KEEPING Scotland quiet was a “success” for the Tory government in the 1990s, newly released bombshell documents reveal.

Official documents made public today show how John Major planned to “ruthlessly” lovebomb Scottish seats and highlight tensions over a white paper on the country’s future.

Declassified for the first time, the Cabinet papers include letters, memos and more, some of which relate to the 1993 publication of Scottish secretary Ian Lang’s white paper Scotland in the Union: A Partnership for Good.

That document emphasised commitment and partnership between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

A “secret and personal” review of the year drawn up for Major after its release showed how Westminster believed it had “defused the constitutional issue” – and referred to the “Scottish part of the Union”.

It stated: “In the Scottish part of the Union, political life has been relatively quiet, which itself can be counted a success.

“The white paper published in the spring defused the constitutional issue ...

“The Scots themselves are doing better, economically, than many of their neighbours in the rest of the United Kingdom. Inward investment is going strong, and unemployment has been below the UK average since January 1992, for the first time since the 1920s.

“Difficult to say whether you should count this as a success or not!”

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If Scottish employment and investment growth was only an equivocal success for Downing Street, the message had been less uncertain in the white paper, which concluded that Scotland continued to "derive enormous economic, trade, and investment benefits” through the Union – and EU membership – and has “secured more than her fair share of the jobs brought by overseas firms locating in the United Kingdom”.

The newly released files reveal tensions over that document among Cabinet members, with Lang sending reassurances to then environment secretary Michael Howard and Northern Ireland secretary Patrick Mayhew about “political sensitivities” over the economy and Northern Ireland.

Ahead of its release, Lang said: “I have deliberately chosen in the text to avoid references either to devolution or to a ‘Scottish Assembly’ because this White Paper is about reinforcing the Union of 1707, not going over old ground or discussing steps which would weaken in.

“Equally, any reference to an ‘Assembly’ in the text would simply invite comment from the Opposition and the media on the inconsistency of the Government’s approach as between Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

A year earlier, Major had privately declared to Scottish Office minister and one-time Scottish Tory chairman Charles Sanderson that it was “becoming more respectable to be a Conservative ‘publicly’ in Scotland than it had been for the last 13 years”.

That assertion followed the 1992 local elections, in which the Tories picked up 23% of Scotland’s vote and more than 200 council seats.

The plan to “quite ruthlessly” target up to 15 Scottish seats, “singling them out for regular ministerial visits, etc” in the wake of the result was to involve visits to Galloway, Dumfries, Ayr and either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Major – who succeeded Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and was ousted by Tony Blair seven years later – had told Lang he wanted to visit places in Scotland where he had not been before and target the activity of ministers on key target areas.