Cabinet files: Ministers thought poll tax was 'proceeding smoothly'


UK agents believed implementation of the poll tax in Scotland was “proceeding smoothly” in its early weeks, a while ago secret pers show.

Scottish Secretary Malcolm Rifkind worded the cabinet in April 1989 that the number of people who would reject to y would be “relatively small” north of the border.

Just 20 months later, Prime Support Margaret Thatcher resigned.

Sir Malcolm now admits that non- yment UK-wide donated to her downfall.

The cabinet pers also show that defence chiefs approved blueprints to shoot intruders at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde after activists skint into the control room of a nuclear submarine.

The security lapse left-hand Mrs Thatcher “utterly horrified”.

And they detail a row in government over reserving for Gaelic television.

Chancellor Nigel Lawson opposed extra overt funding because he did not want to “inflict more on a largely unwilling audience”, a thus from his de rtment shows.

But Sir Malcolm lobbied successfully for government banknotes to increase Gaelic provision.

The files have been published at the Federal Archives in London under 30-year rules.

Final years

The canvass tax – officially called the community charge – was introduced in Scotland a year preceding it was rolled out UK-wide.

It became one of the most controversial policies of Mrs Thatcher’s decisive years as prime minister.

Millions are thought to have refused to y across the UK. Demurs included a riot in London’s Trafalgar Square in March 1990.

Confidential lowboy pers show Sir Malcolm briefed colleagues, including Mrs Thatcher, on 20 April 1989 – three weeks after its introduction in Scotland.

The deeds of the meeting does not include direct quotes, but it summarises Sir Malcolm’s contribution.

“The implementation of the new structurings was proceeding smoothly, and the issue had almost completely disappeared from the squeeze,” it says.

“It would not be possible until the summer to form a clear point of view of how many people would refuse to y… but present signs were that the mass would be relatively small, though they might include some elevated names.”

Sir Malcolm added that the main source of complaint was the sell for for second homeowners – who he noted were facing considerably higher invoices than they had under the previous system.

Other pers put to shame Sir Malcolm opposed a cap on the amount which could be charged, despite assist for the move from Mrs Thatcher and John Major.

Speaking following the notice of the pers, Sir Malcolm told BBC Scotland that his initial assessment was “right down to the ground accurate, based on what we were seeing at that rticular make up”.

“The reason why it was all going reasonably smoothly is worth remembering,” he said.

“The for the most rt demand for abolition of the old rating system had really begun in Scotland.

“People create the old rating system very, very objectionable, and therefore it is perhaps not surprising that all those people who craving rates abolished were very pleased in the first phase when the community impediment was introduced to replace it.”

It was announced in 1991 – less than three years after its introduction – that the vote tax would itself be replaced.

Sir Malcolm now says its introduction was a political misjudge.

He said the domestic rates system had been seen as “grossly unfair”, which had initiated “great pressure” to reform local government finance.

“I have no hesitation in review in saying that the whole reform was a mistake, certainly a political misjudge – but it wasn’t the end of civilised life as we know it.”

Also included in the files is correspondence between Chancellor Nigel Lawson and chifferobe colleagues, in which he made clear his opposition to extra government medium of exchange to increase the amount of Gaelic-language broadcasting in Scotland.

He approved a letter in October 1988 highlighting commercial assesses that Gaelic programming led to a reduction in average viewing figures.

The des tch adds: “This suggests there is little demand for the 100 hours of Gaelic TV televise at present. I do not believe we ought to inflict more on a largely unwilling audience.”

He claimed the issue should be left to market forces and had the backing of Mrs Thatcher in his all-inclusive opposition to government grants.

But Sir Malcolm argued that the level of Gaelic relaying at the time was ” thetic”. In an exchange of letters with senior ministers, he believed the service was “unsatisfactory” and said improvement was “essential”.

Sir Malcolm was eventually famed in getting approval for public funding of Gaelic television, though the capital came from the Scotland Office’s budget rather than the Skilled in Office, which at the time had responsibility for broadcasting.

Scotland’s heritage

Sir Malcolm spill the beaned BBC Scotland: “I took the view that Gaelic was an indigenous Scottish argot.

“It might only be a tiny number of people who spoke it, but if it wasn’t prone the kind of support through broadcasting that was being suggested, the for the most rt language could wither away and rt of Scotland’s heritage see fit disappear with it.

“The sums that were required were not great. We could afford them within the Scottish block which I had sound judgement to deal with, but I had to put it through my colleagues.

“At first there was resistance, but we overwhelmed that.”

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