] produces what could become the definitive record of one of the most dramatic chapters in Scotland’s political history. – Ian Lang, The Scotsman’

‘A brilliantly well-informed book.’Alistair Cooke, The Blue Blog

…brilliant…Torrance’s analysis of her era may well prove the standard work’   A fine book… sets out to reassess this period of recent Scottish history and to separate a few myths from facts’ –Brian Wilson, West Highland Free Press

Love her or hate her, there is no escaping the impact Margaret Thatcher had on post-war Scottish politics. The 1980s are indelibly marked as the Thatcher decade, and although her first visit to Scotland just days after becoming Conservative leader in 1975 was a success, her relationship with Scots quickly turned sour. She U-turned on a long-standing commitment to establish a Scottish Assembly and on being elected Prime Minister in 1979 Scotland found itself disproportionately affected by the decline of heavy manufacturing, a phenomenon hastened by a new economic policy dubbed monetarism.

Thatcher frequently espoused the free market values of Adam Smith in an attempt to win over Scotland, while harking back to the Victorian era in which enterprising Scots thrived at home and abroad. But instead of inspiring allegiance to her dismantling of the post-war consensus, Scotland seemingly resisted most aspects of what became known as Thatcherism. Industrial decline was followed by striking miners and teachers, while Thatcher’s fight back following a disastrous result in Scotland at the 1987 general election backfired spectacularly. She was shown the red card at Hampden, snubbed by the Church of Scotland after her infamous ‘Sermon on the Mound’, and accused of ‘testing’ the controversial Poll Tax on hostile Scottish guinea pigs.

Since being ousted from power in 1990 biographers and historians have been busy reassessing Thatcher’s legacy, but none has focused on that legacy in Scotland. David Torrance, whose first two books on the Scottish Office and George Younger touched on these themes, has now turned his meticulous research on one of the most tumultuous decades in Scotland’s recent history. Did Margaret Thatcher really care about or understand Scotland? Why did Scots apparently reject her and Thatcherism? Torrance examines this curious dynamic and confronts many myths about Thatcherism and Scotland, most notably Ravenscraig and the Poll Tax.

Published: 4 May 2009