SENIOR Tory cabinet members in the 1990s believed that Scotland should be treated as though it were a region of England, official archives have revealed.

Former Conservative prime minister John Major endorsed plans in 1993 to shift responsibility for a handful of government agencies from London to Edinburgh in a bid to stave off a growing desire for a Scottish Parliament.

However, correspondence kept secret for decades has shown many of his ministers expressed concerns over the possibility of powers for Scotland.

Those expressing opposition included environment secretary Michael Howard who went on to become leader of the Tory Party.

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In a letter seen by the Times he said: “We really must avoid unnecessarily fuelling resentment on the English side of the Border.”

The letter was sent to the prime minister in February 1993 as Howard questioned the need for Scotland to receive higher public spending or additional powers.

He wrote: “I wonder whether the assertion that Scotland’s needs are appreciably higher than England’s stands up to close examination.

“If true of the two countries taken as a whole, is it so true when a comparison is made between Scotland with its population of five million and the northwest region with a similar population or the smaller northern region?”

He added: “Scotland’s unemployment rate is less than that for England and personal disposable income per head, although lower in Scotland than in England as a whole, is higher than in the northern or northwest regions.”

SNP MP Ian Blackford (below) said the revelations showed the Tories “core basic instinct” was nothing but disdain for Scotland.

The National: Ian Blackford

“These comment suggest we are to be kept in our place and almost treated as second-class citizens.

“For someone who aspired to high political office, as Michael Howard did, it is an astonishing attitude.

“These comments demonstrate a contempt for any kind of notion that we are in a union of equals.”

A briefing document for the prime minister, which was also among papers placed in the National Archives, confirmed Howard’s opposition was shared by others.

Sarah Hogg, who was head of Major’s policy unit and is now Baroness Hogg, said: “There will be a view in some part of the party that we are pampering to Scots and allowing them to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall.”

Michael Forsyth, who would eventually become Scottish Secretary said the proposals “pander too much to the Scots”.

The archives also revealed concerns that any powers granted to Scotland would lead to Wales demanding “parity of treatment”.

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Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: “This is a reminder of just how bitterly the Tories opposed devolution and the idea of Scotland being able to make our own decisions.

“They campaigned against the creation of the Scottish Parliament and have spent recent years attempting to trash, torpedo and undermine it.”

All 11 Scottish Tory MPs would eventually lose their seats in the 1997 General Election.